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Employers must be more creative to recruit and retain talent

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 01 Jul 2022

Hybrid working is a clear favourite among employees, but organisations must devise strategies for inclusion and keep staff engaged and motivated on an on-going basis, PwC research finds.

Failure to think creatively about recruitment packages that combine reward, opportunity, flexibility and purpose could leave employers without the right talent for the future, according to new research.

PwC’s Hopes and Fears survey of more than 2,000 workers found that one in five UK employees (18%) say they are very or extremely likely to change jobs in the next 12 months.

Only 45% of respondents said they weren’t likely to look for a new role in the next year, meaning the remainder are considering a change of job, the research found.

With UK unemployment at its lowest level since the 1970s, vacancies at an all-time high and competition for talent fiercer than ever, the ‘great resignation’, in the wake of the pandemic has created a desire to look for new opportunities.

“The confluence of such factors put employees in a strong position. And while the threat of recession may make some think twice about moving on, the competition for key talent and the risk of significant churn will persist,” PwC said.

The research also unveiled some curious findings; despite only 5% stating that they are very dissatisfied, other significant factors beyond job satisfaction are forcing employees to re-evaluate their life choices. Interestingly, it’s not just people who want to work remotely, but can’t, who are unsettled.

While hybrid working is the clear favourite for most respondents (62%), almost a third said they would prefer fully remote working. Just 7% said they would rather work in-person full time.

Where there is a disconnect between employees’ personal preferences on patterns of working and employers’ expectations, an opportunity is lost for engagement and satisfaction, PwC said.

A significant 46% of survey respondents who said they cannot work remotely reported less job satisfaction than those working in hybrid settings. They were also less confident that their employer was transparent, less likely to recommend their employer as a place to work and less likely to equate positive statements with their current employer.

Vicky Robinson, Hybrid Workforce Strategy & Culture Leader at PwC UK, says: “Employees are crying out for flexibility, about how and where they work. They want choice. They want to be empowered to be productive and to work in a way that best suits their personal preferences - however those preferences may change - while supporting the goals of the organisation.”

Robinson said those organisations that can take “a human approach to understanding these challenges and opportunities”, before applying the framework, the technology and the support for a more customised approach will be the biggest winners.

But even remote working poses challenges for employees. The research found that around a quarter of employees who work remotely were extremely or very concerned about progressing in their careers, 22% were extremely or very likely to switch employers compared to 17% of those who are full time in person.

Robinson said: “Organisations must work out what experience they are providing for remote talent, how they ensure their inclusion and keep them engaged and motivated on an on-going basis.”

And it’s not just about financial reward despite rising inflation and the cost-of-living crisis. The research showed just 14% of respondents said they were unfairly rewarded for the work they do.

Alastair Woods, Reward & Employment Partner at PwC, said: “Money will always be a major consideration, but organisations need to get more creative, more radical and a lot braver in designing packages that appeal to the needs and preferences of all their people.” 

Woods said employers need to consider how recruitment packages can be customised, about the relationship between salary and flexible working patterns, about the funding and availability of training and development and all forms of recognition and reward, from perks to performance bonuses. 

He also urged employers to understand what will improve employee retention and attraction as well as boosting productivity.

The challenge for employers will be to understand how different rewards incentivise different people, and how that changes as circumstances change. For example, the research showed that younger employees placed greater value on training, while the whole workforce tends to favour flexible working, but older workers value it more.

“An element of customisation, where an employee feels they have a say, can be a really powerful tool to unlock engagement and productivity,’ Woods said.

“If employers don’t implement more radical change around the packages they offer they put their most prized talent in a position of only being able to compare base salaries. That also puts them in a position of base salary increases being a disproportionate and costly lever for driving retention, when the data tells us it doesn’t have to be,” Woods said.

Increasingly employees are also placing greater value on employers’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments.

Elona Mortimer-Zhika, CEO of Iris Software, told PwC’s 25th annual CEO survey: “I get interviewed about [ESG] by new recruits. People expect this. They want to work for companies that are kind, that are giving back, that are sustainable.”

Sarah Moore, Head of People and Organisation, PwC UK, said: “People aren’t going to settle for heartfelt words and best-intentions, or be fooled by purpose-washing and green-washing. They want transparency around the journey organisations are on. They want to see a clear, credible plan and unambiguous reporting. They want to see how they will be making a difference by working for an organisation whose purpose aligns to their own personal values.”

With skills shortages in accountancy widespread and higher-than-expected salaries to fill vacancies, accountancy leaders will have to rethink their recruitment packages to continue to attract and retain talent.

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