For some companies, it seems recruitment and retention has never been so difficult. This is hardly surprising – we’ve had some of the biggest business-shifting changes in living memory happen simultaneously in the last couple of years, and leadership teams have had to continually adapt and evolve.
But now we’ve weathered the peak of the storm, the time for short-term fixes is over and businesses are looking at long-term strategies, particularly when it comes to attracting the very best candidates and building loyalty and longevity across their team.
This is where a different perspective comes in handy. Rather than ‘what can we offer?’ the starting point is ‘what do employees expect?’
No longer is a decent pay package tempting enough on its own – company culture is the top priority for an overwhelming two thirds of job seekers. Yet despite almost half of business leaders citing employee experience as their top priority for 2023 – we’re still seeing three quarters of employers struggling to fill the empty spaces in their team.
Why have expectations changed?
As the last tranche of Baby Boomers – born between the mids 1940s and mid 1960s – plan for their retirement, they’re making way for Generation Z – mid 90s to 2010. And with this generational shift comes expectation differences too: the research suggests these jobseekers are looking for a company with morals, with causes it champions, with an environmental policy, and with a degree of flexibility in the way it operates.
It would be impossible to talk about the changes in recent years without mentioning the pandemic. In 2020, we saw those who’d previously sat at a desk in an office from 9am to 5pm sent home to work for months on end. We saw systems quickly introduced, new ways of working trialled, and a swathe of technology brought in to prop up a new structure.
We’re no longer in crisis mode, and yet employees’ eyes have been opened to the possibilities. Whether it’s working from home, hybrid working, more flexibility, or simply being given the tools to work when and where they want, seeing how different working practices kept companies afloat during the height of the pandemic has empowered team members to question whether they could be a long-term feature within the company.
And aside from expectation – there’s also sadly an increased need. Whether through the effects of Long Covid or because they’ve missed out on seeing healthcare professionals over the last couple of years, Paycare are seeing an increase in employees needing treatment such as optical, dental, physio or chiropody.
What about wellbeing?
As the world changed, there came a collective enthusiasm for employee wellbeing – it moved up the agenda as managers realised supporting those who were working in increasingly difficult situations was the only way to keep going.
Then the ‘p word’ on everyone’s minds shifted from pandemic to pounds, as the cost of living crisis descended. Again, savvy bosses recognised the need to support staff and provide reassurance where possible about the company’s financial position.
There are many reasons why an effective Workplace Wellbeing Strategy is crucial – and there are a plethora of benefits for both individuals and businesses which result from practices and policies around staff health and happiness.
But let’s focus on just two: recruitment and retention.
Recruiting post the ‘Great Resignation’
More than three quarters of companies reported problems with recruitment in 2022, and many labelled it a ‘candidates’ market’ where jobseekers were thinking about company culture, flexi working, wellbeing practices and much more besides the traditional consideration of wages.
In fact, nearly three in five candidates said pay didn’t even feature in their list of top factors attracting them towards new companies.
That means, while few managers are experiencing an easy time when it comes to recruitment, highlighting just how well staff are looked after (and being able to evidence this!) is more important than ever and can set you aside from the competition.
‘Trendy’ perks like break-out spaces full of bean bags or lunchtime DJ sessions might attract headlines. But in reality, the most successful wellbeing strategies are going to make a difference to people’s lives, whether that’s supporting their financial health by enabling them to claim cash back on their healthcare costs, enabling them to prioritise caring and parenting responsibilities through flexi working, or having professionals available if they need anything from counselling to physiotherapy.
We all recognise the scale of mental wellness and that we shift up and down that scale regularly depending on what’s going on around us, so it’s key to ensure the work environment helps support all team members being as near to the ‘well’ end of the scale as feasible, while also having plenty in place should their wellbeing start to dip.
Supporting loyal staff
Keeping your existing staff has become even more essential given the recruitment climate – and again, wellbeing is such a crucial factor here.
In fact, 56% say a good workplace culture – which health and happiness is a big part of – is more important than salary when it comes to their job satisfaction. And it’s not just about keeping ‘bums on seats’ – almost six in ten employers report better employee engagement and motivation after introducing wellbeing benefits.
Again, policies and practices which have a demonstrable effect on the health and happiness of your employees are going to have the biggest impact on them and on your business.
When it comes to wellbeing, we’re not talking about throwing money at the problem until it goes away; in fact, some of the most effective policies can be extremely low-cost. It’s about the value for the team and for you. And it’s definitely not about tokenism – having something written in a policy without being able to demonstrate its effectiveness is no good.
It might take a while to get it right, and it’s something you have to adjust over time, but the benefits of truly supporting the health and happiness of your existing (and hopefully future) staff are well worth it.
For more information, Paycare has a free downloadable Workplace Wellbeing Strategy guide available here.
About the Author
Anthony Burns is a director at Paycare, a not-for-profit Health Cash Plan provider which supports the UK’s health and happiness through a range of health and wellbeing offerings for both individuals and employers. Visit www.paycare.org for more information.