Nearly a third of UK employees will be looking for a new role in first half of 2022

Matt Weston

UK businesses are being warned to brace themselves for an exodus of talent in the first six months of 2022, as the impact of the ‘Great Resignation’ continues to hit hard.

According to new research from specialist talent solutions agency Robert Half, nearly a third (32%) of employees will search for a new role between January and June this year – the equivalent to 9.4 million workers across the UK.

London (54%) and the South East of England (32%) are at the highest risk of losing their top talent in the first six months of the year, with employees in the North East the least likely to consider making a move (19%).

Analysis of Robert Half’s own internal data reveals that job applications have surged in Q1 for the past five years and this year looks set to be no different. Nearly a quarter (23%) will begin their new job search in the next three months – with trend data suggesting that the uptick usually begins in the third week of January.

As there are currently 1.25 million vacancies in the UK, many employers are already short-staffed – and the competitive market means it will be difficult and expensive to replace outgoing team members. With this in mind, business leaders should do all they can to retain existing staff.

Around two-fifths (42%) of workers seeking new employment are looking for a higher salary, but money is not the only factor to consider. Aside from pay increases, employers may be able to retain staff by focusing on career opportunities and benefits, which are triggers for 25% and 21% of job seekers respectively.

Following the rise of hybrid working throughout the pandemic, 24% of those looking for a new role are seeking more flexibility in their working arrangements on a permanent basis. Across all employees, three quarters (76%) agree that access to flexible working and hours is essential if employers want to be able to both retain and attract talent.

However, dissatisfaction with remuneration, opportunities and working arrangements are not the only push factors for employees. The pandemic has 23% of job-seekers saying lockdown gave them time to re-evaluate priorities, with more than one in five (22%) saying they want to change career path or move into an entirely different field.

Commenting on these findings, Matt Weston, UK Managing Director at Robert Half, said: “While we always experience a sharp increase in job applications at the start of each year, we are anticipating unprecedented levels of UK workers looking for a new job this year.

“Despite an uptick in the number of employees looking for a new role, demand from employers will still outstrip supply – placing the cards firmly in the hands of candidates.

“Competition for top talent is fierce, with salaries for some roles jumping by as much as 30 percent in the past year alone, so replacing top talent will certainly not be cheap or easy. Employers need to pull out all the stops to retain skilled workers and understanding employees’ motivations is a crucial first step, as it enables employers to take effective action.”

Robert Half’s 2022 Salary Guide revealed that 56% of businesses already expected recruitment to become more of a challenge this year with the talent solutions consultancy urging employers to focus on retention.

The firm has developed five tips for employers looking to retain their top talent:

  1. Be flexible on working conditions. Candidates know what they want from their work environment, and if they are determined to work from home, they will likely look for a new role to accommodate that benefit.
  2. Offer clear career progression. When it comes to their career, employees are no longer willing to wait for promotions and pay increases and will move on in search of faster career progression.
  3. Focus on mental health and wellbeing. Thanks to the pandemic and the associated growing levels of stress and burnout, people are now looking for additional support in the workplace.
  4. Invest in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives. In today’s climate-conscious society, many UK workers want their employers to take more action on ESG and would be more willing to work for businesses with good credentials.
  5. Offer a competitive salary and benefits package. In many cases, money talks and employers must ensure that their top talent receives a fair salary and benefits package compared to their industry peers. Doing so will allow businesses to keep roles filled, saving money and effort in the long run.
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