Staff shortages during the pandemic caused 38% of businesses to turn down work

New research from Lattice, the people management platform for businesses with people-first cultures, reveals that 39% of HR leaders believe labour shortages are here to stay for up to two to three years. In addition, 59% of workers say that the pandemic has made them more likely to quit their jobs.

The study also found over a third (38%) of UK businesses were being forced to turn down work due to staff shortages. This equates to an estimated two million organisations that were unable to pursue growth due to a lack of talent.

“We’re entering a period of existential reckoning when it comes to the balance between work and our lives. The tables are turning, and employees have a real opportunity to exercise bargaining power. In response to this ‘Great Reshuffle’ and unprecedented global disruption, HR leaders are having to seriously rethink how they attract and retain staff in the short and long term,” explains Jack Altman, CEO at Lattice.

These findings are revealed in Lattice’s Rethinking Work: Attracting and Retaining Talent in an Employee-Led Market Study, which surveyed over 2,000 full-time workers and 201 HR leaders from multiple business sectors in the UK. The Study examines the shift in employee attitude towards work and how HR leaders are adapting to the Great Reshuffle.

Career reevaluation is top of mind for workers

The pandemic has inspired nearly a quarter of workers (23%) to consider switching jobs more frequently than before. This is because the issues of understaffing, stress, and burnout have encouraged workers to reevaluate what they really want from work. Over half of workers (58%) who are more likely to move jobs do so because they won’t stay in a role where they feel undervalued, and overworked (44%).

Today work-life balance remains a top priority for nearly three-quarters of workers (73%) as a result of the pandemic. When choosing a job this theme is still the most important consideration, but its importance has increased by 11% since pre-pandemic. HR leaders feel that they have started to move the dial here; more than two-thirds (67%) claim they have introduced or improved their flexible working policy pre-COVID. However, the impact of these changes is questionable – less than half of employees (46%) felt a change, and 52% of employees said their flexible working requests were not acted upon.

There’s a disconnect between leader and employee mindset

While it’s important to strike the right work-life balance, pay is also a key factor that leads to staff resignations. However, HR leaders have not yet recognised the critical impact of financial incentives on resignations. 46% believe that labour shortages are caused by younger employees looking for jobs to suit their lifestyle mix, rather than the traditional 9-5. There is also a perception amongst HR leaders that staff are quitting because of poor work-life balance. However, according to workers, the top reason for moving on is a lack of pay rise or bonus (41%).

“Even in this climate where work-life balance and flexibility are primary satisfaction drivers for employees, fair and equitable compensation is still important. HR leaders need to rethink financial incentives in terms of ‘Total Rewards’ and extend beyond just the pay packet and bonus – what worked before is not necessarily going to work now. If people are either remote, in the office or a flexible combination of both, perks like grocery stipends, phone allowances, home office set-up bonuses, and wellbeing budgets are going to feel far more impactful,” comments Dave Carhart, Vice President People at Lattice.

Younger generations are leading the charge in the Great Reshuffle

In the past two years, studies have highlighted Generation Z as the hardest-hit demographic in the pandemic. The impact on work is no exception with Gen Z (37%) identified as the most motivated to quit their jobs in contrast to older staff (15%). The significant interference of the pandemic has even inspired workers (17%) to leave a job without another one lined up, with Gen Z most likely to do so than older generations. This could be partly encouraged due to the current job climate with 10% feeling confident that they could find another job.

Culture is king as the Gig Economy becomes vital to the Future of Work

As HR teams reassess their people strategies in line with the Great Reshuffle, 57% of HR leaders agree that there are not enough skilled staff available to plug the current vacancy void. And limited talent means that candidates are in a unique position to negotiate higher pay than before.

In response, HR teams are getting creative and over half of HR leaders (53%) say they have or are planning to recruit freelancers or contractors to address the shrinking talent pool. Of these respondents, half look to embed freelancers in the company’s employee engagement and feedback programmes. This is the right approach to take if organisations look to create a strong sense of culture across permanent and freelance staff for the long term.

“This research study shows that pre-pandemic approaches are no longer applicable and businesses have a new opportunity to really rethink how work works. First is revaluing the importance of a positive culture in attracting and retaining talent. From purpose and filling in the ‘why’ behind work to creating a trusted community built on equality and collaboration, and giving staff the tools to grow, will together help create a positive differentiator.

“The second key factor is the need for authentic connection between employers and employees. HR leaders cannot optimise purpose, community, or growth in a vacuum. Ongoing, iterative change, based on what staff are telling you, is the crux of how HR leaders can build an effective people strategy for today and tomorrow,” concludes Jack Altman, CEO and Co-founder, Lattice.

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