Job security more valuable to employee retention than pay, survey suggests

Report finds security is more important to workers considering staying with their employer than flexibility or salary, as experts say it will remain a priority ‘for some time’

Job security is the most important factor for employees when considering remaining with their employer, a poll has found, ahead of both flexible working and pay.

In a survey of 1,004 employees, conducted by YouGov for Winckworth Sherwood’s Ethical leadership in a time of crisis report, more half of employees (51 per cent) cited job security as an important consideration for them in staying with their employer. Similarly, two-fifths (40 per cent) cited flexibility.

In contrast, less than a third of employees (32 per cent) cited pay as an important factor, which the report said suggested a “shift in the mindset of employees towards work” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Harriet Calver, senior associate at Winckworth Sherwood and one of the report’s authors, said employers could expect the focus on job security to “remain a key priority for employees for some time, given that economic recovery won’t be instant after the restrictions are lifted.”

Calver added that businesses would also maintain an “expectation” of flexible working following what for many has been a year of remote working. But, she said, “in the longer term, we expect to see a shift away from job security, as stability returns and employees place greater importance on the purpose, values and reputation of their employer”.

The survey, conducted in January, found that three-quarters of employees (73 per cent) felt their businesses had handled the Covid crisis well. However, there were some misgivings over the way employers communicated with staff.

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A quarter of workers polled (25 per cent) felt their employers could have communicated better throughout the crisis. Nearly one in five (18 per cent) said their organisations could have been more compassionate, and 15 per cent said there could have been more wellbeing initiatives in place.

Only 38 per cent of employees felt their employer had ensured appropriate communication and engagement with employees over the past year. 

The poll also showed misgivings from employees about the level of executive pay during the pandemic. Less than a quarter of UK employees (22 per cent) felt their business had realigned executive pay with wider staff remuneration and job cuts during the crisis, while 46 per cent said their employer had not been transparent about executive pay.

More than one in 10 (13 per cent) believed their employer should have aligned executive pay with pay sacrifices faced by the rest of the workforce to take account of the downturn in business.

The report said there was a correlation between transparency and employees’ satisfaction with executive pay. “Our survey found that where employers had been transparent about executive pay, the majority of employees felt their employers had done the right thing, which will in turn engender a better culture in these organisations,” it said.

Louise Lawrence, partner in the employment team at Winckworth Sherwood and another of the report’s authors, said it was encouraging to learn that the majority of employees in work consider their employers to have handled the situation well. But she added: “It is clear that there remains room for improvement, particularly in relation to engagement and communication with employees.”