Firms overestimating employee loyalty after pandemic, research finds

Senior managers are also far more optimistic than workers about whether trust between businesses and staff will increase over the next year

The majority of employers believe staff loyalty has increased following the pandemic, despite only half of employees feeling the same way, research has found.

A poll of 491 senior managers and 1,061 employees, carried out by Sapio for WorkNest HR, found 64 per cent of senior leaders believed staff became more loyal because of their company's response to the pandemic.

However, the same poll found just 45 per cent of employees felt their firms handled the coronavirus pandemic well and were more loyal as a result.

In comparison, a fifth (23 per cent) of employees said they felt less loyal as a consequence of their employer’s response to the pandemic, while 32 per cent said there was no change.

Similarly, 42 per cent of senior managers predicted that trust would increase over the next 12 months, with just 28 per cent of employees feeling the same, while 38 per cent of employees expected trust to decrease.

The research also highlighted differences of opinion between business leaders and employees over the largest post-pandemic business challenges.

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Senior managers were most likely to cite keeping staff happy as one of the top three business challenges (14.5 per cent), followed by increasing staff turnover (12.7) and involving those who work from home (11.2 per cent).

Among employees, involving those who work from home was the top concern (13 per cent), followed by keeping staff happy (12.5 per cent) and protecting health and safety (11.6 per cent).

Donna Gibb, head of client services at WorkNest HR, warned firms they could see a drain of talent if employees felt they were being treated unfairly – warning that this could be a particular problem for remote workers.

“Employers who not only embrace flexibility but put measures in place to ensure employees feel just as included wherever they work stand to have an advantage,” she said.

Gibb suggested that inclusivity could be improved by taking steps as simple as informing all employees of job and training opportunities and inviting home-based colleagues to attend office-based meetings either in person or via online platforms.

The poll found that the majority of employees (80 per cent) would tell a manager if they had an issue at work. But, of that number, 35 per cent said they were not confident the issue would be dealt with.

Of the 19 per cent of employees who said they would not disclose an issue to a manager,  one in 10 (10 per cent) said they would bypass managers in favour of going straight to HR.

The research also found nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) were unlikely to take legal action against an employer. This included 26 per cent who said they were not “clued up” enough on work rights; a quarter (25 per cent) who thought the odds are stacked against them; and one in five (21 per cent) who were worried about their current and future employment prospects.

Similarly, two-thirds (64 per cent) of senior managers said they put off taking action against their employees on a work issue, with 31 per cent attributing this to employees being more aware of their rights. 

Commenting on the findings, Nina Robinson, director at ESP Law, warned that failing to take action where it’s needed could set a dangerous precedent for businesses about what employees can get away with.

Rather, firms will need “good knowledge of employment law, solid policies, and confident and competent managers”, she explained.

Robinson also suggested that companies need to make sure they have skilled managers who are confident enough to approach situations and know how to apply your policies fairly and consistently when dealing with work issues.