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Majority of employers struggling to recruit and retain staff, poll finds

11 Nov 2021 By Caitlin Powell

Experts say firms need to listen to employees’ changing needs and consider offering improved pay, benefits and flexibility

Firms are facing issues with onboarding and retaining employees, research has found, as experts advise businesses to tune into what their staff need and want.

A poll of 160 HR leaders by Willis Towers Watson found that more than three-quarters (77 per cent) have had problems finding and keeping employees.

In comparison, just 2 per cent indicated they were having no problems at all with attraction and retention, while 19 per cent of respondents said they were not yet struggling but may do in future.



When asking leaders why they are seeing employees leave, three-quarters (76 per cent) said it was because their staff felt they would find better pay elsewhere, while nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) said people were leaving due to a perceived lack of career opportunities in their current organisation.

Commenting on the report, Jonathan Boys, labour market economist at the CIPD, said the “balance of power” had swayed towards employees.

“With low unemployment and the labour market remaining tight, there are currently fewer candidates looking for available roles, which makes recruitment difficult for some,” he said, predicting that there will be more resignations and people taking on new roles in the near future.


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“Employers need to make sure their employment offer is competitive, looking at a range of benefits beyond salary, such as flexible working options,” Boys advised, adding: “When one firm loses, another gains.”

John Bremen, global head of thought leadership and innovation at Willis Towers Watson, said it was important that firms keep listening to employees. “What drove people before the pandemic may not drive them today,” he explained.

As well as people’s needs, demographics have also changed, Bremen said, meaning firms must not assume that “what brought [people] to work before or during the pandemic will bring them to work after it”.

The survey also found that nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of HR leaders felt firms needed to create visible career opportunities to attract talented people. 

In addition, almost three in five (58 per cent) said that increasing flexibility and hybrid working was another top attraction tool, while half (52 per cent) of respondents said that increasing pay and benefits was a way of attracting and retaining employees. 

A separate survey of 900 employees, conducted by MetLife, also looked at employee feelings towards the pull factors when considering remaining or resigning from their job. 

The poll found that seven in 10 (70 per cent) employees indicated they would work harder for an employer that made them feel their job was secure, while a similar proportion (71 per cent) of respondents said their employers have a social responsibility for them. 

Similarly, three in five (61 per cent) employees said that work-life balance was important to them, while a similar proportion (63 per cent) said they now prioritised self-care, health and wellbeing. 

Adrian Matthews, employee benefits director at MetLife, said it was clear employees’ values and priorities had changed as a result of the pandemic. “Employers can’t afford for their best talent to walk away, especially in cases where they could have done something to stop it,” he said.

He advised that ensuring benefit packages suited all staff was crucial to protect productivity and encourage loyalty for the long term, and warned that employers need to acknowledge how employee needs have changed in the past 12 months.

While good pay will remain a draw for employees, “demonstrating care for an employee’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing will play an important part in guaranteeing [their] loyalty for the long term”, said Matthews.

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