With more than two-thirds of UK businesses facing a skills shortage, are employers doing enough to remain a competitive option for candidates?

companies need to become employers of choice: employee engagement and the great resignation

There is a major role-reversal happening right now. In early 2000, my first experience in the job market was me presenting my best self to a company, whereas now employees are far more empowered, and they choose the company. Now, people can work remotely from anywhere in the world, and attract huge wages with their skills.

Companies, especially those that are not big corporates or VC-backed, need to sell themselves in the job market. Many might struggle to compete in terms of salary, but benefits and the working environment cannot be understated.

What can businesses do to keep their staff aligned with the company?

I think ultimately, employees want to feel that their work is meaningful, and this is the heart of what makes staff motivated and aligned to the company at a high-level, but a huge aspect of this comes from building a culture where this is possible. Increasingly, people are looking for “Employers of choice”, and a key pillar of this is company culture. I think this is the reason why businesses must continue to invest in wellbeing and CSR initiatives if they want to retain the best people in their organisations.

When it comes to the issue of job satisfaction, workers need to know that what they are doing is purposeful and meaningful, and this is why I believe open communication and transparency are so vital to building this positive culture. Getting employees on board with the grand vision of a company requires managers to explain why employees are doing what they are doing, and how employee contributions are actively adding value to this vision.

Allowing people to have autonomy in their roles, and letting them shape the tasks they are doing also contributes to this, as it allows for meaningful contributions and creativity. Rigid micromanagement is simply not acceptable anymore in the current working landscape.

There has been much talk around the phenomena of “quiet quitting”, is this at its core, an employee engagement issue?

Simply, yes! For me, it’s a symptom of employees not being on board with the vision, and not seeing what they’re doing as anything more than a task to be completed.

Cultivating a loyal and engaged team is about bringing people into the decisions a company makes, and having an open culture based on respect, where discussion and feedback are welcomed.

Top-down, rigid management structures do have a lot to answer for here, especially those that are not properly aligned with the culture. At the very top, they might, for example, be passionate about employee wellbeing, but these values need to be able to travel down the entire management line, or it will unravel the process. Values need to be lived by the entire leadership if they are to be effective.

What do you think businesses should prioritise when it comes to work benefits and perks to help them attract and retain the best talent?

I’d say ask the staff! What do they want, and what do they value?

There are four pillars of wellbeing, mental, social, physical and financial, and any kind of benefits package a company wants to offer need to understand that all of these aspects feed into each other.

While salary is often a commercial decision, even companies that cannot compete in financial terms with the larger players in an industry, must consider the financial wellbeing of their staff, especially now we are faced with a cost-of-living crisis.

You need the whole person to come to work, and an investment in skilled workers means ensuring they have the right levels of everything they need, so you as an employer will get the best out of them. I’m quite sceptical of surface-level perks that do not contribute to the wellbeing of employees. Benefits should value the time and wellbeing of your employees, whether this is allowing employees time out to exercise, small payments to help people working from home mitigate the rising energy costs, or health plans that help alleviate some of the strain on employees.

We need real, solid initiatives if the aim is to keep profits and quality of work high, and we can only have this if we invest in our biggest asset – our people. I believe that’s the key to a real competitive advantage.

What advice would you give employers on how they can provide more meaningful and satisfying experiences at work, especially for those who cannot compete with larger organisations in terms of salary?

First, it is important to recognise that things will be different for each company, and there is simply no one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why for me, open communication and flexibility in approach are so vital.

There is only one person who can ultimately decide if something is a genuine, valuable perk, and that is the employee themselves. This means you have to understand your people and your team in order to determine this.

Hybrid working has made the lines between work and home, or personal and professional, much blurrier, and we need to start seeing workers as whole people, with personal lives, commitments, and other factors at play.

Personally, I advocate for a holistic approach towards wellbeing that aims to view employees as whole people, and enables them to bring their authentic selves to work. There is no doubt that they way work is often done can have a detrimental impact on employee wellbeing, and the companies that will attract the best people are those that have clear values, and seek to reduce the negative impact on people, society and the planet.

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