Pandemic prompts shift in staff mindset

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a "shift in the mindset" of employees in the UK, according to a comprehensive survey of fulltime staff and HR professionals.

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Commissioned by law firm Winckworth Sherwood, a YouGov poll of more than a thousand employees and 500 HR decision-makers, found that job security and flexibility were now regarded as more important than salary when staff considered whether or not to remain with their current employer.The poll - conducted across a range of sectors and complemented by in-depth interviews with HR professionals and experts - found that 51 per cent of employees believed job security, and that 40 per cent believed flexibility were more important than salaries (32 per cent)."The research highlights a shift in the mindset of employees towards work following the widescale change in operational models and the economic impact of Covid-19," said Winckworth Sherwood.The research, which focused on companies' ethical leadership since the pandemic arrived in the UK a year ago, discovered that 78 per cent of employers and 73 per cent of their staff felt that workplace matters had been handled well.However, only 38 per cent employers felt their communication and engagement policies with employees during the pandemic had been appropriate, and only 22 per cent had re-aligned executive pay in line with wider staff remuneration package cuts.After a year of lockdowns, remote working and economic hardship, the top five most important improvements employees said their employers could make were: ensuring greater communication and engagement; being more compassionate; introducing greater flexibility in working arrangements; offering more wellbeing initiatives; and aligning executive pay when the rest of the workforce had to accept reduced remuneration packages.Louise Lawrence, partner in the employment team at Winckworth Sherwood and co-author of the report, said: “Employers and employees alike have faced considerable challenges over the past twelve months, so it’s very encouraging to learn that the majority of employees still in work consider their employers to have handled the situation well.“Our research shows that for the most part, employers have taken an ethical approach, rather than trying to push through a new agenda when employees are feeling insecure and potentially prepared to accept detrimental changes."However, it is clear that there remains room for improvement, particularly in relation to engagement and communication with employees.”Her fellow co-author Harriet Calver, a senior associate at Winckworth Sherwood, added: “Employees currently have an increased focus on job security and flexibility in working arrangements and we consider that job security will remain a key priority for employees for some time, given that economic recovery won’t be instant after the restrictions are lifted."Flexible working arrangements will also remain key as we believe there will be an expectation from employees that they can work more flexibly following a year of remote working during the pandemic."In the longer term, we expect to see a shift away from job security, as stability returns, and employees placing greater importance on the purpose, values and reputation of their employer.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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