This sounds an odd question; however, with employers struggling to recruit and retain staff perhaps ACAS’s recent survey which asked just that is timely. Emma O’Connor, Director and Head of HR Training reports on the survey and its results.
ACAS asked over 1,001 employees in September 2022 a simple question: what are the 3 main things that keep you in your job? The result was as follows:
Job security 43%
Competitive pay 39%
Flexible working 38%
Relationship with colleagues 38%
Feeling valued 28%
Meaningful work 21%
Professional development opportunities 10%
Effective leadership 6%
Diverse workforce 2%
Mental health support 2%
Don't know 1%
Not applicable – there is nothing in particular that is keeping me at my current main job 11%
It is perhaps not surprising given the current economic forecasts, that “job security” was cited as the number 1 reason for staying in a job, with “competitive pay” not far behind. However, those employers who are thinking about their current working patterns might be interested to see “flexible working” as another top reason for staying in a job.
A takeaway from the survey is that staff value flexibility. This could be in terms of ad hoc flexibility so starting work later or finishing earlier on the odd occasion or sometimes working from home. Flexibility could be in terms of outputs rather than presenteeism. Flexibility could be a more permanent change to one’s terms and conditions. It has been reported that flexible working requests have increased, particularly, as workplaces began to open up and require staff to return to the office. Trust and trusting your people to get the job done comes into play when we think about flexibility also.
Flexible working requests can be informal or formal under the statutory regime. Under the statutory regime, there are specific procedures that must be followed so as not to fall foul of legislation. Whether a request is formal or informal, a failure – unreasonably – to allow a request could be an act of discrimination or lead to grievances and ultimate claims. It is important that managers understand what a flexible working request may look like, what their obligations are and on what circumstances a request could be denied (and the risks if it is).
Values and relationships
If one looks at the results, it is not just job security or flexibility that are of value to employees. From the results and thinking about job satisfaction more broadly, the results show it is multi-faceted: “relationships with colleagues” (38%), “feeling valued" (28%) and “meaningful work” (21%) all score highly in the survey.
We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of workplace relationships and ask how these can be maintained in a more hybrid working world. We spend a great deal of our time at work and having strong relationships is an important part of how we work. This could be how we celebrate together – whether it be a success or an event or how we deal with things that do not go so well. How can our workplaces and practices be adapted to allow for creative and social time?
How or where we work may be irrelevant if we are not engaged in meaningful work. Although meaningful work is not defined in the survey, many will think of it as work which is fulfilling, rewarding – yes financially – but also purposeful. A lot of this comes down to recognition. How do we recognise the importance of what we do from the bottom to the top of any organisation.
Employer culture and values have a huge role to play in the way employees feel engaged and motivated at work. What is your organisation’s purpose and goals and how can employees work towards this and be part of the success?
Recruitment and retention are key issues for businesses as we move through to 2023. Recruiting the best and retaining key staff will also be fundamental for businesses to weather any storm. But it not just the “hires” or the “fires” which are important: being an employee is more than being a cog in a wheel. Are employers doing enough to support staff – and managers – in allowing them to reach their potential? Creating effective managers and leaders, encouraging them to recognise and reward, is something to be invested in through training and development. Through our HR Training Academy, we are running a number of sessions for managers on their legal responsibilities but also on enhancing their leadership skills.
The results may also help employers reflect on their current workforce plans. Flexibility yes is important, but this has to be balanced against the benefit of creating workplaces which build staff relationships and team spirit. It may also help employers think about their wider benefit packages or reward schemes. Also, if businesses are going to adopt a “flexible” working approach what does this mean in practice and how fair is the practice?
Employees who are engaged, who feel valued and who are recognised are more productive. To this list, we should now, on these results, add secure. This takes a commitment from leadership to communicate and build high trust worth relationships.
To find out more about how manager, leadership and HR training – as well as awareness raising across your workforce – can improve skills, knowledge, meet legal obligations and increase engagement then please contact me on [email protected]. From compliance, leadership and employment law essentials we are running a number of training sessions for many different clients and organisations. Online, pre-recorded or in-person, we have the course and method of delivery to suit your organisation. Training is important, training does work.
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.