What a week it has been; in the space of just seven days, Office for National Statistics’ figures reported 730,000 fewer individuals are on payrolls since March 2020 and the UK economy officially entered recession.
For the hundreds of thousands of individuals that have entered the UK jobs market, competition for roles is fierce. Figures from online job site CV Library released this week, for example, showed that the number of applicants for vacancies has increased significantly from an average of 25 per role to 4,228 for a London-based trainee paralegal role, 3,333 for a London-based HR assistant, 2,932 for a warehouse working in Northumberland and 2,653 for an assembly operator in Sunderland, to cite but a few examples.
Based on these figures, on the face of it, it appears very much to be an employer’s market. So, what does this mean for employee benefits and reward strategies, particularly at a time when cost-cutting and cost control is likely to be high on the agenda for many organisations? Should employees and successful candidates be expected to consider themselves lucky to simply have a job?
Employees’ expectations of their employer and the employee experience had already begun to change following the UK’s initial lockdown in March, with elements such as greater flexibility and organisational support for health and wellbeing increasing in importance for many employees. Research by Yulife, published this week, for example, found that 87% of respondents would be likely to stay with an organisation if it committed to improving employee wellbeing. However, a quarter of all those surveyed felt that their employer did not currently prioritise their wellbeing.
Even in these difficult times, amidst the headlines of pay cuts, pay freezes and redundancies are those of employers introducing new forms of, or increasing, support for their workforce. This week alone, these have included:
- North Wales Police introducing wellbeing support for 2,500 staff
- Admiral awarding free shares under a share incentive plan worth £1,800 for 10,000 staff
- Oxford University Hospital NHS Trust offering rest pods for front-line staff
While we will be feeling the impact of Covid-19 for some time to come, organisations that continue to invest in their workforce now – if they are financially able to do so – will inevitably reap the rewards at a later date, particularly when the employment market once again becomes more buoyant. The power of building a positive organisational culture and strong employer brand should not be under-estimated even when times are tight.