Frank Creighton: Solving employee value challenge is key to improving UK productivity

Improving productivity has been highlighted as critical to driving growth in the UK economy. But with millions of employees still feeling undervalued at work, reward and recognition offers a cost-effective way to motivate teams to bridge that gap.

Love2shop’s second UK-wide survey of UK workers, Employee value report, found that almost a fifth of UK employees, around 5.5 million people, feel undervalued at work. Of those, eight in 10 are looking to leave their current role and more than a quarter, around 1.5 million workers, said they are actually willing to leave their current role without another job lined up, despite the rising cost of living.

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Employee value

Worker unhappiness is also affecting productivity. More than half (57%) of employees, almost 17.2 million people, claimed their productivity increases when they feel valued, with valued employees on average 13% more productive than unhappy ones.

But not all employers are getting that message, with 47% of respondents reporting they had never received spontaneous gifts from their employer. Having a strategy to make people feel appreciated and valued is a highly effective way to motivate a team.

The fact that so many businesses still seemingly do not offer that should be a real concern for anyone looking at the UK from a commercial perspective. Unhappy workers do not give their best.

Improving engagement

Not all employers are ignoring employee engagement. Last year’s report revealed the problem was significantly worse than today.

Back then, around 10 million people felt undervalued by their employer. But following our publication, many businesses adopted or reviewed their engagement, reward and recognition strategies to show their workforces their efforts mattered.

However, millions of workers still feel disengaged from the business they work for. This comes at a time when recruitment is challenging and businesses are looking to increase productivity to breathe life into the economy.

Ignoring employee value, a challenge that is simple to improve but can deliver significant, measureable improvements, is a costly mistake for employers.

An employee value strategy based on reward and recognition has a greater impact than ever currently due to the rising cost of living. Employees are struggling and rewards are no longer seen as a chance for a treat, but vital support for their everyday essentials.

In a sign of the continuing impact of the rising cost of living, 34% of workers revealed if they were to receive a multi-retailer gift card from their employer, they would spend it on the weekly shop, while 12% would use it to buy school essentials for their children.

In light of all this, to still find so many people so unhappy they are willing to walk out on their job without another lined up is astonishing and should be a real concern for business. Replacing talent is costly and losing it reduces productivity, so getting a reward and recognition strategy wrong, or not having one at all, will ultimately affect the bottom line.

All eyes on you

This year’s report also found two-thirds (67%) of UK employees check an employer’s reward system, culture, employee happiness ratings and reviews before applying for a job.

So if employers do need to recruit and their employee value proposition is poor or non-existent, they are driving up the cost of filling their vacancies as talent is more likely to avoid applying.

The Love2shop Employee value report feeds into a wider picture of employee happiness and value. According to the The Heard and the Heard-Nots research published in June 2021 by the Workforce Institute, for example, one-in-three workers would rather quit their job rather than voice concerns at work.

Employers are potentially facing problems down the line too. The number of employees looking for a new role rises among the younger demographic, with 87% of Gen Z actively pursuing a different job. Without a pipeline of young talent to replace outgoing, experienced workers, businesses could find themselves falling headfirst into a skills gap.

When it comes to reward, nearly six in 10 employees say that days off, flexible working hours and multi-retailer gift cards were the best ways for organisations to reward employees. Nearly 90% of UK employees said they would feel more valued if their boss surprised them with a multi-retailer gift card as a spontaneous gift.

Employee value matters. Getting it right will create a happier, more productive and more profitable business.

Frank Creighton is director of business development at Love2shop