Even five years ago, the thought of most office-based teams working one to two days per week from home would have been unfathomable. Now it’s the norm.
Working patterns have also evolved. Flexible working – where employees have more power over when they work – is more common. Employees also want condensed hours. There’s a new focus on the importance of work/life balance – something that, only a few years back, was not on the HR radar.
This change in outlook and low unemployment means people can afford to be choosier. Employee turnover has increased by 8.7 per cent in the UK since 2019.
How can employers retain their top talent in a time of rising turnover?
Listen, trial, learn – the four-day week
We recently trialled a four-day week across our business, following demand from our teams.
For six months, we offered a sample of teams the chance to work four days per week but for five days’ pay. We needed a sample group to benchmark against the rest of the firm, but the process was broad, providing a sound data set.
The results make for interesting reading. Over 50 per cent of managers observed productivity increases and 58 per cent observed no improvement. While attrition was reduced (and is now the lowest since 2021), this was offset by a rise in month-on-month absences.
This inconclusive data means that, for the time being, we won’t be switching to a four-day week. But it doesn’t mean we aren’t learning from the trial. It revealed how much our teams prize annual leave, viewing it as one of the top benefits. That’s why we’ve recently increased our annual leave allowance from 24 to 30 days per year for all colleagues. This gives everyone a chance to relax and recharge, doing the things they love to do. Working condensed hours could also help employees balance their home life better, a policy we’ve had for a while now.
While the trial was not the productivity silver bullet we thought it might be, neither was it a wasted exercise.
Culture is not just about physical presence
Workplace culture is now a key selling point for an organisation as, for many candidates, it can be the deciding factor. As we spend so much time working, it’s helpful to like where you work, and it’s better for mental wellbeing.
But building a defined workplace culture in the hybrid working age is not easy. We have worked hard to help drive ours, incorporating everything from monthly ‘staff in’ days – where colleagues (even remote employees) come in to help drive a collegiate atmosphere and closer collaboration.
We’ve found remote working a boon to our business, widening the talent pool and introducing fantastic new personalities to our firm. Even if they are not in the office full-time, remote workers have plenty to give, and have helped us build our culture from afar.
Firms’ footprints are increasingly important
While ESG is increasingly under the spotlight, we can’t deny its importance for our teams. Our people want to ‘give back’ and our offer of volunteering days can put us head and shoulders above the rest. Our people also hold us to account for our carbon footprint. Engaging our teams in these issues has resulted in a vocal and invested workforce. It has no doubt helped contribute to our lowest attrition levels in three years.
Retaining talent is vital to keeping businesses on track. But it’s not cheap.
According to Gallup, the cost of replacing an employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary. This probably does not factor in the productivity lost while they work their notice and their replacement gets up to speed. As job hopping becomes the norm, it’s up to employers to get creative with remuneration and retention strategies.
I hope 2024 sees a move away from focusing on time in the office, and instead focuses on a more holistic package, suited to today’s more complex workforce needs.