Irish consumer prices increased by an average of 7.8% in the 12 months to May — the fastest pace in nearly 38 years — up from 7% in the year to April. Source – thejournal.ie, here.
A cost-of-living crisis, Brexit, the war on Ukraine, the post-pandemic workplace, the great resignation, the skills crisis, the list goes on. In our current climate, employers, leaders and HR teams are facing an array of challenges in the battle to keep their employees not just motivated and performing, but happy in their current roles.
With changing priorities, and a well-documented evolution in the power balance between employees and employers, many businesses and HR teams are asking themselves – how do we retain staff, and what do they want?
In our most recent survey, retention of staff has emerged as the leading priority for HR teams as they look to the second half of 2022 and beyond.
According to EY’s Work Reimagined Survey, employees feel empowered, yet nearly half (43%) of respondents say they’re likely to leave their employer in the next year. Total pay is their chief concern amid tighter labour markets and new opportunities.
Check out our recent podcast episode with Laura Flynn, Partner and Head of EY’s People Advisory Services in Ireland, about The EY 2022 Work Reimagined Survey.
This combination of pay as a leading priority, and retention as a leading challenge has most certainly been reflected in the Irish business landscape. We need only look to the various pay disputes, strikes, and pay deals in the media in recent months for a clear picture of how widespread these challenges are.
However, while many of these challenges come from global forces and trends, and the issue of pay being weighed up against costs, the question still remains – what can you, as a HR professional or business leader do in your organisation to keep your best people?
A new baseline
The pandemic has, without doubt, been a driving factor in shaping these changes in the world of work. Employers (83%) agree that the pandemic accelerated a need for extensive has changes to a rewards policy encompassing compensation, wellbeing, flexible benefits, time off and more. (Source – EY’s Work Reimagined Survey.)
Developments in many aspects of pay, benefits and equity in recent years, have also contributed to a new baseline in these areas.
- Pension auto-enrolment – the arrival of this new scheme changes the landscape of pensions, and effectively sets a new minimum offering for employees in Ireland.
“The introduction of auto-enrolment represents a change from a system whereby employers may, or may not, make provision for a workplace pension scheme to one where every worker will have access to a workplace pension.” – Minister Heather Humphreys.
For more information on this, check out our podcast episode dedicated to Pension Auto-Enrolment here.
- Sick pay & sick leave – in short, under the legislation, employers will be obliged to provide a minimum number of paid sick days annually from 2022. Again, this provides another minimum baseline to the pay and benefits offering.
“Ireland is one of the few advanced countries in Europe not to have a mandatory sick pay scheme and although many, we think approximately half, of employers do provide sick pay, we need to make sure that security, that safety net, is there for all workers, regardless of their job.” – Leo Varadkar, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
For more information on this, check out our podcast episode dedicated to Sick Pay & Sick Leave here.
- Flexible working – while the Right to Request Remote Work Bill is yet to be enacted, this move to legislate for remote working, the emergence of government-supported remote working hubs, along with the undeniable surge in remote working for knowledge workers across the developed world has set in stone a new unwritten benefit for employers to consider when developing their wider package.
Eight in 10 (80%) of those in employment have worked remotely at some point since the start of the pandemic. (Source – CSO Pulse Survey, Our Lives Online: Remote Work November 2021.)
- Similarly, although unlikely to be legislated for, the 4 day work week, has also seen a huge surge in uptake in recent months and years. As we discussed with Joe O’ Connor, CEO at 4 Day Work Week, on our podcast, Ireland is among a number of countries taking part in a worldwide initiative trialling a four-day week with no loss of pay. Although this may be slightly further back in the development/uptake journey compared to remote working, there is most certainly an emergence of this in employer offerings.
So, what does this mean for employers who want to retain staff?
To cut a long story short, this is a long story. There is not a couple of quick wins or tips we can provide that will guarantee you a formula for retaining your staff. As with all challenges in HR and business, it is a combination of factors, initiatives and developments that will lead you in the right direction. So, let’s try our best to give you a range of ideas to set you on that path to retention and success.
Update your HR policies
An employee handbook contains all the policies, procedures, rules and regulations that your employee needs to know about working in your business. It can also communicate your business’ values, mission statement and culture to future employees.
If your business already has a staff handbook in place, it is crucial that you keep it up to date. Given the current climate and the huge effect that the recent pandemic has had on working practices, many businesses have been operating under unfamiliar circumstances. Temporary policies regarding remote working, sick pay, annual leave and other areas may have been updated for relevancy. At the time, such changes may have been considered temporary or makeshift. However, now it is becoming clear that workplaces are likely forever changed, as we emerge out of the pandemic towards more long-term practices. It therefore makes sense to revisit which policies were adapted for relevancy and whether there is sense in permanently changing these in the employee handbook.
As mentioned, an employee handbook also allows you to communicate your organisations culture and values. It is one of the first chances you have to create a lasting impression of your organisation and help to instil a feeling of stability and trust in your employee.
When refreshing your business’s employee handbook, you might want to consider some of the following areas:
- The narrative throughout. A handbook should be exciting for employees to read, so think about how you use language and tone of voice to communicate your company’s culture, values and goals. Develop style principles so that any future amendments to the handbook can easily adhere to the same style.
- The design. The employee handbook carries certain legal ramifications. While clarity is therefore vitally important, you can still create a design that both fits with your business’ branding and communicates your culture clearly. Disqus is one company that actually splits the two, incorporating a ‘legal’ half and a ‘fun’ half. Think of the use of colour, font, illustrations and images. If you have the resources, a graphic designer will be able to help you create a template that really stands out.
- The presentation. You might want to think outside the box on this one. Consider how you can present your handbook to your employees in a way that is fun and engaging. Some companies, such as Netflix and HubSpot, display theirs via a slide share. Other companies, such as project management software business, Trello, create their employee handbooks using their own product.
Is it time to update your policies and procedures? Check out this podcast episode for guidance!
Review and develop your Employee Reward & Benefits Framework
Although pay forms a substantial part of a rewards & benefits framework, a strategic approach to total reward will go a long way to alleviating the concerns and satisfying the desires of your employees.
As defined by the CIPD, the concept of ‘total reward’ covers the tangible and intangible aspects of work that people value and may form part of a reward strategy. Building further, they state that; Total reward may include some, or all, of the following elements as well as traditional elements of pay and benefits packages:
- Flexible benefits.
- Access to professional and personal development.
- Meaningful work.
- Freedom and autonomy.
- Opportunity for promotion.
- Being treated fairly.
- Recognition of achievements.
- Reward transparency.
- Able to raise matters of concern.
- Involvement in decisions that affect the way work is done.
- Flexible working options.
- Supportive line managers.
So, what should HR teams do next? In the existing cost of living crisis, pay and benefit professionals should consider whether their organisation’s reward approach is fit for purpose by exploring questions such as:
- What’s happening to workplace financial wellbeing?
- Are we paying our workers a liveable wage?
- If we can’t increase pay for our employees by as much as the cost of living, what else can we do to reduce the impact of inflation on earnings?
- Can we offer opportunities for low-waged workers to increase their skills and experience so they can take on higher-paid roles?
- Are certain groups of workers, such as female, black, or disabled staff, being affected disproportionately by inflation? If so, what can we do to support them?
- How does our benefits package support employee financial wellbeing?
- Should we change how we communicate with employees about pay and benefits?
- Are we clearly communicating our financial wellbeing policy to employees?
For more information on this, check out our podcast episode with Oliver Coakley, here, where we discuss Employee Reward and Benefits Frameworks.
Develop an inclusive wellbeing strategy reflective of your working model
Building on our most recent point, the topic of employee wellbeing remains a high priority and a key feature of total reward, as companies and employees find it increasingly difficult to find that balance of performance and productivity in a disconnected and potentially isolated environment for employees.
Despite positive indications of organisational intentions around employee wellbeing (CIPD HR Practices Survey), the reality of the challenge facing HR teams was deeply apparent in 2021. As reported by the Irish Examiner in November 2021, more than half of full-time workers in Ireland experienced burnout last year. This was supported by a Laya survey, which found that 46% of referrals to occupational health were for mental health reasons.
So what does this mean for 2022? In that same report by Laya, a key indicator of where HR’s focus should lie can be found in this finding – one in three people aged between 18 and 34 are more likely to move to an employer that provides mental health resources. Couple this with the movement in the jobs market, and our takeaway tip is clear – ensure you provide a safe place of work, ensure that ways of working do not place undue stress on employees, and open the lines of communication.
And, in case you missed it, check out the first global standard for psychological health and wellbeing in the workplace: ISO45003.
Most importantly though, ensure your wellbeing strategy is fair and equitable. As reported by Gartner, their analysis of S&P 500 earnings calls shows the frequency with which CEOs talk about issues of equity, fairness and inclusion has increased by 658% since 2018 – a key consideration for those building wellbeing and wider reward strategies.
For more information on building a workplace wellbeing strategy, check out our podcast episode with Brian Crooke, here!
See your recruitment process and onboarding as a company culture touchpoint
The people you hire and how you hire them will have an enormous impact on your company’s culture, and HR should align their recruitment practices with the organisation’s core values.
Are you putting in place processes and policies that will boost and grow your company culture?
Are you hiring for a typical ‘good fit’ or are you being inclusive, and doing things such as;
- Writing inclusive job descriptions
- Using ‘blind hiring’ techniques when shortlisting candidates
- Implementing unconscious bias training
- Allowing for reasonable adjustments at interviews
- Tracking diversity hiring metrics
- Offering targeted internships
So then, when it comes to plucking out the useful data for assessing your recovery, are you asking yourself these important questions?
- Are you seeing an increased uptake in staff referrals (refer a new hire)?
- Are you asking people who have just joined your organisation, what made your company stand out?
- Are you asking about company culture in your 30/60/90 day meetings with new hires?
- Is it taking more/less time to fill roles?
- Are new hires taking part in your CSR and other activities?
As we discussed in our Labour Market Outlook podcast with Donal O’ Donoghue, the war for talent is as much about keeping your people, as it is about attracting them. Like almost all organisations, there will have been changes in how your company operates and how that has affected your company culture. Asking yourself these questions can help you reset, understand where your organisation now stands, and ensure you’re fully prepped for the current and upcoming challenges.
Listen to an Irish success story who successfully recruited and onboarded over 200 staff, in this podcast episode!
Although HR’s adaptation to new technology has been a slow burner in recent years, there is research that automation and analytics are on the increase in the HR profession. According to the CIPD Ireland HR Practices Survey, 60% reported an increase in automation of HR processes (49% had planned this for 2021) and 54% reported the automation of elements of the recruitment process.
As reported by Simon Haines, CEO of Simply Get Results, in their Winning Skills Advantage Report, HR teams and their wider organisations have faced a ‘double disruption’ of the pandemic alongside exponential technology adoption.
This period of change that the pandemic has brought, along with the advancements in tools and technology in HR and L&D, means that many HR teams are facing a skills crisis as they not only adapt to change, but also seek to effectively upskill their employees with the best available tools. And guess what happens when you’ve got employees who can’t effectively upskill or embrace L&D in your organisation? You guessed it – they’ll move to an organisation where they can do these things.
Our takeaway – ask your team and organisations the right questions before choosing new technologies, or tackling L&D. Carefully analyse current capabilities, identify the high priority skills gaps, and ensure you pick the technology/software that is fit for your specific needs.
Ask for support to prevent burnout
And last but not least, seek support from leaders, colleagues, and your HR team, when needed. As discussed in our recent podcast episode with Gillian French (Expert in Residence at Workvivo), 98% of HR professionals surveyed by Workvivo are feeling burned out due to the strain of the various demands associated with the great resignation and the task of retaining staff.
As HR are primarily tasked to deal with retention, culture, talent attraction and employee engagement, a level of severe burnout in this profession could spell disaster for businesses.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Gillian French outlines that “If this situation continues without intervention, leaders will be looking at serious cultural impact and worsening problems around retention and the employee experience more broadly. Significant attention and focus is needed on the people function, as well as investment in the employee experience for all.”
Where can I go for help?
Good news – at Insight HR, we have decades of experience in helping leading Irish businesses resolve workplace issues. Working with such a wide variety of clients means that we have gained a huge amount of experience in resolving all kinds of issues and supporting HR teams in the most challenging times.
For HR consultancy services and management you can trust, get in touch with us today at insighthr.ie or talk to one of our consultants in confidence on 056 770 1060.