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Keith Tully

Management

Employee Retention in the Post-Covid Era

Now is the time to invest in new and existing talent

Published: Thursday, January 19, 2023 - 12:03

The coronavirus pandemic made way for trailblazers of flexible work as employers embraced working from home around the globe to combat the spread of the virus. This redefined expectations and shaped the way nonproduction staff operated professionally during and after the pandemic.

As Covid-19 lockdown measures subsequently presented employees with more control over the way they navigated how they worked, when they worked, and where they worked, how did this raise the benchmark for employee retention? We dive into the topic of post-Covid-19 employee retention as the industry bears an acute labor shortage.

Post-Covid retention tactics

Henry Anson, managing director of the U.K. publication The Manufacturer, recognized the skills shortage as the biggest long-term threat to U.K. manufacturing during a roundtable event earlier this year. Anson said that 55 percent of U.K. discrete manufacturers are finding it difficult to recruit, which shows that there’s a general lack of appeal for new industry entrants. This underlines the importance of retention and investing in existing and new talent, which boils down to several tactics.

Flexibility

The pandemic redefined flexibility in the workplace, and businesses were limited in their options. They could either take the back seat or invest in operations to enable seamless working from home. Manufacturing businesses increased automation to reduce numbers on the shop floor and installed infrastructure to build the bridge between teams, from product developers and quality managers to production staff.

While employees embraced flexibility for nearly two years under pandemic conditions, many expected it to outlast the pandemic. Reverting to a pre-Covid working style, detached from flexibility, can deter employees from remaining loyal because there’s no reason for employees to remain in restrictive roles while many employers continue to extend flexible working.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s “Resourcing and talent planning report” for 2022 found that 54 percent of those who’ve said they’ve experienced recruitment difficulties are now offering greater work flexibility to address their hiring problem, while 68 percent of organizations that offer hybrid/remote work report it has allowed them to attract and retain more talent.

Personal development

Investing in employees, their personal development, professional qualifications, skill set, and specialties can help nurture their understanding, knowledge, and academic abilities. The motivation can drive performance and reduce loss of productivity.

The CIPD report found that upskilling existing employees is the most common response to recruitment difficulties (60%).

New entrants

Almost half of organizations (46%) currently offer apprenticeships, about a third have graduate or post-A-level entry routes, and just over a quarter have intern schemes. By recruiting young staff and showing them the ropes, you’re likely to provide them with essential life skills and see them through notable career milestones.

According to Reed’s Apprentice Learner Survey, as many as 85 percent of apprentices will stay in employment after finishing their scheme, with two-thirds (64%) remaining with the same employer.

Great Resignation

The Great Resignation marks the tipping point during the pandemic, where workers around the globe returned to the drawing board to reconsider their professional paths. It led to a mass wave of resignations. Catching alight like a trend, the Great Resignation fueled global labor shortages, and the manufacturing industry was indifferent.

A Washington Post article highlighted the magnitude of the problem, as it found that manufacturing weathered the biggest surge in workers leaving—a nearly 60-percent jump, compared with pre-pandemic figures. An increase of this scale hasn’t occurred in any other industry.

While other sectors embrace flexible working, it’s inevitably more difficult for manufacturing companies to roll out flexible working in the same form, given that factory floors require people power and physical labor. A degree of flexibility must be sought through hybrid working and incorporating more physical meetings and online status-update meetings.

Employee experience

Employee workplace experience is more crucial than ever as the lottery for jobs hits record numbers while flexibility is now widespread, increasing competition and providing candidates with more opportunities. To retain staff, employers may be left with limited options, such as increasing wages as a retention tactic. Better pay and better conditions can improve the employee experience.

The Randstad Q4 Workmonitor Pulse survey saw that while 52 percent of employees require aid from the inflationary crisis, nearly that many (45%) want their companies to do this by providing a monthly pay boost just to overcome the higher cost of living. The research found that salaries and benefits remain the No. 1 motivator for workers changing jobs.

Employee retention must remain high on the agenda to prevent an exodus. From redefining employment packages to granting more flexibility and personal development opportunities, investing in your existing workforce is of equal importance to investing in new talent. The post-pandemic era differs from the pre-pandemic era as employees experience new pressures, such as the cost of living crisis, energy crisis, and high inflation, all of which must be considered when addressing employee retention.

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About The Author

Keith Tully’s picture

Keith Tully

Keith Tully is a partner at Real Business Rescue, a company restructuring and liquidation specialist with three decades of experience in supporting limited company directors in financial distress.