Why 2022 will bring more employee flexibility, unparalleled employee rewards, and a worryingly low commitment to D&I reporting
By David Whitfield, Co-Founder & CEO, HR DataHub.
At the end of 2021 we surveyed 125 senior HR, D&I, reward and people professionals – including 12 FTSE100 – on a number of topics related to their employee strategy. We were keen to get a view of what their company intent looked like for 2022, and beyond. And let me tell you, there are big changes ahead…
Firstly, our Outlook 2022 report revealed that the top two strategic priorities for HR teams will be to attract top talent (score 9.51) and retain existing talent (score 8.81). In addition to this, over half of the companies we surveyed said they will be looking to increase their headcount in 2022. This means the talent marketplace is only set to get feistier. Let’s firstly take a closer look at how UK firms will try and attract and retain employees in the new year.
Monetary rewards: We asked respondents what they already have in place to attract and retain talent in their business, and, what they plan to implement in the next 12 month, or, would consider implementing. Our research suggests that companies may turn to increased levels of monetary reward in recruitment efforts. To attract talent, 17% said they already pay above market pay and almost half (49%) would consider it. Whilst more than a fifth (21%) said they already pay a sign on bonus and 37% said they would consider bringing one in. To retain talent, over half (52%) are considering the unprecedented move of paying their employees above market average pay increases, 9% said they will implement this in the next 12 months and 14% said they already have this in place.
Retention bonuses: Our research also suggests that businesses may start to use retention bonuses as a tactic to retain talent; 28% of businesses said they already have this in place, 4% are implementing it in the next 12 months and 45% said they would consider it. More than a third (34%) said they would also consider above market bonuses.
Flexible working: Companies also appear to recognise that in the ‘war on talent’ monetary reward alone is not enough to attract and retain employees. In fact, 70% of respondents said they already implement and promote their flexible working practices in an attempt to attract new talent, a further 16% are looking to implement this in the next 12 months and 16% said they would consider it. In addition, only 7% of those questioned said they would not consider additional wellbeing benefits as part of their plan to attract new talent. 50% said they already use additional wellbeing benefits in their strategy to attract new talent, 14% are implanting this in the next 12 months and nearly a third (31%) would consider it.
Training and development: Enhancing development appears to be a key strategy businesses are implementing to retain the best talent. 54% said they already have this in place, more than a quarter (28%) plan to implement it in the next 12 months and 20% said they would consider it. Notably, developing leaders was the fourth highest strategic priority for HR teams in 2022.
ESG commitments: Our research also suggests that businesses believe promoting their commitment to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues is key to attracting talent. Over half (56%) of companies already have this in place, whilst 16% are planning to implement this within 12 months and 24% would consider using it. It is encouraging to see more than half have already shared their commitment to ESG as part of their strategy to attract and retain talent. However, employees have become increasingly cautious about joining and staying in workplaces that pay lip service to ESG efforts. Leaders must ensure these pledges are not empty.
Secondly, for Outlook 2022 we questioned companies on their intention to report externally on D&I. In fact, D&I appears to be high on the agenda for HR teams in 2022 with respondents ranking it as their third highest priority behind attracting and retaining talent. However, plans to report on D&I do not match this intent. In fact, our research showed that only 16% of companies have published their ethnicity pay gap externally with a further 3% to follow by the end of 2021. Worryingly, 40% of companies admitted they have no intention to report.
On the topic of D&I, we also questioned companies on their disclosure rates. As expected, data on gender is the D&I characteristic most commonly reported with 76% having already reported this data externally. This is, perhaps, expected because companies with over 250 employees have to report it under law. 13% of respondents said they have no intention to report now or anytime in the next two year. On top of this, just 9% of companies disclose data on age externally. Despite all companies having easy access to this information, more than two-thirds (67%) said they have no intention to report on it. It also seems that disability is the most overlooked D&I characteristic. Only 7% of companies said they have already reported their data externally and alarmingly, 54% have no intention to report on this.
One thing that’s clear from our survey is that leadership execs will need to genuinely upskill their understanding of D&I data, not only from an identification and collection point of view, but through interrogating and leveraging that data to ensure they are making meaningful change. The lack of intention from companies to report their D&I data externally is a worry, though we suspect that this could be as many just simply don’t have the data. Having a clear D&I strategy that is underpinned by data is no longer a nice to have – in 2022 it will be business imperative.
Lastly, but certainly not least, Outlook 2022 revealed significant changes in both the way companies intend to work, and, how companies care for their employees.
Covid-19 appears to have triggered a rise in the mental wellbeing benefits companies offer to their employees. We found that, as a direct result of Covid-19, 25% of companies have increased flexibility for their employees by offering additional days off for Covid support, such as home schooling or time to care for others, 20% now offer mental health training and 18% said they have put mental health first aiders on the ground in their workplaces. Overall, the research shows a significant shift in raising awareness around mental health. 19% have introduced awareness raising activities and 20% have enhanced their current offering.
Despite the discussion around four day working weeks appearing consistently, the survey results show little movement towards adopting them. Just under 5% if companies said they had introduced it after Covid-19.
Our research also suggests that Covid-19 has triggered an extreme shift towards implementing long-term hybrid working models. Only 2% of companies said their employees must always work from the office, in 2022, down from 76% who expected the same in 2019. In 2019, only 5% of companies had a remote and office-based combination, but in 2022, 40% of companies said they will be implementing this approach. None of the companies questioned said they will have a completely remote approach to working, which suggests, on the whole, companies recognise the value of having a physical workplace.
Historically, a major blocker for employee recruitment and retention has been the restrictive nature of a traditional 9-5 workplace. Those companies who are able to prove they can provide a truly flexible way of working will reap the rewards.
Outlook 2022 gives employees a true view of what they can expect to see from their employers next year, and beyond. Companies have committed to rewards, wellbeing and flexibility like never before, but the overall intention to report on issues that matter the most, is poor. D&I targets need to be set carefully and considerately, and they must focus on real and meaningful metrics. Leaders – don’t wait for the direction of legislation, act now.
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