Coronavirus: Four-in-five UK businesses fear losing top talent

Kalila Sangster
·3-min read
Business network concept. Group of businessperson.
Businesses are implementing new, non-financial employee benefits to retain employees. Photo: Getty

More than four-in-five (86%) UK firms are worried about losing their top talent due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to new international research from recruiter Robert Half.

Salary reduction and the inability to increase wages due to the economic impact of COVID-19 was the main reason for concern for over a third (36%) of businesses anxious about retaining talent, the study of of over 1,500 executives in Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, and the UK found.

Despite economic uncertainty, most companies have had to fix salaries at pre-COVID-19 levels to keep hold of top talent, with 73% still offering salaries that are the same or more than pre-pandemic figures.

READ MORE: The sectors with most remote-working job opportunities in the UK

Almost half (47%) of all senior managers surveyed said salaries had been stable since the onset of the pandemic, while a quarter (26%) even noted an increase over the same period.

In the UK, the rise of remote working has had a significant impact on wages as managers use different approaches to calculate starting salaries for new hires. Two-in-five UK firms (42%) currently use the business’ location to assess salaries — significantly higher than the international survey average of 28%. Almost a third (28%) of UK firms focus on the applicant’s location, and 26% use a combination of the two.

Half (52%) of businesses are planning to pay out bonuses with payments meeting or exceeding pre-COVID-19 amounts. However, the coronavirus has had an impact, with 38% offering less, year-on-year.

WATCH: Careers Clinic: How to negotiate a pay rise

Almost two-thirds of businesses (61%) are implementing new, non-financial employee benefits to retain employees and attract new hires instead of salary increases moving forward into 2021.

Among the five countries surveyed, UK businesses are more likely to provide mental health resources and assistance (51%), wellness programmes (47%) and an at-home office equipment allowance (47%) for employees compared to firms in mainland Europe and South America.

Almost three quarters of managers (71%) said they are committed to offering remote work for the foreseeable future, highlighting the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Some 61% of companies surveyed have implemented “flexitime” policies that allow employees to structure their workday or week in a way that suits them, while compressed work weeks (52%) and permanent part-time arrangements (51%) have also been brought in by companies in response to COVID-19.

READ MORE: 72% of UK workers say diversity important when job hunting

Matt Weston, managing director of Robert Half UK, said: “Employees are a company’s most valuable asset for navigating both short-term disruption and achieving long-term growth.

“Workers have been stretched to the limit during the pandemic, often putting in longer hours, taking on additional responsibilities, acquiring new skills and using recent months to reassess their career priorities.

“Following the first lockdown, professionals are savvier about the market value of their skills and current salary trends than ever before. While the opportunities to increase remuneration may be tricky in the coming months, employers should research compensation trends regularly and be prepared to move quickly and negotiate effectively — using both financial and non-financial benefits — in order to retain key employees or hire promising talent.”