News archive 2010
HR survey shows more challenges for UK employers02 Feb 2010, PR 24/10
The second annual survey of senior HR professionals by King's College London HRM Learning Board and City law firm Speechly Bircham, paints an ominous picture for UK employers and their staff.
The survey found that workplace stress and grievances brought on by issues with pay, bullying and harassment and relations with management are expected to accelerate in the coming year. Staff turnover is predicted to rise in the next few months as employees dissatisfied with frozen pay and adverse conditions are expected to “vote with their feet”, creating a more active job market.
The State of HR: From Recession to Recovery? survey also showed that employers are increasingly struggling with how to retain talent and engage effectively with their employees. At the same time HR leaders are reporting a striking sense of uncertainty regarding workforce requirements in terms of size and type of skills needed. In addition, despite widespread and ongoing cutbacks, shortages of staff with skills in key areas are surprisingly commonplace.
Stuart Woollard, Managing Director of King’s HRM Learning Board and co-author of the survey report comments: ‘Management is increasingly seeking the elusive ’Holy Grail’ that is employee engagement. During this recession this has continued to go up the CEO agenda as real engagement is vital for employers to help retain the motivation and commitment of key employees and move their organisations towards recovery. Our survey shows that for those employers who can drive engagement there is an association with increases in performance.’
Key findings include:
• Cautious optimism about workforce growth and employers returning to graduate recruitment: Organisations surveyed showed signs of cautious optimism with regards to workforce growth, with 44 per cent of respondents saying that they expect some increase in workforce size in the forthcoming year. There are signs that employers could be returning to graduate recruitment with 19 percent expecting at least some increase in 2010 (compared with only 7 percent reporting increases for 2009).
• Stress, workforce problems and staff turnover to rise: 29 percent of respondents identified that grievances lodged had gone up in 2009, and 23 percent anticipate future increases in grievances (owing to a rise in stress and employment-related problems) in the coming year. The biggest causes of grievances have been bullying and harassment, and relations with senior or line managers. Grievances around pay and conditions, workload, career development, and stress are anticipated to become more important in 2010. A third of those surveyed also predicted an increase in staff turnover.
• Employee engagement is the biggest HR challenge for 2010: The top three major HR challenges reported for 2010 are maintaining employee engagement (cited by 68 percent of respondents, up on 58 per cent in last year’s survey), followed by succession planning (cited by 53 percent). This, together with the challenge of talent management (cited by 42 per cent) shows the extent to which employers anticipate having to focus on managing high performers to ensure key talent is retained and organisational performance maximised.
• UK employers in doubt about workforce size and skills required: The survey found that there is a striking sense of uncertainty regarding workforce requirements, with 85 per cent of respondents indicating uncertainty about the size of workforce required over the coming two years and 72 per cent indicating uncertainty about the skills that will be required.
• Flexible working favoured as compulsory redundancy declines: HR professionals surveyed reported a significant increase in the use of flexible work arrangements: 38 percent say that there has been an increase in their use over the past year and 37 per cent say that they expect this to go up again in 2010. Less than 50 percent of the companies who had made redundancies in the past year had used compulsory redundancy, a significant reduction from the previous survey. The survey also found that employee engagement had declined more rapidly in organisations that had made compulsory redundancies.
• Absence and disciplinary records rate highly in redundancy decisions: 36 per cent of respondents to the survey reported using absence records as part of the criteria for making redundancy decisions over the past year, while 42 per cent used disciplinary records and 46 percent used a general performance assessment. 22 per cent used length of service - despite the potential age discrimination implications.
Commenting on the findings, Richard Martin, Employment partner at Speechly Bircham, said: ’At a high level our survey shows the majority of employers are expecting a gradual move towards calmer economic waters where the onus is less on cost saving and more on re-engaging with staff and looking to repair the damage caused by the turbulence of the recession. It is not a consistent story however and some sectors, notably the public and third sectors, are still to feel the worst effects of the recession.’
Notes to editors
The State of HR: From Recession to Recovery? is one of the most comprehensive surveys to date on the effect of the recession on employers and their staff. The survey questionnaire was distributed to approximately 5,000 senior HR professionals in November 2009. 356 responses were received by early December in time for analysis. 99 percent of the respondents were either a senior HR (90.2 percent) or other senior executive (8.8 percent) within the organisation. A broad cross-section of sectors and organisational sizes were represented in the sample. Over 84 percent of the organisations were headquartered in the UK and 59 percent of them recognized a union or other form of employee representation.
The data was analysed by Stuart Woollard and Dr Mike Clinton at King’s.
King’s HRM Learning Board is unique in the way it connects organisations to the latest academic research and thinking on contemporary workforce issues. Through its workshop and seminar programme, bespoke learning and advisory activities, and through a variety of other forums and media, the Learning Board is an innovative thought leader on contemporary people management practice. It also enhances the experience of King’s postgraduate student talent pool by developing work placements, internships and projects with our partners on key workforce development interventions and strategies. (www.kcl.ac.uk/hrmlb)
Speechly Bircham’s Employment group is a leading employment law practice meeting the diverse needs of a broad range of employer and senior employee clients. The employer clients include public and private companies, partnerships and other organisations, based in the UK and overseas, across a wide range of business and professional sectors, with a strong focus on financial services, professional services, media and entertainment as well as larger corporates.
King's College London
King's College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher Education 2009) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King's has more than 21,000 students from nearly 140 countries, and more than 5,700 employees. King's is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate. King's has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of nearly £450 million.
King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe; no university has more Medical Research Council Centres.
King's College London and Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are part of King's Health Partners. King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering global collaboration between one of the world's leading research-led universities and three of London's most successful NHS Foundation Trusts, including leading teaching hospitals and comprehensive mental health services. For more information, visit: www.kingshealthpartners.org.
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