Businesses are under a lot of pressure at the moment. After facing the daunting task of adapting to a global pandemic and shifting policy around what that means for operations and workers, they are now navigating a severe energy crisis, which has seen them absorb gas bills that have risen more than 250%. Add to that nation-wide labour shortages, and companies have been left spinning a lot of plates.

The UK is currently negotiating a labour shortage of 1.3 million people. The US is experiencing a similar situation where, amid the pandemic and the rise of remote working, employees took the opportunity to change jobs, retire and pivot to other careers. This upheaval has been termed “The Great Resignation” and is causing many businesses concern around how to keep their employees and retain talent.

Who have we lost?

Through the pandemic, many businesses were forced to make cuts and layoffs and, as a result, former employees had to adapt by retraining, retiring or, in some families, assuming household responsibilities. Unfortunately, some of the first people to exit the workforce due to the pandemic were the most vulnerable to its effects. Employees that were high-risk to Covid-19 were under pressure to leave jobs that required them to work in the office, employees with children or vulnerable dependents had to assume caretaking responsibilities with the closure of schools and care services, and employees that were unable to adapt to the new normal were left behind.

In reality this has had serious repercussions for women, older people, people with disabilities and people without the financial means to buffer the pandemic’s effects.

Now that the world is opening up, however, businesses are rushing to rehire for roles and return to pre-pandemic modes of working, but finding the “old normal” a hard sell.

What are people looking for?

For many employees, working from home has enabled them to achieve a better work-life balance that they couldn’t achieve before Covid-19 and it’s something that’s become valuable to them, so much so that they would consider changing jobs to maintain it.

Working from home has allowed employees greater flexibility to juggle responsibilities like childcare, caring for dependents, and managing their households. Prior to the pandemic, those tasks may have required members of the family to stay at home full-time, or the use of paid help, all of which cost extra money. A lack of commuting due to remote working has also contributed to greater financial stability and savings in the last two years.

As the global energy price crisis is now driving inflation, maintaining these savings will be a key priority for employees going forward.

It should be noted that not all of workers’ interests are financially motivated, however. A Gallup poll found that resignations from the workforce were also driven by changing attitudes to work, largely among Millennials. According to the poll, Millennials are 50% more bored at work than workers of other generations, and as a result 300% more likely to look for a career change.

Another driving force has been wider engagement among the generation with existential issues like the climate crisis and social inequality. There is a greater desire among workers today that work serves a larger purpose beyond simply securing a salary. As a result, employees are looking to engage with companies that can offer security and support, and also inspire a sense of moral value and contribution.

Benefits for business

While it might seem like the list of criteria to attract employees is too long to meet, it’s important to remember the benefits for business that can be derived from keeping employees happy. Numerous studies have shown that happier employees are more productive and innovative. For example, in a survey of Cambridge directors and employees, research by Cambridge Ahead found, 50% believed working from home improved productivity, and none of the respondents thought it had a “large negative impact” on their work.

An added advantage of building a corporate culture to meet workers’ needs is that the workplace becomes an attractive place not only for talent retention, but talent acquisition. Companies that ignore the needs of their workforce and stop paying attention to their reputation might find their labour shortage issues getting work getting worse. Whereas, on the other hand, companies that are known to invest and prioritise a healthy and supportive working culture will attract talented individuals who are looking to work with an employer in a mutually beneficial relationship and drive innovation and growth.