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Importance of health & wellbeing support for recruitment & retention singled out in research

Health and wellbeing support is a major factor in the recruitment and retention of talent – in a survey of 500 HR decision makers in the UK, 42% stated their support for the health and wellbeing of staff is a key reason people stay with the company.

In addition, 31% said health and wellbeing support is a key reason people choose to work for them, based on results of a survey undertaken by Towergate Health & Protection.

Debra Clark, head of specialist consulting, Towergate Health & Protection, said: “The research supports our anecdotal evidence of the wider reaches of health and wellbeing support, and why it is so important that employers have a clear and well-communicated strategy. The wider the health and wellbeing support offered, the better the array of talent it will attract and retain.”  

On the flipside, nearly one in five (18%) employers stated that not offering enough health and wellbeing support impacts their ability to recruit and retain people: a stark warning for all.

Health and wellbeing
Support for health in general was viewed by 42% of employers to have increased the most in importance for enhancing the recruitment and retention of talent. Twenty-six percent of employers said support for mental health had increased most in importance, and 19% said it was the overall health and wellbeing package that had grown most in terms of priorities. 

Social interaction through work (11%), communication of support offered (9%), support for financial health (9%), and an environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy (8%), were also identified as increasing in importance. So the support offered needs to be wide and holistic.

Implementing a strong health and wellbeing programme

According to the survey results, and evidence seen by Towergate Health & Protection across its client base, implementing a strong health and wellbeing programme is vital in the recruitment and retention of talent. Moreover, the programme must be widely communicated to employees and easily accessed and managed by employees and employers alike if it is really going to make a difference. 

The four pillars of health and wellbeing
A strong programme must support all four pillars of health and wellbeing – emotional, physical, financial, and social health – to add the most value to recruitment and retention. The research shows that all four are not only important in keep existing employees healthy, and to retain their loyalty, but also to attract new employees. 

Clark added: “Employees’ needs and demands have shifted dramatically since before the pandemic struck. We have all had a realignment of priorities, and employers need to match these if they are to attract and retain the best staff, which is only going to become more important.”

Paid sick leave most in-demand employee benefit

Paid sick leave tops the list of benefits and incentives that matter most to British employees, according to new research by HR and payroll software provider CIPHR.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, after two years of pandemic-led disruption and rising living costs, among the most popular employee benefits are those which help supplement squeezed incomes, support people’s health, and encourage work-life balance. 

For over two-thirds (67%) of the 1,001 people polled, sick pay is the employee benefit that they value most, followed by flexible working hours (57%) and pension contribution matching (46%) – where employers offer to match employees’ pension payments on top of the minimum auto-enrolment requirements.

Mental health and wellbeing support ranks fourth. Receiving a performance bonus and working a four-day week – enabling employees to earn the same wages for fewer hours – are in fifth and sixth place (selected by 40%, 39% and 37% of people respectively).

Next on the list, in seventh place, is extra holiday allowance, which, interestingly, was preferred by more people than unlimited paid leave (32% vs 18%).

Being able to save money on purchases via an employee discounts scheme (30%), having a flexible working location (27%), and receiving a market-value salary (26%) complete the employees’ top 10.

When it comes to employee benefits, every individual’s requirements and priorities differ, of course. And the order of importance varies depending on who is being asked. For workers over 45 years old, for example, getting their pension contributions matched (to help them build a bigger pension pot faster) appears to be more beneficial than being able to work flexible hours (59% vs 45%). For those under 45 years old, who are further away from retirement, it’s the opposite – with more people in this age group ranking flexible working hours higher than pension contribution matching (57% vs 42%).

There are also a few differences between what male and female survey respondents want from their employers’ benefits packages. Statistically, women place more importance on receiving help towards childcare assistance than a market-value salary (27% vs 21%). More men, on average, favour being awarded a performance bonus over being paid a market-value salary (45% vs 34%).

Here’s a rundown of the top 15 benefits and perks for all employees:

  1. Paid sick leave (67%)
  2. Flexible working hours (57%)
  3. Pension contribution matching (46%)
  4. Mental health and wellbeing support (40%)
  5. Performance bonus (39%)
  6. Four-day work week on full-time pay (37%)
  7. Extra holiday allowance (32%)
  8. Employee discounts scheme (30%)
  9. Flexible working location (27%)
  10. Market-value salary (26%)
  11. Childcare assistance (23%)
  12. Health insurance or cash-back plans (21%)
  13. Extra paid day off for birthdays (21%)
  1. Extended paid parental leave (20%)
  2. Death benefits (18%)
  3. Unlimited paid leave (18%)

The full list – featuring the top 25 most important benefits and incentives to employees – is available to view at https://www.ciphr.com/survey-infographic-the-benefits-incentives-employees-value-most.

C-Suite execs experiencing more mental health challenges than their employees

Mental health challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted workers differently depending on their seniority, generation, and location.

That’s according to a new report by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence, which studied more than 12,000 employees, managers, HR leaders and C-Suite executive across 11 countries.

It found that C-suite executives struggled to adapt more than their employees, younger generations experienced the most burnout, and that India, UAE, China and the U.S. had the most workers reporting the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health.

C-Suite Executives See the Biggest Challenges in Remote Work

C-level executives have struggled the most with adapting to remote work realities and report they are suffering from mental health issues more than their employees, but they are also the most open to finding help in AI.

  • C-Suite execs (53 percent) have struggled with mental health issues in the workplace more than their employees (45 percent).
  • C-Suite execs also had the hardest time adapting to virtual lifestyles with 85 percent reporting significant remote work challenges including collaborating with teams virtually (39 percent), managing increased stress and anxiety (35 percent), and lacking workplace culture (34 percent).
  • C-Suite execs were also 29 percent more likely to experience difficulties learning new technologies for remote work than employees; once they adjusted to the new normal, C-Suite execs were 26 percent more likely to find increased productivity than employees
  • C-Suite execs are the most open to using AI for help with mental health: 73 percent would prefer to talk to a robot (i.e. chatbots and digital assistants) about their mental health over a human compared to 61 percent of employees.
  • C-Suite execs are 23 percent more likely to see AI benefits than employees; 80 percent of C-Suite leaders noted AI has already helped their mental health at work.

Gen Z and Millennials are Hustlin’ Harder, Suffering More, and Seeking AI Relief

Younger workers are feeling the most burnout due to the mental health effects of the pandemic and are more open to asking AI for relief.

  • Gen Z is more likely to be negatively impacted by the pandemic than any other generation. Nearly 90 percent of Gen Z workers said COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health and 94 percent noted workplace stress impacts their home life as well.
  • Gen Z workers are 2X more likely than Baby Boomers to work extra hours during the pandemic, and Millennials are 130 percent more likely to have experienced burnout than Baby Boomers.
  • Younger generations are the most likely to turn to robots for support: Gen Z workers are 105 percent more likely to talk to a robot over their manager about stress and anxiety at work than Baby Boomers. 84 percent of Gen Z and 77 percent of Millennials prefer robots over humans to help with their mental health.
  • Gen Z workers are 73 percent more likely than Baby Boomers to benefit from AI at work: 90 percent of Gen Z say AI has helped their mental health at work and 93 percent want their companies to provide technology to support their mental health.

Employees in Different Countries are Experiencing Very Different Realities

Just like COVID-19, the mental health crisis has impacted people differently across the world. People in India and China are being hit the hardest and are the most open to AI support, while workers in Italy, Germany, and Japan are seeing less of an impact.

  • India (89 percent), UAE (86 percent), China (83 percent) and the U.S. (81 percent) had the most workers reporting the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health. Workers in China (43 percent) and India (32 percent) are also the most burned out from overwork as a result of COVID-19.
  • Italy reported the lowest number of people experiencing a negative impact on their mental health from the pandemic (65 percent). Workers in Germany were the least likely to report that 2020 was the most stressful year at work ever (52 percent).
  • 29 percent of people in Japan say they have not experienced many difficulties at all working remotely or collaborating with teams virtually. In contrast, 96 percent of people in India admit it has been challenging to keep up with the pace of technology at work.
  • People in China (97 percent) and India (92 percent) are the most open to having a robot as a therapist or counsellor. People in France (68 percent) and the UK (69 percent) were the most hesitant.
  • People in India and China are 33 percent more likely to talk to a robot than their peers in other countries: 91 percent of Indian workers and 91 percent of Chinese workers would prefer a robot over their manager to talk about stress and anxiety at work.

Despite Demographics, People Need Help from Their Employers. It’s Time to Step Up

Despite seniority, generation and geographic differences, people all over the world agree: The pandemic has negatively impacted the mental health of the global workforce—and they want help.

  • 78 percent of workers say the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health.
  • 76 percent of people believe their company should be doing more to protect their mental health.
  • 83 percent would like their company to provide technology to support their mental health.

“Diving deep into the differences between demographic and regional groups highlights the significant impact of the pandemic on the mental health for employees in various age groups, roles and regions,” said Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner, Workplace Intelligence. “Amidst the challenges of the pandemic, companies can use this moment as a catalyst for positive change in their organizations. While the pandemic raised the urgency for companies to start protecting the mental health of their employees, the efforts they put in now will continue to create happier, healthier and more engaged workforces in the decades to come.”

“The pandemic put employee mental health in the global spotlight, but these findings also showed that it created growing support for solutions from employers including technologies like AI,” said Emily He, senior vice president, Oracle Cloud HCM. “The way the pandemic changed our work routines makes burnout, stress and other mental health issues all too easy. Everyone has been affected in different ways and the solutions each company puts in place need to reflect the unique challenges of employees. But overall, these findings demonstrate that implementing technology to improve the mental health of employees needs to be a priority for every business.”

Learn more about this global study and download the new report here.

Sage report finds businesses response to COVID 19 ‘a catalyst for driving increased HR value’

Sage has released the first in a series of reports sharing how recent events have impacted the role, expectations, and perceptions of HR and People leaders.

The “HR in the moment: Changing expectations and perceptions of HR” report, which spoke to more than 1500 global HR leaders, business executives and employees, found that 87% of c-suite executives say the pandemic has accelerated changes in HR, with the function having greater influence.

Further to that, 72% of HR leaders say the crisis has increased their value and wider understanding of their role across the business, while 59% feel they are now playing a more influential role in the company.

Recent events have placed huge pressure on companies and business leaders to pivot and adapt to rapidly changing priorities as a result of the ongoing disruption caused by the pandemic—and HR and People leaders have been at the forefront of this transformation.

In this research report, Sage uncovered how HR leaders have fared—and compared these opinions with those of the c-suite and employees. Sage also examined how the role of technology, changing skillsets, and priorities have shifted for HR leaders. The result is a contemporary, 360-degree view of HR in today’s rapidly changing world of work. 

HR and People leaders have become more visible and influential in organisations as a result of the pandemic – but this has come at the expense of bigger workloads. 65% of HR leaders said their teams have had a leading role to play in organisations’ response to the pandemic, driving change, enabling remote working, and supporting wellbeing. However, 60% also experienced an increase in both admin and strategic tasks, as a consequence of the new HR agenda. 

73% of HR leaders say the crisis has helped them demonstrate their value and increased understanding of HR’s role, as HR and People teams around the globe stepped up, leaned in, and seized the opportunity to be more flexible, responsive, and build more resilient and agile organisations as a result. 

The hard work and greater influence of HR teams have clearly been recognised by the c-suite. 58% of c-suite executives believe they have developed more appreciation for HR during the pandemic. This is vital, considering 84% of HR leaders feel that others in the organisation were previously unclear on the value HR teams brought.

Furthermore, 87% of the c-suite say the pandemic has accelerated changes in HR, although 88% of the c-suite do recognise that this is a longer-term change that started up to five years ago. There are disconnects however, with the c-suite underestimating HR leaders’ workload, and still seeing HR as too admin-focused. Despite HR leaders stating overwhelmingly that the pandemic has increased workloads, over three quarters (76%) of the c-suite don’t think HR’s workload is unmanageable.

Just like the c-suite, 60% of employees have noticed a change in HR’s role, such as being more involved in driving change and people-related decisions. 57% of employees also recognise the pandemic as a catalyst for these changes. 

Even more importantly, more than a third of employees—even more so than the c-suite—have recognised the ability of HR teams to adapt and become more responsive as a result of the pandemic, as HR and People teams responded to constant change. Whether it’s enacting workplace safety procedures, introducing new flexible and remote working policies, placing employee wellbeing at the top of the workplace agenda, or recognising the crucial importance of managing employee experiences for a remote workforce during a time of heightened stress, HR has responded and flexed like never before. As a result of all of this, 54% of employees also say they now have improved knowledge and understanding of HR’s role and value.

The pandemic placed a heightened focus on technology and digital transformation – but there is a lack of confidence amongst HR leaders about skills, the research also revealed. 

59% of c-suite leaders said HR is even more focused on digital transformation, and 67% of HR leaders said they wanted to invest more in HR tech in the future. However, a third of HR leaders said a lack of tech (31%) and investment (36%) is holding them back from bringing their organisation into the new world of work. Worryingly, only half (53%) of HR leaders believe they have the right skills and tools for what lies ahead, demonstrating the paramount importance in investing in HR digital skills today and in the future. 

“HR has taken on more responsibilities and helped guide the business through ongoing disruption and accelerated digital transformation,” said Paul Burrin, Vice President of Product, Sage People. “However, this has often created additional workloads which automation can help manage, increasing HR productivity, while enabling organisations to become more agile and resilient.

“2020 marked a year where HR’s leaders became champions of change and both executives and employees alike have realised the greater role that HR has taken on. HR and People leaders can capitalize on this and use this opportunity to cast aside older, more cumbersome ways of working to focus instead on quicker, iterative cycles of work. In this way—with the help of automation, cloud technology, and self-service—HR can focus on maintaining influence and building a more resilient workforce that is more prepared for future challenges ahead.”

To view Sage’s full report, HR in the moment: Changing expectations and perceptions of HR,” please click here.

Employee relations during Covid-19: paused cases now on the rise

Richard Saundry, Professor of HRM and Employment Relations at the University of Sheffield and Andy Shettle, Chief Product Officer of ER Tracker at Selenity discuss how Covid-19 has impacted NHS employee relations teams and what HR leaders can learn from these insights.

The impact of the Covid-19 on employment relations has been felt across all organisations up and down the country. Many employees have adapted their working patterns and roles to quickly respond to rising challenges and demands.

New research carried out by Professor Richard Saundry of Sheffield University in collaboration with HPMA, Selenity and CMP Resolutions, shows evidence that conflict suppressed in the NHS during the pandemic response is now beginning to resurface. 

“While we saw a pause in cases between March and April this year, disagreements are beginning to once again come to the surface. As employees realise their issues with one another haven’t just gone away,” explains Selenity’s Andy Shettle.

Speaking to HR leaders, senior practitioners and trade union representatives, it was revealed that a quarter of respondents reporting increased numbers of disciplinary and grievance cases.

Professor Richard Saundry explains: “As the first wave of the pandemic began to recede, there was evidence of an uptick in conflict. This was partly due to disciplinary and grievance cases being reactivated but there was also a suggestion that interpersonal issues that had been put to one side as staff came together to fight Covid-19 were beginning to resurface.”

One in five pointed to increased numbers of bullying and harassment complaints, while others also reported lower levels of tolerance and a rise in grievances from BAME employees. While the legal requirement to report on protected characteristics only applies to some organisations, for HR leaders collecting and monitoring this information can prove to be invaluable. 

Andy explains: “Not only can it help them work towards the prevention of unlawful discrimination claims, but it also provides the opportunity to assess policies based on how they affect protected groups and promote an inclusive culture.’ 

Equipping line managers with the right tools and skills

With tension bubbling, the need to develop managerial skills and capabilities emerged as a dominant priority. To some extent the pandemic had exposed a shortage of ‘softer’ people skills. With 60 per cent of respondents unsure if their line managers are well equipped to identify and resolve difficult issues. 

However, an increased demand from managers themselves for support and coaching was also reported. “It was argued by some, that leadership development programmes often neglect the tools and techniques that managers needed to identify, address and resolve challenging people issues,” said Richard.

For HR leaders, it’s important to ensure managers and teams are well equipped to resolve workplace issues. This means making it easy for them to manage misconduct, from the time a complaint is made, all the way through to the follow up stage of the investigation. The key to resolving conflict, is often down to having sufficient documentation, collaborative processes and the right support mechanisms in place. 

Harnessing case management tools that give an increased level of visibility can help people teams to identify the most common employee relations cases such as grievance, disciplinary or bullying and harassment. Having this overview enables the HR function to become proactive in its approach, identifying trends and patterns of behaviour that can help to prevent or mitigate issues before they arise.

Andy concludes: “There is no escaping conflict, not everyone gets along all the time. This is especially true in times of high stress and pressure such as we’ve seen during the pandemic. HR leaders should look to prioritise managerial capabilities and support managers, ensuring that policies and conflict resolution processes are clearly communicated and understood.” 

Ultimately, HR leaders should look to resolve current issues and help guard against the same problem happening in the future. The best way to do this is by incorporating fairness into every aspect, from HR strategies and policies to processes and technology all these factors contribute to providing employees with a comfortable workplace environment.