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Why employee wellbeing is key to winning the talent war

The world of work has fundamentally changed. Forever. There’s not going to be any “going back to how it used to be” or “back to normal”. Things have changed for good and, if we embrace it, for the better.

The pandemic has caused people to stop and reconsider their priorities. The early months of the pandemic gave us a reminder, not that we should have needed it, that people aren’t machines. 

It also served as a spotlight, shining bright on those businesses that placed the pursuit of money for money’s sake high above the wellbeing of their employees. 

Now, as the dust begins to settle and the market begins to rebalance, the talent wars are reigniting. 

These wars are by no means new.

They’ve been raging for years, with companies trying to compete to attract and retain the best talent. But this time, things are different. 

Past talent wars have been raged on the grounds of creating the biggest and best possible in-office experiences. Ping pong tables. Bean bags. Beer taps.

But now, while the war is the same, the battlefield looks a lot different.

The war now is about creating the best possible human experience, be that in or out-of-office. 

Employees now know their value and their priorities. Lip service and vanity perks don’t cut it anymore. 

If employees are burnt out, feel unable to be honest with their manager and can’t see any career progression, no amount of ping pong tables will help keep them. 

And it’s not just about salaries either. 

Mental health. Purpose. Connection. Wellbeing. Personal Growth. Flexible and hybrid working. Employee engagement. Being part of something bigger. These are the terms that the war is now being fought over.

The pandemic made us question and reorganise our priorities. And shone a light on how workplaces responded to support their employees through one of the toughest periods of their lives. 

This means that while companies are now ready to hire, employees are being much more selective. 

On the retention side, one study found that 38% of survey respondents actually plan to quit their jobs in the next 6 – 12 months, while in the US, April 2021 saw four million people quit their jobs – a record-breaking spike. It’s no wonder this period is being dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’. 

When it comes to filling roles, stats from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that open UK vacancies in July 2021 were at an all-time high, passing one million for the first time. And yet another study found that candidate numbers in some quarters of 2021 have been 34% lower when compared to the same period in 2020.

Clearly, demand is far outstripping supply and current/prospective employees are firmly in the driving seat.

So how do businesses respond to the talent wars? 

What companies do over the next few months will pave the way for how easy it is for them to retain and attract talent in the coming years.

The trouble is, there’s no playbook for this. Businesses are scrambling to figure out what’s what. And most of the work falls onto the shoulders of HR people, creating an almost unmanageable burden as People leaders simultaneously navigate a new hybrid way of working. 

It’s clear that compensation alone won’t win the talent wars – good compensation is now nothing more than a basic expectation, with these expectations now higher than ever before. 

Employees want flexibility in their home and working lives. They want clear career progression and opportunities for personal development. They want to work with purpose. They want to feel genuinely cared for and supported. And they want benefits that will make a difference in their lives.

One of the key battlegrounds on which this war will be won is around mental health and wellbeing. Bupa has found that UK business leaders are predicted to increase their spend on employee wellbeing by roughly 18% over the coming year, with 28% of these same leaders making mental health their number one priority

The pandemic has shown everyone, whatever role or title they hold, that mental health & employee wellbeing isn’t something that can be ignored. Not just so that we can live better personal lives, but also for the impact that it has on finding and retaining the best talent too.