Workforce Flexibility in the UK: The Impact on EVP and Employer Branding

Workforce Flexibility in the UK: The Impact on EVP and Employer Branding

Key Takeaways:

  • Understanding employee preferences and needs is valuable for organizations seeking to balance business and employee requirements.
  • Regularly updating the EVP is crucial to ensure it aligns with employee expectations and the company's reality, preventing a disconnect between promises and experiences.
  • Employers should prioritize transparency and adaptability in their recruitment and retention strategies to strengthen their employer brand and meet the evolving needs of their workforce.

Recruitment and retention issues are continuing in the UK. Yet, at the same time, employers are increasingly requiring that staff return to the office. This is despite the fact that a large proportion of employees highly value flexible working options. So what is going on, and how can employees best be attracted and retained?


The State of Work in the UK

The labour market is currently still tricky for companies trying to recruit employees, and things are unlikely to ease up too much in the short term.

As of August 2023, the Office for National Statistics reported that the UK employment rate was 75.7% between April and June 2023. The same report showed that the number of payrolled employees for July 2023 was up compared to June by 97,000. This meant that 30.2 million people were on a payroll as of that time. While overall, the employment rate lowered by a very tiny amount between April and June 2023, the levels of employment in the UK are still exceptionally high.

The number of vacancies fell slightly from May to July 2023 to a total of 1.02 million. However, as the UK Government points out, the vacancies are still 219,000 higher than before the pandemic.

A combination of very high vacancies and low unemployment levels means it is still a buyer’s market for candidates. A number of sectors are resultantly still seeing labour shortages, particularly health and social care, hospitality, and construction. In addition, the increased costs of living will be driving some to seek better paid work.

The labour market is currently still tricky for companies trying to recruit employees, and things are unlikely to ease up too much in the short term.

candidate sentiment


Calls for a Return to the Office and the Employee Sentiment

Despite a tough labour market, firms are increasingly calling for a return to the office for their employees. Figures globally show that seven out of every 10 companies have required staff to return to the office. This is a trend that started in late 2022 and has continued during 2023. LinkedIn listings showed significantly fewer remote listings (12%) in December 2022 compared to the start of that year. In August 2023, even Zoom, with its business model focused on people not necessarily being at the office, has ordered its own employees back to company buildings.

While this is going on, many employees are strongly resisting a return to the office. A recent study showed that “more than a third of UK workers have said they would quit their job if their employer demanded they return to the office full time.” The same study showed that 52% of women had left or considered leaving their current job due to limited or no flexibility.

This is why there is a need for organisations to reflect on their current workforce and flexibility models and consider what is necessary for the business ahead of recruiting talent.


Employees Want Flexibility

Evidence shows that many employees want to retain the flexibility that they have currently. While some actively wish to return to the office, feeling more productive there, others want to keep the option to work flexibly.

It would be easy for many firms to jump on the “back to the office” bandwagon. Yet flexibility is a key perk to many employees and candidates. Given the enduring tough conditions in the labour market, employers need to consider what employees want and need in order to attract and retain staff. This is pertinent if flexibility was a key benefit offered when employees were seeking an opportunity with the company in the first place – especially if this was a benefit offered that supported the employee value proposition (EVP). Without flexibility offerings, employees can (and will) look elsewhere for opportunities, which is why this is so important.

Many employees value flexibility because it helps improve work-life balance. For parents or carers, it is essential. But for all employees, mental health and stress are improved too.

employee value proposition


Incentivising a Return to the Office

Despite an employee desire for flexibility, some businesses will inevitably need employees back in the office more often than before. Some reasons for this may be to support newer team members, meet operational needs better, foster stronger collaboration, greater access to company resources, etc. 

There are steps that should be taken to make the transition back into the office desirable for staff. It is recommended to consider what might make it attractive for employees to return to the office and what will keep them there. This needs to be woven into a newfound employee value proposition and presented where employees and candidates will see it.

Some innovative organisations have been leading the way on this, reframing the issue by incentivising a return to the workplace. There are many interesting ways to go about this, and the incentivisation will likely need to be appropriate to the situation. This can include donating to charities (Salesforce) or dining at the office (Disney, JP Morgan).

Also, instead of taking away a benefit completely, employers should look at supplementing the loss of the benefit. This ensures that employees' needs are being met, and that the EVP is being continuously updated and revamped to meet the needs of their current workforce.

Tip: Asking what employees want through a survey can be a good way to find out what they value. This helps organisations figure out how they can balance business and employee needs.

Change can be hard for employees, so showing them that their perspective is valued is important during this process. Putting employees first and showing them their opinions matter helps strengthen the company’s employer brand


Revisiting and Showcasing the EVP

An organisation’s EVP is its lynchpin in strengthening talent acquisition and employee retention efforts, meaning, it’s vital for success. Whether flexibility is possible or not, making sure that the EVP is alluring is an integral part of the recruitment and retention strategy.

Remember, part of developing an effective EVP that works is being aware of what the workforce is looking for. This will ensure top talent can be attracted in the first place and retained in the long run. 

Having a finger on the pulse of workforce needs is key in ensuring that the EVP works. If flexibility is what is wanted by candidates and employees and it can be provided, this needs to be clear. Conversely, updating the EVP to ensure that people understand the benefits of being back at the office is important if flexibility is not possible.

Tip: The EVP needs to be showcased anywhere relevant that employees or prospective candidates may look. This will include the careers site – including in text, video, and images – but also in communications, marketing materials, and advertising. For example, the EVP can be showcased on social media pages, job advertisements, onboarding information, and perhaps on the company’s blog (i.e. places where the targeted audience is actively looking).

employer branding


The Importance of Updating the EVP

Where EVPs are outdated, it is much harder to bring employees on board. Outdated information has a negative impact on the candidate experience. To elaborate, if the prospective employee thinks that the company supports a certain way of working but once they are hired this is not the case, this leads to a negative experience with the company. 

With this, there is also a discrepancy between the EVP and the lived experiences of the employee, which can lead to the company appearing disingenuous and affecting retention. Like any promise, delivering on that promise is what makes the difference.

Tip: It is worth revisiting the EVP every six months to ensure it is up-to-date. This helps ensure that employment benefits continuously align with staff expectations and the company's reality.


Moving Forward

Flexibility is important for employees, but some organisations are increasingly feeling the need to have staff back in the office. Whether offering flexibility or not, the employer value proposition is essential to success. 

Candidates are looking for a meaningful EVP that aligns with their expectations and values. This is why organisations must give proper consideration to these decisions, understand the operational requirements of the work that employees do, and put clear guidelines in place (which is needed whether or not the company remains flexible or requires a return to the office). 

By remaining transparent and up-to-date, companies can strengthen their EVP and employer brand – since candidates and employees will understand the benefits fully and know what they're gaining from working at the employer.

If you need assistance on crafting or revamping your EVP, don't hesitate to reach out to the Recruitics team! Our experts are ready to offer strategic support for employer branding and tailor-made recruitment marketing solutions, empowering any organization to enhance their competitive hiring efforts.

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