Nearly half of British business leaders fear losing the UK’s best talent abroad following the pandemic and Brexit, according to new research shared exclusively with City A.M. this morning.

The complexity of the decisions facing leadership as they define the next era of the workplace is illustrated in the research’s findings.

For a starter, 29 per cent of respondents at mid- and junior-level said in the survey by MovePlan, a workplace change management provider, and headhunter Hanson Search, that they feel pessimistic about the UK’s chances to compete for the best talent and attract global businesses post Brexit.

Worries over job security saw 27 per cent of employees saying that they would remain in their current role for as long as possible, while 24 per cent would prioritise working in a large, international firm that can look after them in turbulent times.

At the same time, 27 per cent want to work for a small-medium sized firm where they feel they “are more than just a number”, and one in five want to find a way of becoming their own boss or going freelance.

When asked separately about their experience working from home, two out of three of those surveyed said they questioned whether their current career was right for them at all, and are considering alternative paths.

This polarisation of opinion when it comes to employee motivation highlights that the “one-size approach” does not fit all.

Instead, leaders of all sized companies remain faced with complex decisions as they seek to create a workplace that works for everybody.

Competitive salaries out, culture in

Career paths were re-evaluated during the pandemic with many employees reconsidering

their motivations behind job choices.

When asked to rate the most important elements of a job package, a competitive salary and bonus structure have fallen down the list of priorities.

Instead, 45 per cent ranked team, people and culture as most important, followed by flexible working (39 per cent).

‘Purpose, vision and values’, ‘social responsibility’, ‘contributing to the greater good’ and ‘diversity and inclusion’ also repeatedly appeared unprompted from respondents in the comments section.

When asked what motivates the decisions of senior executives and business owners, 76 per cent said they would prioritise employee wellbeing over financial and commercial concerns
(46 per cent).

While employers have recognised the importance of prioritising employee wellbeing, the challenge is to determine a clear path forward that embraces the learnings from the pandemic and prioritises flexibility, yet remains fit for purpose and true to the identity of the business.

Workplace of choice

The research also found that flexible working has become a basic expectation and is no longer viewed as a nice-to-have. Indeed, 66 per cent of employees and senior executives want to split their time between home and the office, with some wishing to define their working location on a weekly basis

Just 3 per cent of employees would work from an office full time and 14 per cent would work from home indefinitely.

“The way business leaders manage change and implement sustainable working practices has never been more multi-dimensional or complex,” said Cathy Ridley, chairwoman and founder of MovePlan.

Alice Weightman, founder of Hanson Search, added that “businesses are facing an unprecedented set of challenges and at the centre of their thinking is company culture, community and employee wellbeing.

“The creation of new working practices that are practical and inclusive, as well as offering an inspiring vision for the future is no easy task to navigate, yet it is undoubtedly one of the most important issues on the business agenda today,” she continued.

“With the war on talent heating up and a noticeable shortage of skills across industry sectors, those that get it right, will be at an advantage. Businesses that move in step with their employees and create an environment where learning, diversity of thought and approach is celebrated rather than stifled, will be on the front foot of attracting the best talent for the future,” Weightman concluded.