MWA Point of View: What Do Employees Want? How Uncertainty with Working Arrangements is Impacting New Hires and Employee Retention.
Over the last decade working arrangements has been an increasingly popular topic of discussion; following the Covid pandemic, working arrangements found their way to the forefront of employee and employer agenda’s at a lightening speed. With the addition of The Great Resignation, a continuous search for work-life balance and significant economic changes there is a guaranteed recipe for uncertainty.
So, what do employees want?
At MWA we wanted to begin exploring this question by sharing some of the hopes and policies we have experienced, and the effects they have on both attracting and retaining new employees.
The balance between employee hopes and employer offering is often confusing and conflicting. Tesla and Apple are just two companies who have recently released policies aiming to have employees back working in the office. On the other hand, some companies are offering greater flexibility than ever, like Spotify with their ‘work from anywhere’ proposal. Laws are even beginning to emerge that will shape the future of the workplace further. In the Netherlands, the first phase of a law has been passed which ensures all employers must consider all requests to work flexibly by law and provide adequate reasons should requests not be granted. So many contrasting and inconsistent policies make navigating the modern working world a significant challenge.
How is this impacting the IP sector?
Within the IP world, we have the pleasure of speaking and working with many globally diverse companies and candidates. Following the pandemic, we have certainly seen a shift in the criteria candidates are looking for. As a result, companies are now dealing with managing employee expectations before they even offer a job. From our experience, flexibility in working arrangements has a clear impact on attracting new employees, and simultaneously retaining existing ones.
To demonstrate this clearly, we reflect on a recent hiring we supported. In this, our client was open to having the new hire located at a variety of their European sites, regardless of whether they were close to the existing IP team or not. This allowed our search to be widespread, increasing the availability of talented professionals but also creating attractive prospects to candidates who are open to moving internationally, working entirely remotely or within a hybrid arrangement. Consequently, this assignment gained rapid interest and quickly captured the engagement of many candidates.
Conversely, we know of many companies who are changing expectations, wanting employees back in the office all or most of the time. A candidate we recently worked with had accepted a position during the pandemic with the option of working remotely, only for the company to change their policy and now require employees to be in the office for most of the week. With a significant commute each way, it is no surprise that the candidate in question was open to hearing about new opportunities – despite the fact that she was happy with every other aspect of her work.
What should companies do to attract new candidates and retain existing ones?
In research, there certainly seems to be contradictory findings related to both the positive and more consequential effects of flexible working arrangements. Research highlights that there are limitations for companies, who may lose out financially on un-used office space although positive environmental effects and work-life integration make flexible arrangements attractive to employees (1). There are a whole host of benefits to employees as well as limitations to employers. It is easy to see then, why some companies are experiencing challenges and uncertainty when looking to the future of their workforce and its flexibility for working.
So, what can companies do to attract new candidates and retain their existing ones? This is of course taken on a case-by-case basis. Predominantly, we speak with people who are looking for a hybrid option to their working arrangements. Having the autonomy and freedom to work from home for a portion of the week in addition to working in the office and maintaining those connections to the physical workplace. We are seeing that candidates want a certain degree of flexibility. Allowing employees a level of autonomy in their working arrangements only serves to increase their satisfaction. As mentioned in a recent Forbes article (2), a 2022 study by Microsoft and Futurum Research found that:
‘The more often businesses take their employee experience into account, the better off they’ll be’
(1) Unmasking the other face of flexible working practices: A systematic literature review. 2022. Soga et al. Elsevier, Journal of Business Research. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Lebene-Soga/publication/357875415_Unmasking_the_other_face_of_flexible_working_practices_A_systematic_literature_review/links/62c577bb5f06c756a22435fc/Unmasking-the-other-face-of-flexible-working-practices-A-systematic-literature-review.pdf
(2) The Future Of Work: More Hybrid, More Collaborative, More Automated. 31/07/2022. Daniel Newman, Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnewman/2022/07/31/the-future-of-work-more-hybrid-more-collaborative-more-automated/?sh=6f65c3ec9c46