An increasing number of UK employers believe that building a multi-skilled workforce is the best way to address ongoing labour market challenges.
According to the Willis Towers Watson’s Reimagining Work and Rewards survey, respondents indicated that the following “rising priorities” will become more important over the next three years, compared with the past three years:
- Multi-skilling to enable employees to do tasks from different jobs (up 85%)
- Finding new sources of talent (up 36%)
- Changing skills required to get work done (up 27%)
- Changing employee preferences (up 26%).
According to the survey, 58% of UK employers expect to have problems attracting staff this year. That compares with 39% that had difficulty in the first half of 2021 and is more than three times the 17% of respondent who said the same in 2020.
Similarly, three out of five respondents (60%) anticipate having difficulty keeping workers this year, up from 21% in the first half of last year and just 11% in 2020.
Employers reported difficulties attracting and retaining employees across the workforce, but digital talent (69%) and sales roles (36%) are proving the most challenging in the UK. Nearly half (47%) said this affects all salaried employees.
“Companies in virtually every industry are now under significant pressure to adapt to a new business environment and sweeping workforce changes,” said Hazel Rees, work and rewards leader for WTW.
“And there’s no greater challenge right now than hiring and retaining workers. Unfortunately, organisations do not expect the situation to improve this year, especially for critical-skill roles.”
The survey also identified growing pressure in five key areas driving workplace changes over the past three years. These include how employees work including flexibility (88%), heightened emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion (74%), technology strategy (68%), data strategy (54%) and enhancing employee experience (54%).
Rees added: “For organisations this is not simply asking ‘how much should we pay?’ but ‘how should we be rewarding our employees?’ This includes an increased focus on non-financial rewards such as benefits, wellbeing, learning and development and career progression; as well as considering how pay programmes need to adapt to support the changes in the way work is done.
“Whether you view it as the Great Resignation, Reshuffle or Reprioritisation, organisations can take tangible actions to win the talent race. These include identifying new sources of talent, reskilling/upskilling, optimising job design, resetting their total rewards strategy and delivering a more robust career experience for employees.”
A total of 1,650 worldwide employers, including 74 from the United Kingdom, participated in the research, which was conducted at the end of 2021.