How can businesses retain and attract staff in an increasingly competitive labour market?


Brexit and the loss of more than 600,000 workers from the UK workforce during the Covid pandemic has caused severe skills and labour shortages, particularly within the retail and leisure sector, and made attracting and retaining staff increasingly difficult. This is yet another pressure on a sector already struggling with rising energy and food prices and changing consumer behaviour that is difficult to plan for.

So what are the low cost and maximum impact initiatives that businesses can introduce to attract and retain talent?

Promoting a positive and inclusive workplace culture is a key way in which businesses can distinguish themselves from competitors and attract and retain staff. Workers are much more likely to join a business and less likely to leave where they are working in a supportive environment in which they feel safe and valued.

Promoting a safe working environment

With violence and abuse against retail staff at a record high, businesses that adopt a zero-tolerance approach to customer abuse, provide staff with training in de-escalation and support staff when they experience abuse will appeal to workers.

Businesses can further protect staff by also promoting a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment by colleagues and ensuring that staff understand their rights and obligations through regular training and clear bullying and harassment policies. They should also ensure that they signpost reporting procedures and wellbeing programmes to staff.

Work-life balance 

Allowing staff greater autonomy and flexibility over their rotas (to the extent this is possible for the business) is an easy way for businesses to make themselves attractive to prospective candidates, particularly in an industry known for its long and unsociable working hours.

Businesses can also monitor their employees' working hours to ensure that hours are fairly apportioned between staff (where possible) and so that particular employees are not required to consistently work an unmanageable number of hours per week.

Mental health 

It is estimated that one in six British workers will experience mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and stress each year. Businesses can create an open and supportive environment for staff through mental health training, appointing mental health champions and promoting a culture in which staff feel able to talk openly about their mental health and to seek support.

The above suggestions are just some of the low-cost initiatives that businesses can introduce to develop a welcoming and inclusive workplace culture that enables them to attract and retain talent by making themselves a more appealing workplace than their competitors.

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