Opportunity and Challenge for the Recruitment sector
A GLOBAL CHALLENGE
There can be little doubt that even as (in some nations at least) the threat to physical health wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic may be receding, the impact on mental health and well-being is and is likely to continue to be profound.
A new study from the medical journal, The Lancet, published on 8th October 2021, looked at the effect on the mental health of the pandemic in 2020 across 204 countries. It estimates that the cases of depression rose by 53million globally due to the pandemic (28% above pre-pandemic levels) and the cases of anxiety increased by 76million, an increase of 26%.
Noteworthy is the finding that the pandemic affected women’s health more than men’s; some two-thirds of the additional cases of depression were in women.
In the UK the newly created Office of Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) launched a new “Every mind matters” campaign on 5th October with the aim of improving the nation’s mental health. This is to be achieved by directing people to free tools and tips to improve their well-being. By answering 5 simple questions, people can have access to a tailored “mind plan.”
The OHID also published the findings of research that highlighted the scale of the challenge here in the UK; this found that nearly half of adults in England (49%) stated that the pandemic harmed their mental well-being. The effect on younger adults was even more pronounced, with some 57% of 18-34-year-olds saying the pandemic negatively impacted their mental well-being.
It is also important to note that there were significant incidences of mental health challenges pre the pandemic. In the US, for example, in an article from McKinsey dated 8th December 2020 (entitled “Mental Health in the Workplace: The Coming Revolution”), it is pointed out that (according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) that one in four Americans has a mental or substance abuse disorder. Furthermore, a 2018 Report from The Health Care Cost Institute revealed that per-person spending on mental health admissions increased by 33% from 2014 to 2018.
LABOUR MARKET TRANSFORMATION
The issue of wellness and mental health needs to be placed in the context of a truly transforming labour market globally, albeit our focus will be predominantly in the UK.
There are some meta trends/drivers that impact how candidates view the world of work and that is ever more informing the way in which employers will need to approach their workforce strategies.
These include the impact of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” and the need for profound re-skilling of roles over the coming decade and also the ubiquity of commentary around the need for truly inclusive workforce policy and practice.
Here in the UK the issue of flexibility also adds another variable that employers need to consider when planning their workforce requirements. In September, the UK Government launched a consultation (in response to the Matthew Taylor Review 2019) on introducing the right to request flexible working from day one of employment.
These initiatives must also be read in the context of the well-covered skills shortages across many verticals here in the UK; revealed most starkly in the “fuel crisis” at the end of September where a shortage of drivers lead to panic purchasing (and long queues) at UK petrol stations.
Added to the record level of job vacancies here in the UK, the staffing sector and employers must also take account of what has been called The Great Resignation (or Great Attrition if you prefer). Staffing Industry Analysts reported in its daily news (on 14th October) that, according to a report from workplace well-being provider Westfield Health, 16million UK workers plan to change jobs in the next 6 months, which will cost businesses some £48billion.
Similar trends are reported in the US where McKinsey Quarterly (in its article of 8th September 2021 entitled “ “Great Attrition or Great Attraction?; The Choice is Yours”) revealed record numbers of people in the US leaving their work. It stated that more than 15 million US workers have left their jobs since April 2021.
WELLNESS URGENCY: 54% OF EMPLOYEES CLOSE TO BURNOUT
It is possible that wellness could be one area where employers (and those partnering them in the global “war for talent” such as staffing and recruitment businesses) could help to retain and indeed attract talent to their businesses.
There is certainly a need to address this matter and urgently. For example, Talint International in its 8th September 2021 article, states that “Staff well-being tops employee concerns” and adds that some 54% of employees are close to burnout (citing a report called The Healthier Nation Index published by Nuffield Trust). That report added that more employees demand that their employers take more responsibility for their physical and mental well-being.
The timing could not be more apposite for such initiatives to support workplace well-being and in the aftermath of World Mental Health Day on 8th October, even more so.
Accordingly, in the rest of this blog, I wanted to share some real-life examples from within the recruitment sector of such efforts to support workforce well-being.
Medikumppani, a leading healthcare recruitment business based in Turku in Finland, has adopted real-time engagement technology to support the well-being of its staff. The Swedish business Winningtemp AB platform uses an AI-powered automated platform that measures and visualises how people feel at work and generates recommendations to leadership to address nascent challenges.
Research indicates enhanced retention in utilising such an interactive tool. Teija Koskinen, the CEO at Medikumppani, eloquently highlighted the importance of this tool at her presentation and interview at the Nordic Future Hospital Conference in Helsinki in September 2021.
The use of such digital engagement platforms is also gaining traction with leading recruitment businesses in the UK and by employers across several verticals in the economy.
Interestingly NHS Trusts (who have traditionally used an annual Staff Survey to reveal engagement, among other indicators) are also engaging with such platforms in an effort to truly track their workforce well-being.
Recruitment businesses have also (in addition to offering App based access to support with well-being) turned to interactive webinars for their internal teams to help with their wellness, particularly in light of a very busy staffing market and as more and more people return to more office-based work and/or hybrid home and office working.
It has been an honour to support such initiatives and partner with the likes of MA (Montreal Associates) and Greycoat Lumleys (part of Empresaria Group), and most recently with global energy recruiter Spencer Ogden.
Much commentary in the recruitment press has of course, focused on supporting the well-being of those employed within the sector. But there has been a commensurate lack of focus on the wellness of the temporary workforce especially given the central importance of candidates for recruitment businesses.
In the healthcare sector, for example, there is likely to be an even greater level of competition for the loyalty of the temporary healthcare workforce given the rising demand for services and severe global clinician shortages; this was a point made stridently by Nigel Marsh, Strategic Head of nGAGE Healthcare, in his interview with Blue Saffron Ltd in early October.
TEMPORARY WORKFORCE WELL-BEING
And it has been noticeable that some leaders within the recruitment sector are now seeing an opportunity within the multiple overlapping trends of flexibility, workforce shortages and centrality of wellness to differentiate and offer support to the well-being of the temporary workforce.
Within the healthcare sector, NHS Professionals have held a number of wellness webinars for their Bank Members, including one in the immediate run-up to World Mental Health Day and in the words of CEO, Nicola McQueen; “Today at NHSP, we took a moment to reflect on our well-being by hosting a Wellness Webinar for our Bank Members. It was lovely to see so many join and gain valuable insight on looking after their inner wellness at a time of transformation.”
There have been similar initiatives in other verticals. Within Life Sciences, Jay Freeman, CEO at Panda International (based in Amsterdam) has stated the need to “…highlight the importance of maintaining a spiritual, mental, emotional and healthy lifestyle in the workplace,” and Panda has delivered wellness webinars for their candidates who are specialists within the full range of life science roles.
Furthermore, in order to support workers in the retail sector Meridian Business Support have introduced a series of webinars on well-being, including for those of their candidates that work at the national retail brand Next (taking place on 20th October);
Meridian commented on this initiative in a LinkedIn post on 13th October, added that with 57% of employers saying employee burnout is impacting retention, it is no surprise that employee well-being is at the top of the agenda. But they went on to say that “… despite temporary employees, making up a large part of the workforce, they can often be missed out on employee well-being strategies.”
It is likely that workforce shortages will be with us for some time. The importance of supporting wellness and mental health (particularly in light of the pandemic’s pernicious and pervasive effect) will remain a key priority for years to come. Therefore, it is encouraging to see some of the initiatives referred to above and especially the innovative ways recruitment businesses are extending this support to the temporary workforce.
It seems fitting to end with the words of Gillian Keegan, Minister for Care and Mental Health:
“The public has shown great resilience throughout the pandemic, but it has served as a stark reminder that we all need to look after ourselves not only physically, but mentally.”
And it is undoubtedly right that this includes the temporary workforce across all sectors of the economy.