COVID-19 and the Big Career Re-think

Lockdown is slowly easing and as we return to work, impacts on the employment market are surfacing. The Office for National Statistics reports that the number of people claiming unemployment benefits rose by 856,500 to more than two million during April. Organisations have also had to adopt new strategies to avoid redundancies including reducing working hours, freezing hiring and cutting training budgets.

In the midst of this turmoil, the Adecco Group UK and Ireland’s latest research[i] finds that 45% of employees are considering a career change as a result of the pandemic. Many of us have used lockdown as a time to train and learn or rethink career and lifestyle choices, but what motivations lie behind these choices? Our latest study sheds light on why workers are rethinking their careers, and how employers can use this as an opportunity to rethink their retention strategies.

What’s behind the big career re-think?

Of the 45% of employees that are rethinking their careers, 16% are already retraining and 29% are considering changing their career once the pandemic has passed. In terms of reasons for a career rethink, the most popular thoughts include:

  • 32% I was already planning on changing my career pre-pandemic
  • 31% I’ve reflected on what I really want out of my career and what’s important to me
  • 25% There won’t be enough jobs in my industry due to COVID-19

“I’m considering giving up my job to be a full-time mum” said one respondent. “A shorter commute as my employer doesn’t allow working from home” said another. “The job I do is in very close contact with customers, so I feel this puts me at risk; a risk I didn’t recognise before” said a third respondent.

Of course, some life choices are independent of work, but how many of the reasons for a career re-think could be better managed by a more collaborative relationship between employer and employee?

Employees will remember how they’ve been treated

Those businesses that look after their workforce and foster close, collaborative communities during the pandemic will be the ones that retain their top talent and thrive once this crisis has passed”, says Alex Fleming, President and Country Head of the Adecco Group UK and Ireland. This is borne out in our data with 19% of employees reporting they’re considering a career change because the company they work for (or worked for before being furloughed) did not treat its workforce well during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, for companies that manage this phase well, we believe this is a great opportunity to re-think retention as we go back to work.

The Adecco Group UK and Ireland’s HR Director, Melanie Hayes, says that offering tailored support, including personalised management training and well-being advice, are key to helping employees manage the transition back to work: “Furlough can be a challenging time. By enabling our people to start their development at this point we are giving them the opportunity to really pause, identify for themselves what they are looking to get from their careers, and make sure this programme supports them in doing that.”

Careers in the new normal

There are some clear takeaways for employers from our study. Firstly, we need to be able to reassure workers about their job and financial security (McKinsey & Company reports that around 7.6 million jobs in the UK are at risk of encompassing permanent layoffs, temporary furloughs, and reductions in hours and pay). Secondly, we need to look after employees during this unsettled time and demonstrate our commitment to getting safely back to work. As we move forward with our plans to resume business as usual, we need to think more creatively about how we can better support varied career growth and lifestyle choices in the ‘better normal’.

[i] Research conducted by Opinion Matters, between 29 / 04 / 2020 – 01 / 05 / 2020, on 1,000 UK workers