UK businesses prioritising the retention of talent following Covid, finds Freeths’ latest employment survey

Over four out of five businesses across the UK are still struggling to recruit people in 2024 following the Covid-19 pandemic four years ago. A total of 81 per cent of employers revealed the main reason being a lack of candidates with the right skillset.

Hybrid working is also being considered as challenging with HR teams finding people don’t want to return to the office for a variety of reasons, including a number reporting that a factor is anxiety of having to be separated from their pets. 

The research, compiled by the employment team at national law firm Freeths, analysed a variety of sectors and found that the main HR priorities for 2024 are retention of employees, health and wellbeing, diversity and inclusion and motivation, engagement, and performance management. 

Amongst this:

  • The most common top HR priority for 2024 is employee retention
  • The most popular reason given for resistance experienced in getting staff to return to the office was that it meant a poorer work life balance.
  • Over 35% of respondents reported that a reason given to them for not wanting to return to work in the office was fear of being separated from their pets
  • Whereas only 20% of these surveyed cited family separation as a reason given for not returning to the office
  • Only a mere 11% of respondents said that they would trust AI tools to recruit the best candidates, and only 19% said that they had a good understanding of artificial intelligence HR tools available.
  • 43% of employers said that they would trust AI tools to support employee learning and development.

Rena Magdani, Partner and National Head of Employment at Freeths, commented: “Our survey has provided valuable insights into how businesses are coping with the past and looking to the future. Employers are still experiencing the impact of the covid pandemic with challenges in recruitment and finding working arrangements that suit all parties. Looking ahead, there seems to be a low level of trust in AI, perhaps linked to the lack of knowledge of the available tools. It will be interesting to see the extent to which attitudes towards AI will change during this year.”

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