Want to improve employee recruitment and retention? Focus on keeping them safe
6 minute read
Half of UK workers are looking for a new role. Improving personal safety inside and outside the workplace can increase satisfaction and boost staff retention
Employee retention drives business success with a direct impact on productivity and revenue. Staff turnover is estimated to cost UK businesses £4 billion per year and the average employee costs around £30,000 to replace, without taking into consideration the cost and time of training, culture disconnect and team-building. To tackle this, a growing number of businesses are increasingly seeking new ways to attract and retain the best talent.
The consensus is that UK workers’ satisfaction with their roles generally waned after the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. In a PwC survey published in May 2022, 50% of people said they were likely to change their job in the next 12 months. With half the workforce actively looking to switch employers, businesses are being forced to work harder than ever before to keep hold of their staff.
When it comes to recruitment and retention, organisations are looking for ways they can work smarter, not harder, to attract and retain the best staff. There are tangible, cost-effective ways businesses can take better care of employees throughout the working day and, more importantly, beyond it. This creates a ripple effect, sending positive signals to prospective employees, and making recruitment easier.
Growing personal safety fears
There is an unseen cause that is affecting retention and recruitment rates across all sectors – and that’s employee peace of mind about personal safety. Generally, employees who experienced a negative event at work were 9% less satisfied across all aspects of their job, increasing the likelihood of them leaving their role.
Leading employee safety specialists Peoplesafe conducted a recent study into workplace personal safety that revealed a staggering 6.8 million workers worry about their personal safety at work or on their commute, every single week.
One in five employees (22%) surveyed cited safety concerns as a contributing reason that they chose to leave their job in the past five years and over a quarter stated that they would not take on any public-facing role due to personal safety concerns.
Negative experiences were felt by all types of workers and in all aspects of their working lives, with 60% of participants admitting that they even felt unsafe on the commute to and from work during unsociable hours. In the context of any recruitment and retention crisis, these are concerning numbers.
What can employers do to improve employee safety?
All employers have a duty to provide employees with a workplace free from health and safety risks, making compliance a top priority within organisations. Although achieving compliance involves reducing many risks, it’s not sufficient to protect workers from harm or improve employees’ perceptions of their own safety.
Peoplesafe’s research found that while most organisations want to do more to protect their employees, around a third (38%) struggle to know how they can help beyond basic health and safety compliance, which clearly many workers feel is no longer enough. Employees now expect additional physical and mental health support from their employer: it is no longer a ‘nice to have’.
Developing and encouraging a culture of safety in the workplace is essential for worker welfare. And it’s something that requires close collaboration between health and safety professionals and their HR counterparts. Leveraging HR teams’ expertise in communications and stakeholder management will help to embed a robust health and safety culture.
Initially, this can be done through the introduction of procedures that protect your staff, such as:
- Implementing a check-in/out system for staff working across different premises
- Encouraging employees to report safety concerns, near misses and accidents – no matter how small
- Ensuring staff are trained and regularly retrained on best practices for using equipment and carrying out hazardous tasks
- Reviewing and updating risk assessments at least annually or when an accident occurs
- Making safety information and tools accessible to all employees, preferably through integrating training software and health and safety applications with your central HR software
- Introducing and encouraging the use of a personal safety system
Going beyond workplace safety compliance
In 2020, the HSE updated its guidance to recommend that organisations “implement a robust system to ensure a worker has returned to their base or home once their work is completed”. This recognises that employee safety does not begin and end as they clock in and out, but should be considered throughout the whole time they are making their way to and from their places of work.
Even though it isn’t currently something set in law, 57% of employees believe that their employer has a duty to make sure they get to work and back home safe; it’s not just about the hours that they are on the clock. More and more people work from home, more frequently, creating additional risks to consider. The implications on worker safety for those commuting or working alone for long periods of time cannot be ignored. This message is mirrored by employees, as nearly a third of respondents in the Peoplesafe survey believe their employer could be doing more to protect them.
Improving measures of employee safety beyond compliance demonstrates how much an employer values their workers. Research into employee safety highlighted that nearly half of employees would see their employer in a better light if they were provided with a personal safety solution – such as Peoplesafe – enhancing brand reputation among both current and prospective employees.
The message is clear that employers need to go beyond official legislation and basic compliance to provide the level of employee safety required to attract and retain valuable workers.
Untapped retention tool
There is a clear, tangible benefit to recruitment and perceptions of roles if prospective employees are offered technology and personal safety solutions that they know will reliably keep them out of harm’s way, both inside and outside of working hours. Improving levels of employee safety is one untapped staff retention tool that could also make a prospective job more appealing for workers across any sector.
Organisational culture is also widely seen as a contributing factor in rates of staff turnover. This means that creating a culture that encourages and values employee safety can measurably increase retention rates.
Two-thirds of employees surveyed by Peoplesafe said they would take up a personal safety solution if offered and 50% of workers would consider a front-line role if equipped with safety technology, suggesting that the pool of candidates for a role could measurably increase with personal safety technology built into a job offer or role.
Benefits of improving employee safety
The downloads of free personal safety apps have soared in popularity in the past few years and now top 1 million – someone in your organisation probably already uses one. They are proven to help users feel more confident when they are alone and feeling vulnerable. But research published by BMC in June 2022 discovered that although while people downloading these free apps found them useful, they also reported them as being unreliable or not working as described. Free apps also tend to rely on the user’s family members or loved ones to pick up and respond to notifications that can easily be missed.
Some organisations are already deploying personal safety apps to provide peace of mind to their employees. Companies are now supplying their head office staff with mobile apps for their walk to car parks off site, which is replacing the need for arranged ‘walking parties’ or security guards accompanying them on their journey. Others in professional services – where working hours are often long – are also providing reassurance to staff on their late-night commutes through technology instead of providing expensive taxis. Professional safety apps backed by a 24/7 monitored service provide a cost-effective alternative while ensuring all alarms are picked up and resolved 24/7/365.
Lizzie Page is content and communications executive at Peoplesafe, a leading UK-based employee safety solutions provider