U.S. vs. U.K.: Will employees “fight or flight” when facing economic uncertainty?

Posted: 09/27/2019 - 05:01
U.S. vs. U.K.: Will employees “fight or flight” when facing economic uncertainty?
The human tendency in the face of economic uncertainty is, understandably, to cling to a role out of fear of being last-in, first-out elsewhere. With flip-flopping headlines in the U.S. giving workers whiplash – one day the market sentiment is bull, the next it’s bear – worker anxiety is manifesting in the labor market as expected: employees are staying put and prioritizing job security. 
Across the pond (over here in the U.K.), even with Brexit rapidly approaching this autumn, workers are seemingly more than ready for their next opportunity – even if it means making a change amidst a volatile and unpredictable economic landscape. What gives? 
This discrepancy in mobility between the two markets signals the possibility that U.K. workers anticipate eventually being forced to switch roles, given the impending impact of Brexit. As such, they are proactively looking for new opportunities so that they leave on their own terms, while U.S. employees could be staying put because they don’t feel as much urgency to leave a role. 
Proprietary research from Workforce Logiq explored U.S. and UK worker perceptions and fears that influence their desire to change jobs, stay put in a current role or explore a new work style. According to the study, employers in both countries are in for some significant, but manageable hurdles, when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. For U.K. organizations, retention should be high priority. For U.S. companies, smart hiring and recruiting strategies should be top of the agenda. 

Employee Perceptions in the U.S. vs. the UK

Workers in both markets think their respective economies are going to get worse, including 75% of U.K. workers and 57% of U.S. employees. For the U.K., fewer job opportunities and more layoffs are the biggest concerns, whereas wage stagnation is the most worrisome outcome of a downturn for the U.S. market. Still, 52% of U.K. respondents say they are actively looking for new opportunities and another 56% see themselves changing jobs in the next year. Conversely, 67% of U.S. workers said they had no plans to change their employment status in the next 12 to 18 months and 72% said they aren’t likely to switch in the next year.  
Another interesting difference between the two markets: Money talks in the U.S., but it seems that U.K. workers put a higher premium on work/life balance. When asked what makes them stay in a role they aren’t satisfied with, U.S. workers indicate it’s to protect compensation levels, while U.K. workers prioritize flexibility.  

Takeaways for Global Organizations

How do organizations on both sides of the pond find the talent they need to grow in such tight labor markets? And once they hire, how do they keep employees happy and engaged?  

Attracting talent, especially if they’re content elsewhere or fear change, is tough. Companies need to get creative with their hiring and retention strategies in order to entice candidates to make a move

  • Leverage artificial intelligence (AI) mechanisms to find and prioritize highly qualified candidates based on both hard and soft skills. This ensures hiring and recruiting efforts and investments are focused on prospective employees that are best fit for the role, and therefore most likely to accept an offer and stay long-term. This also saves hiring teams countless of hours sorting through CVs and resumes.
  • Proactively build talent communities that create and nurture relationships with prospective candidates well before they are ready to switch roles. That way, when a candidate is looking for a new job, they’ll already be familiar with the company and have more insight into what they’d be doing, which expedites the hiring process and increases the likelihood of retention. 
  • Create a strong onboarding process that communicates confidence in business performance to quell any fears of unpredictability and builds team connections early on. What happens in the first few days and weeks of a new job is key for long-term employee retention – making sure candidates’ needs are met, they properly fit the culture, and have the right job expectations from the outset is critical. 
  • Cater to growing work/life balance and flexibility expectations. Given workers’ increasing desire for flexibility and harmony between work and home life, catering to these expectations is necessary to keep employees engaged and happy. Organizations that operate more traditionally should consider adjusting workplace culture to accommodate this trend as it will then be harder for employees to leave, and those that already have programs in place should understand how these expectations may evolve and where they may need to update their policies.  
There are clear differences between the U.K. and U.S. workforces when it comes to fears and mobility. U.K. employees are more prone to take “flight” to new opportunities while U.S. workers will “fight” for their current roles. What the two markets have in common, however, is the need for strong talent acquisition and management strategies. Recruitment and retention are two sides of the same coin – and critical components of the long-term health of any global organization. 

About The Author

Gary Jones's picture
Gary is experienced recruitment executive with over 25 years in the staffing industry. He has managed network operations for some of the world’s largest industry leaders and has headed up regional sales and business development teams. Over this time he has gained extensive experience in MSP, RPO & VMS Resourcing Solutions, across Europe and the Asia Pacific region.
He has been strategically responsible for major client portfolios and has held accountability for Global Accounts, managing large teams of staff across extensive geographies, with some client contracts with over $600 million of spend under management.  He has been instrumental in supporting the development of strategic corporate MSP’s with clients in the UK, Europe and Australia.
Gary has also gained experience in implementation, project management and solution design. Developing new client initiatives that include multi discipline, multi-channel managed vendor programs, hybrid managed services that include the development of strategic talent sourcing strategies and supply partner engagement programs.
Gary has overall responsibility for our sales and business solutions focus in EMEA. This covers managing the regional sales and business development teams, as well as consulting with our clients and prospective customers on new approaches to workforce solutions and MSP in the EMEA region.