The UK Employee Support & Retention Survey

December 14, 2021

Paris Stevens

"Nearly a third of UK workers feel they have stagnated in their current role, with no opportunities for progression. "

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Over the past several months, an increasing number of employees have decided to change jobs in what’s become known as the ‘Great Resignation’. In the UK alone, more than one million people made the move from one job to another between July and September, according to ONS data

This decline in employee retention poses great concern to employers and company directors alike. With a record number of over one million vacancies recorded between August and October in the UK, the economic impacts of this trend are clear.

According to recruitment firm Randstad UK, it can cost SMEs as much as £25,000 to recruit just one new employee. For this reason, it has become crucial that companies quickly identify and address the reasons why employee retention has hit an all-time low.

The growing issue of retention is particularly prevalent during the first six months to a year of an employee joining a company. During this so-called ‘onboarding period’, more than half of all voluntary resignations take place, according to a 2013 study by Equifax.

Here at Wildgoose, we conducted the UK Employee Support and Retention Study, to further explore how companies should react to this ‘Great Resignation’. We asked employees from 133 different UK companies a series of questions, including: 

  • How many have started a new job role in the last year
  • How their workplace supported them during the onboarding process, and where this could have been improved 
  • What workplace pressures employees have experienced over the last year
  • What companies could do better to retain their employees

More and more disconnected employees

Feeling disengaged from a job role can lead to unhappiness, anxiety and even burnout. With this in mind, we asked employees how engaged they felt in their current position.

The results revealed that nearly a third of UK workers feel they have stagnated in their current role, with no opportunities for progression. In addition, more than a quarter of employees said they are actively searching for a new job.


To frame our study, we asked respondents whether they have started a new job within the last year. The results showed that over 3 in 10 people have indeed made a switch, further highlighting the growing trend of resignation.

To break this down further, the results can be separated into different demographics. 


Size of company — The percentage of employees who have started a new role heavily depends on the size of the company:

  • SMEs are the most likely to have recruited over the last year
  • 37% of SME employees surveyed have started a new job within the last year
  • By comparison, 26% of enterprise company employees started a new job over the same period

Age — The younger demographics have undoubtedly been the biggest movers:

  • Under-35s were twice as likely to start a new role in the last year
  • 40% of 18-35-year-olds have moved to a new job
  • Just 20% of those 35 and older have made this switch


Gender — Over the last year, women were 74% more likely to start a new role:

  • One in three female employees (33%) started a new position
  • By comparison, only 19% of male employees started a new job

Successful onboarding — retention starts here

Companies only get one chance to make a first impression on a new employee, which is why it’s essential that onboarding is carried out correctly. In fact, employees within their first year of employment account for 26% of all separations from their company, according to data from the Society for Human Resource Management.

Almost two-thirds of new recruits dissatisfied with onboarding

In our study, we asked new recruits about their onboarding experience and how they feel it could have been improved. A stark number of employees felt that their onboarding process was not of a high standard, leaving them confused or alienated.

63% of those starting a new job felt elements of the onboarding process were insufficient, nearly half weren't given personal targets for progression, and just over one in three stated that they weren't made aware of core responsibilities.



The rise of imposter syndrome

Interestingly, our research also found that imposter syndrome — where people doubt their skills and suitability for roles — has begun to rise amongst employees. According to Google Trends, there’s been a 58% increase in searches for imposter syndrome symptoms over the last two years. Our study revealed that over two in five new recruits suffered from imposter syndrome and felt they didn’t receive the support they needed.

A lack of onboarding support could be to blame for the increasing number of individuals experiencing this phenomenon. When we surveyed UK employees, we found that those in new job roles are 59% more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome, compared to longer-term employees.

How does company size affect onboarding?

Remote working hasn’t been the only challenge to the onboarding process. The type and size of a company can also pose significant challenges when trying to perfect an onboarding schedule.

SMEs

SMEs were shown to have the lowest satisfaction rate amongst employees in regards to the onboarding process. Our study revealed that 77% of new employees felt there were aspects that could’ve been improved.

  • 54% said they weren't given personal targets for role progression
  • 46% felt they weren’t made aware of core responsibilities
  • 39% stated they had little help from colleagues in similar roles

Large companies

Our data highlighted that large companies (100 - 999 employees) also struggled to provide a sufficient onboarding process, with 70% of new employees citing areas for improvement.

  • 62% said they weren't given personal targets for role progression
  • 39% felt they weren’t made aware of core responsibilities
  • 39% needed more support for feelings of imposter syndrome

Enterprise companies

Over half (53%) of employees at enterprise-level companies (1,000+ employees) felt that their onboarding process was sufficient. Whilst this was the highest satisfaction rate amongst all company sizes, employees still felt there were areas for improvement.

  • 47% needed more support for feelings of imposter syndrome
  • 40% felt that virtual meetings made it hard to form colleague friendships
  • 33% said there was a lack of company culture and team spirit

How can companies improve staff onboarding?

So what can companies do to improve their onboarding process and ensure that employees receive the support they need? From first-day welcome meetings through to continued training, there are plenty of ways to step up the standard. 

Gill Barber, director of Resound Training and Development, suggests the following:

  • “Don’t waste this opportunity to immerse your new starters into the values and mission behind your brand.”
  • “Design meaningful activities and conversations that will enable your new employees to be excited about the company.” 
  • “Allow everyone to gain a clear understanding of their role in the achievement of team and organisational goals.” 
  • “It’s also important to have a supportive colleague who can help guide new employees through those first few weeks.”

How can companies increase employee retention? 

Employee work pressures…

Feeling under pressure whilst at work can have damaging impacts on an employee’s mental health, along with making them far more likely to hand in their resignation. For this reason, taking steps to alleviate commonly experienced pressures is central to increasing retention rates.

Within our survey, we asked employees what work pressures they experienced over the last year. Concerningly, nearly half (48%) of employees said they suffered anxiety due to their job, with 41% stating that they have felt overwhelmed with work pressures. In addition, 40% of those asked had suffered from burnout over the past year.



Improving staff retention. What employees want…

Our study found that only 1 in 10 UK employees feel their company does enough to retain its employee talent. Research shows that if staff are not provided with recognition of their work efforts, feelings of ‘career stagnation’ are more likely to occur. 

With this in mind, we asked employees which factors would have helped to keep them in their previous role. Of those asked:

  • 60% felt that increased pay would have helped convince them to stay
  • 53% said they would have been happier if there was a better work/life balance
  • 49% felt more opportunities for career progression could have been in place



As highlighted above, employee retention starts with the onboarding process. It’s clear that action is needed to solve the growing issue of resignations within the first year of a new role. 

Yet it’s not only new employees who need to be supported and appreciated. In the current job market, experienced talent is highly sought after, meaning the pull of a company switch could tempt long-standing employees away. To combat this, opportunities for career progression should be made clear to everyone.

Raising retention rates – the expert’s view

There isn’t a single way for companies to improve their retention levels. Instead, it requires clear communication and improvements to all areas of an employee's work life. 

Tracey Hudson, executive director of HR Dept, suggests the following:

  • “Line managers should be conducting regular 1:1 meetings: monthly or quarterly is fine.”
  • “Questions should be asked around what employees enjoy to determine which aspects of their employment they value.
  • “It’s important that line managers can deliver any guarantees that they’re making to employees.”
  • “All parties are honest and transparent with one another.” 
  • Positive feedback is important, but so is negative feedback as long as it’s constructive.”

Employees who left vs employees who stayed: how does the feedback on retention differ?



Improving employee retention: how does company size affect what employees want?

Of course, the type of working environment offered differs between companies. Factors such as pay, job progression and employee benefits all vary heavily, depending on the size of the company. 

Our study revealed that employees across all three company sizes felt that increased pay, to meet that of industry standards, was a top factor in staff retention. This clearly indicates the growing need to ensure all employees feel valued and appreciated for the work they complete.

SMEs

Of those surveyed, over a quarter of SME employees want greater company support for anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. This is over three times the number for enterprise-level companies.

Large companies

We found that large companies (100 - 999 employees) have the most work to do on retaining their employees. In fact, just 7% of large company employees feel their company does enough to convince them to stay.

Enterprise companies

At an enterprise level, 30% of employees want their companies to provide greater support for burnout in the workplace — the highest figure for the three types of company. Our study found that 26% of employees at enterprise companies would have liked issues regarding excessive stress to be addressed, therefore helping to prevent burnout.



The next steps: regular employee engagement and team building 

As our study highlighted, it’s more important than ever that companies invest in keeping their employees engaged and happy. Whether remotely or in-person, it’s vital that team spirit and colleague relationships are encouraged. 

Putting aside some time to catch-up with employees about their work and home life can be hugely beneficial for increasing employee retention. Plus, after more than a year of external stress caused by the pandemic, there's no better time to organise a fun event to keep spirits high. 

Here at Wildgoose, we offer a mix of in-person, hybrid and virtual events:

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