Effective workforce engagement has been proven time and time again to increase productivity and business success. In these times of economic uncertainty, there is a new wave of willingness to improve employee engagement, but is that enough?

A recent survey of 1,000 London workers for Brook Street’s Survive & Thrive campaign (www.surviveandthrive.co.uk) found that employers still have a long way to go in terms of engaging with their workforce. But the results also highlighted a very important question – can HR professionals assume that satisfied staff will also be loyal? And what could the consequences be if this presumption is wrong?

According to the study, as many as 41% of employees don’t see any benefit of staying with their current employers beyond simply ‘staying in work’. In fact, over half of workers (54%) said that they felt taken for granted by their employers. This most likely stems from the fact that nearly 70% of employees reported to have had increased workloads, having performed tasks beyond their job description, but only a third (34%) said they had been given a pay rise, and even less, just 15 %, have been promoted.

Secondly, there is a slight contradiction as our survey shows that most workers seem to be quite happy in their jobs; over half, 58%, said that they were satisfied in their current roles. Despite this, many don’t feel much pride in their role and they feel that employers should be rewarding them better. London workers definitely don’t seem to have any great feelings of loyalty towards their employers. In fact, four out of five London employees reported that they are open to a new job offer, while one in five are actively looking for a new job whilst already employed.

The findings indicate that a great deal of work may have been done to improve staff satisfaction but businesses also seem to have been lulled into a false sense of security about their workforce. There is a presumption that because of the negative effects of the downturn, employees will work all hours for less money and if they don’t, they can be easily replaced.

This presumption couldn’t be more wrong. The jobs market has been outperforming the UK economy for a number of months. The reason for this is that employers who are trying to innovate and grow after several years of recession are calling for specific, highly skilled talent to help them emerge from their financial shortfalls. In fact, in an article in the Financial Times earlier this year, the CEO of the UK’s recruitment body, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said that the developing story for UK’s jobs market this year is likely to be one of skills shortages as people with expertise in key areas become harder and harder to source.

If we have skills shortages when there are approximately 2.5 million people unemployed in the UK, employers will find it difficult to find the talent they need. It is absolutely vital for businesses to snap out of the post-recession lull otherwise they are in danger of losing their key talent. Many companies will have to start attracting staff from other employers. This is what staff satisfaction vs staff loyalty really comes down to. Skills shortages give the power back to the people and we are seeing an increasingly candidate-led market. This realisation must be engrained in employers’ minds and their talent strategies to stay ahead of their competition.

Three key points to remember:

·         2013 is likely to be a year of skills shortages as businesses aim to grow and innovate after a recessionary period

·         Businesses must not assume that good talent is plentiful and will be quick to secure

·         It’s essential to place high value on both current and future employees