Some 59% of workers in ‘deskless’ industries, including retail, believe the ongoing effect of the pandemic is having a negative impact on the operations of the business they work for. This is a challenge which, left unaddressed, could have disastrous consequences for UK industry.
On top of this, almost a third of workers (30%) think that the business they work for is less efficient now as a result of its response to COVID-19.
A recent study found that employee satisfaction is also continuing to suffer in the aftermath of the pandemic. Over a third (37%) of workers state that their employee experience is worse now than pre-2020. The most common reasons for this included staff shortages (51%), less in-person training (37%), worse communication (36%), less training across the board (32%), and fewer opportunities for development (26%).
This is having devastating consequences for the UK’s deskless workforce. 53% feel less motivated, 32% are unhappy at work, and 31% are less productive. One in five are even considering leaving their company in the next 12 months, whilst 17% suggest they might leave the industry they work in altogether, posing a significant risk for those industries already facing skills shortages.
The research, which was conducted by Cloud Assess, also analysed the specific policy changes that are driving these ongoing challenges.
It found that 85% of businesses adopted new policies for their deskless workers as a result of the pandemic, 80% of which are continuing some of these practices today.
The new policies which are most likely to have continued include calls hosted on Zoom, online training, fewer meetings, and fewer site visits from management. Some of these changes are supported by workers. For example, 76% support the move towards video calls, rather than phone calls, whilst 61% believe having fewer meetings is having a positive impact on the business they work for.
However, as well as taking up new policies, almost two-thirds (64%) of businesses stopped some activities entirely because of the pandemic and have not resumed them since, leading to dissatisfaction and concern amongst employees.
The activities that are most likely to have been dropped include team parties, in-person meetings, and in-person training. The research found that 84% of workers would like to see at least some of these activities return, suggesting a strong demand amongst employees for vital face-to-face contact with team members to resume.
Interestingly, in-person training was found to be the activity that most workers would like to see resumed. This is no surprise, given the huge impact the pandemic had on training provisions in businesses across the UK. In fact, almost three quarters (73%) of the employees researched claim that the training they are offered by their employer has been affected by the pandemic.
26% state they are being offered fewer training opportunities, whilst over one in 10 (11%) claim that their employer has stopped providing training and development opportunities altogether. Many employers are also opting to move toward online training, or e-learning. 28% state that more of their training is delivered online, with 11% stating that 100% of their training is now delivered online.
This shift in training provisions has not proven popular. 85% of workers whose employees have moved towards online training believe it has had some negative impact on them. The most common complaint is that training sessions are now boring (39%). This is followed by a feeling that training is now being viewed as a tick box exercise by employers (34%).
More concerning still, 28% feel like they retain the information for less time when learning online, whilst 21% feel as though they are learning less. Just 20% believe that the online training provided to them is benefiting their long-term career, whilst even fewer (18%) think it’s making them better at their job.
Over one in 10 even stated that they feel less valued by their employer as a result of the move towards online training.
Rob Bright, CEO and Founder of Cloud Assess, comments: “Whilst the pandemic did lead to positive changes for some businesses, our research shows the extent to which deskless industries, in particular, are being held back by lockdown hangovers. Clearly, UK industry is facing a major challenge when it comes to staff engagement and satisfaction, with many craving in-person interactions which employers have failed to resume since the pandemic.
“This is understandable. Skills shortages mean resources are tighter than ever before, making it tempting for businesses to cut corners when it comes to activities like employee engagement and training. However, our study demonstrates that these ‘time saving’ policies could be hampering long-term success and growth. For example, whilst e-learning might be saving time for employers in the short-term, it’s failing to truly upskill workers in the long run, leading to poor ROI and growing disillusionment amongst the workforce. When coupled with ongoing operational and efficiency challenges, these post-pandemic legacies are set to pose a significant threat to firms across Britain if not addressed quickly.”