Over the past 18 months, the world of work has changed beyond all recognition: workplaces have revolutionised, employee priorities have shifted, and candidate expectations have grown. 

With job seekers in short supply, understanding the impact of these changes is essential in the battle for top talent. You need to know how to retain your best people, where to focus your marketing efforts, and how to position job ads that draw the most interest. So what does the worker of 2021 expect of their employer? 


Flexibility, and a better work-life balance. 

How flexible working can make you an in-demand employer 

Brexit, IR35, and the uncertainty occasioned by the pandemic have all contributed to a noticeable shortage of candidates on the jobs market. Many people are reluctant to move from ‘stable’ positions, while some have been driven out of the labour market by the impact of Covid on home life – most notably, women.

In fact, while women make up almost two-fifths of the global labour force, they’ve suffered more than half of the total job losses from the crisis – making them 1.8 times more vulnerable to the pandemic’s impact than men. Women are statistically more likely to take on caring responsibilities, and with classroom closures dominating much of lockdown, the juggle has disproportionately impacted female workers.


But a shift towards more flexible working hours could hold the answer. 

In a recent Randstad survey of 6,000 UK candidates, we found that over half (51%) seek flexibility in terms of working hours, and 45% would feel confident in asking for greater flexibility. But why wait for them to ask, when you can actively promote it instead?

Forward-thinking employers have been quick to cotton on to the impact of flexible working on talent attraction and retention – particularly in a time of conflicting demands. And it’s a draw that holds sway regardless of gender, industry or age.  

Employers who choose to be flexible with their start and finish times, open to discussion around days worked, and less rigid when it comes to how employees spread their hours over the week, could capture talent not even on the market. Because when you bolster your employer brand, word spreads fast. 


How to win the war for talent with better working hours.

The annual Randstad Employer Brand Research report (REBR) found that for the first time, flexible working has made the top five of employee drivers when considering a new job – replacing location at number four. 

Tellingly, work/life balance ranked second; suggesting that in a post-pandemic world, people value their wellbeing more than ever.

With 6% of employees working 21+ hours beyond their contractual obligations, and 26% working longer hours than they’re being paid for, the implications for employee mental health are worrying. But a simple way to care for employee wellbeing – whilst attracting top candidates and keeping your existing people happy, loyal and productive – could be found in flexible working.

But management will be crucial: with Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays ranking as people’s preferred working days – and just 4% willing to work at a weekend – businesses will need to work with their employees to find the right solution for all parties.

However you choose to structure it for your business, giving employees greater choice around their schedules, allowing people to better manage their own work/life balance, and combatting the need for overtime through better planning can all help to position you as an extremely attractive prospect in a competitive market. 

And while candidates remain in high demand, that’s a position you need to be in.