Listen above or read the full transcript beneath, which has been edited for clarity.
Jon Kennard: Welcome to UNLEASHcast talent and recruitment focus. This is our very first one. I’m Jon Kennard, editor of UNLEASH. And we have Allie Nawrat who is senior journalist and talent and recruitment lead in our editorial team.
We’re here to talk about a few of the interesting stories, opinion pieces, analysis, things that have been happening in the world in the last month or so. Allie, how’re you doing?
Allie Nawrat: I’m good, thanks. How are you doing?
JK: I’m good. Yes, so this is where we focus on the recruitment side of things. This side of the people industry that we’re involved with, [and] the first story that we’re going to talk about, is the recent revelations that Prince Harry has been suffering from burnout during the pandemic. So we published a story recently, on February 4, it kind of went a little bit crazy on social media. I guess there’s a lot of fans of the Sussexes. But to the contents of the story – tell us a bit about the story itself.
AN: The story emerged, really, because Prince Harry is Chief impact officer of a company called BetterUp, which is a coaching company, and I’m not quite sure what that job really entails. But he’s on their board, talking a lot about mental health and burnout.
And he did a webinar with Serena Williams, who also talks a lot about mental health and the connection with physical health. And they discussed the pandemic, but also generally how they’ve been feeling. And they talked a lot about this burnout that Harry’s been feeling; being in the news almost every day, usually negatively, is probably a lot for a person to take on, no matter if they’re a royal and they’re maybe more used to it. I mean, I would crumble in the face of that kind of pressure.
So, he talked about his coping mechanisms, which is kind of what we then decided to talk about; there are things that individuals can do to help themselves deal with their stress and their burnout. But there are also ways that companies can really make sure that their employees aren’t burning out. If they are, to try and manage it, try and find ways to stop it happening in the future, but also mitigate it at the time.
JK: I think the tips are a combination of things you can do yourself and [what] employers can do for you. One of the most obvious ones being open lines of communication, asking for help. It’s a very obvious thing, but not everyone does it, and with kind of the bleed into work and home life, people working longer hours, for all the great things that remote working can do for your work life balance, a lot of people are working longer hours. And so making sure you do take breaks.
And then your final point was about HR tech, and we talk a lot about technology, of course. So talking about the use of wellbeing tech as well – and when we published it kind of blew up, and there’s obviously going to be the pushback, particularly with the involvement of Serena Williams as well, who’s a public figure. And the pushback from anyone on social media would be “oh, what have they got to worry about, this nonsense. And everyone knows that mental health doesn’t discriminate by your pay packet, or your public profile, or anything like this.
And having a public profile, especially Prince Harry, maybe more so than Serena Williams, where you’re constantly in the public eye is going to do some harm to mental health. So my personal opinion is, it’s great that he’s talking about it, and anyone can suffer from burnout, and he’s using a platform to make a difference. That’s the way I feel about it.
AN: I think it’s definitely important as he’s a young man, for men to talk about this, as men, in particular, have higher suicide rates than women because they often don’t talk about problems before they become so big. Obviously, that’s an extreme example, so I think it’s really good that he’s a man in his 40s being very open that fatherhood does come with its own stresses, as well.
And obviously, they’ve just had a second baby. So I imagine that’s a lot. So yeah, I think it’s really important he’s talking about it. I do understand, as you said, the arguments about, you know, what does he have to worry about? He’s not worrying about paying his bills at the end of the month, or I think I put in my LinkedIn post, like he’s not about to have this energy price hike, he’s not going to be worried about that. But it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have problems or he doesn’t have faced challenges in his life. I mean, he has been quite open about you know, when Princess Diana died about how hard that was and open struggles throughout his life, which is so important.
JK: The next story is about businesses and their unvaccinated employees. And you wrote a really good piece – should employers cut sick pay for the unvaccinated? As we were preparing to record this, you did make the good point that the rules in the UK at least, are going to be changed at the end of February. So it renders a lot of this moot, but it doesn’t in a lot of ways in that the issue of discrimination is still there, and different businesses are handling it in different ways.
Some people are saying, ‘of course, we shouldn’t do this,’ because I think they’re making a value judgment here that the blowback is going to be too great. If they did, and again, it links to the great resignation – which we’re going to come to finally after this story – some businesses are saying, ‘well, if you’re unvaccinated, you are a risk to other people.’ And it’s not fair that you’re putting other people’s lives in danger when other people are following the rules and getting their vaccinations. So it’s another ‘two sides’ thing. What do you think?
AN: I think what was interesting for me in writing is we’ve done a lot of pieces about vaccine mandates and those kinds of things, particularly in the US because obviously President Biden introduced one, the Supreme Court said no, so it’s been quite a dramatic incident where employers are kind of stuck in the middle of being like, what do I do? What can I do legally? And what should I do for employees? What’s the best thing?
And we’ve also written quite a lot of stories about how employees are largely quite supportive of vaccine mandates. I can’t think of the exact stats off the top of my head, but over 50% are supportive. This slightly surprises me, because it is a controversial issue. Do you want to be in an office or a workplace with people that are unvaccinated? But actually, do you have the right to tell people what to do with their kind of body? So this one’s an interesting story because it’s obviously financially detrimental to the unvaccinated. So a lot of companies I think are doing it because they’re trying to incentivize people to get vaccinated, they don’t want to cut the sick pay. Really, what they want is people to go, okay, I was a bit unsure but if my employer is going to penalize me for not having it I’m just gonna get a vaccine, then.
JK: That’s a really good point. I think there’s a hardcore fringe element of people who won’t, but there’s a lot of people who are on the fence. I’ve got friends of mine who were unsure about getting the vaccine, but did it for these very reasons. Or were like, well, if I don’t have the vaccine, I can’t travel, etc, etc. So, there are ways to motivate people. And maybe this is one of those.
AN: In the article, we did discuss a lot about employer brands. As you said, there is a culture of people who are very against vaccines and very against the idea that you have to have a vaccine to travel or go to events or any kind of requirement. So would they say they’re not going to shop at IKEA now, because IKEA has decided they’re gonna penalize their unvaccinated employees?
And also, is it an issue in the ‘Great Resignation’, where you’re gonna have all these people be like, I don’t want to work for you anymore. Particularly given that the companies that are doing this, IKEA, Morrison’s, Next, they are the kind of sectors that are struggling most with retention and attraction at the moment. That’s the question. I don’t know. I wish knew the answer.
JK: From a purely business point of view, is about risk versus legality. And it’s about consideration for all your employees. And just because you have decided to go one way or the other doesn’t mean you don’t consider all your employees. But it is going to be interesting, especially with the ‘Great Resignation’. But also one final thing about President Biden’s mandate getting overturned, that’s only at a federal level. So I think individual organizations can still put mandates in place.
AN: We did do some pieces about it around, what do businesses do now? If you have a business across the country, do you have to then start implementing different mandates in different states? That’s going to be an HR logistical nightmare, whereas the federal mandate was so much easier just to be like, okay, I have over 100 employees. Let me just do this now.
And they’re going to face class action lawsuits. You know, is it worth it? Is it worth the kind of hassle of doing this? Or is it worth the hassle because you want to protect your employees and you want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable coming to the office or going into their place of work without getting worried about catching this really deadly virus? It’s not something to be laughed at – people are still dying. It’s a very big decision, I think it’s, it’s a hard one. I’m glad I don’t have to make it.
JK: Yeah, indeed. So moving on to the last piece. We’re finishing on a big topic here, which is the Great Return, which is something that we hear UNLEASH christened after obviously, the ‘Great Resignation’, which I would say probably started around Q1 of last year?
AN: I think in the US, it was about July. It’s the first the first month where it exceeded 4 million quits. And it hasn’t gone below 4 million since then.
JK: So it’s clearly a thing. It’s an ongoing problem. It’s obviously driven by the pandemic, which has changed a lot people’s minds about what they want from their work, and what they are prepared to put up with. But where are these people going? And what is next? This is our question. And the Great Return, you wrote a few great pieces on the Great Return. I’m not expecting a definitive answer here, but when are we expecting to see the Great Return kind of materialize en masse?
AN: I think it’s gonna take a while, because a lot of what people were saying in the article, the experts that I spoke to were like, they’ve done the Great Resignation, they’ve left their employer, and then they’ve gone, oh, that was a mistake. This is not better. This is not the kind of panacea that we thought it was going to be. This is not a silver bullet. This company seemed like it was better on paper. But maybe the reality isn’t quite the same.
And so I think what I found interesting was, that there was a recent study that we published from Lever, and they mentioned that 52% of employees are considering rejoining old employers at the moment. So I do think maybe it’s more of a 2023 trend, I think it’s still too soon. Most people, when you change jobs, you kind of want to stay there at least a year, give it a year to kind of figure itself out. So it’s probably they’re gonna have to have left for a year and then they’re like, oh, I’ll go back.
JK: When I spoke to Claude Silver from VaynerMedia, she said a similar thing she was thinking probably 2023 is actually the time when it’s really going to kick in. Yeah, because like you say, you need timeout to then realize it may be a case of the grass is always greener.
But I think, regardless of whether people do actually go back to their old work or not, the positive aspects of this are out there now already. So even if they suddenly decide that they do want to go back to IKEA, or Walmart, or wherever it might be, these policies are going to be changing, because people have seen that the move is going to be made, and people are voting with their feet. So interesting – really, really interesting.
AN: I think it’s interesting as well, because it’s whether or not employers should be actively trying to recruit back their alumni; should you reach out to people who used to work there, so we could reach out to people who used to work at UNLEASH and be like, do you want to come back? Are you keen? We’ve changed our benefits. We’ve changed all of this. Maybe they will be tempted to come back. But it’s kind of how actively you pursue it.
That’s what the Lever study was suggesting was that they should be going out there. And maybe this is a way to solve the Great Resignation is to kind of tap back into people who left on good terms that maybe for a better paycheck or for a different type of career, but now they’ve left they’ve gained some new skills, they’ve gained some experience in the workplace and they are keen to give you another shot, I guess.
JK: Great way to sum it up. So that was our very first talent and recruitment focus for UNLEASHcast. See you next month!
This is the first in our ‘talent focus’ series, but there are more…