Why last-minute leave is top of the workforce wishlist
by Rachel Clough, UK Country Lead at SD Worx
July 26 2023 - The summer is officially here and for many holiday hungry Brits now is the perfect time to hunt for a last-minute getaway, with searches for "last-minute holiday deals" up by 180% on Google.
However, it's not just a desire for sunshine which is fuelling the need for last minute leave, in fact this summer surge goes much deeper than a want for rays and relaxation. In fact, the rocketing demand for last minute getaways can also be explained by the continued rise of flexible working options across businesses and industries.
Today, post-covid work habits have stabilised and workforces are experiencing flexibility like never before. Whether it's the independence to decide how and where employees work or the freedom to book leave via self-service tools online, we're seeing the wheels of flexible change pick up pace. With flexibility so integrated into employees' everyday lives and so high on the business agenda it's no surprise that staff now want increased options and control when it comes to booking annual leave and holiday.
Flexible working: Demand surges across Europe
To see the impact of new flexible approaches across workplaces and workforces, we surveyed 5,000 employers and 16,000 employees across 16 European countries. Our research shows that 40% of Brits can request leave on the day of their holiday. The findings point towards an increasingly flexible attitude among both employees and businesses with regards to balance in personal and professional lives. Throughout the pandemic burnout was a phenomenon that swept across industries. It's clear workers are drawing a line in record numbers. Many are voting with their feet and prioritising flexibility and balance like never before in their working lives.
Across Europe as a whole the picture is a similar one. Over three quarters (78%) of European employees ranked leave and flexible working on a similar priority level as salary. The key takeaway for businesses? The value of flexibility needs to be reflected in benefits packages; something businesses need to take into account to ensure competitive edge as skills shortages and the war on talent continue to bite. It's a whole new state of play that's going nowhere fast but what lies behind it and what should businesses be actioning right now to deliver on demand effectively?
Paving the way for a digital future
Today's new breed of employee is astute, savvier than ever and they arrive into the workforce knowing exactly what they want and what their red lines are. Leave and flexible working now rival salary on a worker's wishlist so the benefits and value employees increasingly attach to their time is something they expect to see reflected across their employer's operations.
Businesses who fail to lean into the trend and deliver on the demand run the risk of high turnover and will eventually lose top talent. It's against this backdrop that businesses are pivoting their offering with staff retention the name of the game.
Leading the fight for flexibility and improved digital systems is the latest group of employees to enter the employment pool, Gen Z. This new generation have begun their careers as ‘tech natives', making them a vital asset to any organisation, yet they have their own set of workplace needs. They desire the same level of technical freedom that they experience at home, at work, making it unsurprising that our research found half of today's young workforce crave better digitalisation at work when it comes to HR processes - such as streamlined digital holiday bookings or absent requests, for example.
Unlike the generations before them, Gen Z employees - and many millennials - do not carry the same loyalty values to an employer like the baby boomers and Generation X once did. Simply put, if the needs of today's employees aren't met, employees will leave in search for a better workplace flexibility and freedom. In today's tough recruitment landscape, this is talent that organisations can't afford to lose.
Implementing technology with ease and speed
The first step businesses need to take when ramping up efforts towards flexibility lies in evaluating workplace technology. Too often businesses are burdened by outdated manual systems that are time consuming and frustrating for the average employee to use. The modern employee has outgrown these systems and craves convenience and the ability to book holiday leave through seamless systems which are quick and easy to use from any device, anywhere.
However, the old rules are being thrown out at speed to such an extent that the UK is at the helm of digital transformation in HR. A record 68% of British companies are investing in digital HR solutions. The fast-rising adoption of this tech now puts the UK in pole position in HR technology compared with Europe as a whole (60%).
We're seeing a whole new business emphasis on optimising the digital work environment in order to promote productivity and deliver on worker wellbeing. This sits alongside the urgent need to rise to new tech standards and demand from digital-native workforces.
Putting power in the hands of your people
By putting the power back into employees' hands - through workforce management apps available on staff's devices - businesses are essentially cutting out the ‘HR middleman'. They can remove the need for employees to burden HR with information and administration requests that clog up HR's inbox and distract them from delivering more value-adding activities where their expertise is truly needed. These tools present great opportunities to provide staff with increased flexibility and workplace freedom, giving employees a better employee experience, but they also enable HR teams more time to focus on complex employee needs - such as managing and protecting staff from burnout.
In today's employment landscape being able to adapt to changing employee needs seamlessly must be a business imperative. Against a backdrop of ongoing labour and skills shortages, the war for talent continues to clamp down hard on business operations. The bottom line? Businesses need to be able to meet the demands and expectations of the modern workforce or risk losing top talent. The key to this lies in shifting business priorities to become ‘people centric', with organisations investing in applications that benefit individual employees which in turn leads to increased productivity and better business outcomes.
When it comes to attracting, retaining and supporting staff through implementing tech solutions the possibilities are endless. Whether leaning into automation to help boost training and development, collaboration and teamwork, or to improve employee wellbeing, it is clear that technology is key to rising to the standard that employees expect to see across all aspects of their working life.
Yet despite its benefits it's important to remember that not every employee is a digital native, so whilst such tech has the potential to assist employees in their day-to-day, without proper training and education staff won't be able to reap the benefits of such technology. Let's make sure we deliver proper training and let's not forget the importance of the human touch where it works. It's vital that we plan for a future where we make HR tech work for everyone at every level of a business, wherever and however they choose to work today.