The pandemic’s impact on workplaces across Europe—including an abrupt shift to working from home—and the continuing adoption of automation and new workplace technologies have given employees and their employers a great deal to consider as they build for the future.
New research from Workday, in partnership with Yonder, reveals that European workers are prioritising skills development and new opportunities as they seek to bounce back from the pandemic and bolster their career growth. The research, “The Employee Outlook: Understanding Employee Sentiment and Priorities Across Europe,” surveyed over 17,000 workers in nine European markets to better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their careers.
Employees’ priorities aren’t surprising. Our research found that almost half of all workers aged 18–34 feel opportunities to gain new responsibilities and skills were reduced in 2020. In Italy, Spain, and the UK, almost half feel they have lost out on career-defining opportunities. Germany fared a bit better, with one-quarter of respondents saying their careers have experienced the same negative impact.
All of this is against a backdrop of the pandemic’s impact on the job market. As an example, in the second quarter of 2020, the pandemic led to the sharpest contraction on record of employment and total hours worked in the European labour market. There were 5.2 million fewer people employed in that quarter than at the end of 2019, a fall of 3.2%. And while the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions in Europe will slowly see rising employment levels, as they did following the 2008 financial crisis, attention has now turned to the future workforce to ensure both businesses and their employees are not left behind.
Employees Keep Options Open—Despite Trust in Leadership
In this challenging jobs market, not all unemployed respondents intend to be proactive in their search. One in four respondents plan to re-enter the job market in the next 12 months, and are looking for opportunities with better career development, a more interesting role, and an improved salary.
In a separate report, McKinsey authors state that, “the COVID-19 crisis ended years of strong employment growth marked by greater mobility. The crisis put up to 59 million European jobs, or 26% of the total, at risk in the short term, through reductions in hours or pay, furloughs, and permanent layoffs.”
Just three in 10 respondents to our survey believe they will receive a pay raise in the next year. Those in Italy and Spain are the least hopeful with only 23% and 18%, respectively, believing they will be in line for a salary increase. Yet in Sweden, over half of respondents believe their salary will rise. Across all countries, a competitive salary is the most motivating factor when workers search for new roles, with 54% of respondents saying they would not be willing to reduce their salary for more flexible working conditions.
Employees’ willingness to consider other opportunities comes despite an apparent trust in their leaders. To benchmark employees’ perceptions of the performance of their leaders, the research team conducted a factor analysis. Using data collected from 13 agreement statements, they were able to unite these different attributes into one metric—the Leadership Index Score—which measures how employees feel about the performance of their leadership team. It showed leaders in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the UK were viewed more favourably by employees than other European countries covered in the survey.
In countries where leadership performance was above average (Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the UK), employees were more likely to understand the role they play in the future of the organisation (65%, 64%, 63%, and 62%, respectively). Leaders in the UK and the Netherlands were rated the most empathetic by their employees (64% and 63%, respectively), while leaders in Germany (53%), the Netherlands (55%), and Switzerland (54%) were considered the best at managing change.