A new report has revealed how the pandemic impacted employee engagement among the region’s best employers.

Pure Executive – the executive search division of recruitment specialists Pure – invited Dr Scarlett Brown to review and analyse the results from the Best Employers Eastern Region 2021 survey.

The Best Employers programme was founded by Pure and psychometrics experts Eras Ltd in 2012 – and is supported by Archant and law firm Birketts. It recognises employers that support the economic growth of the region through increased employee engagement.

Dr Brown, a policy adviser for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), noted many changes to employee engagement levels since 2018 – the last time the Best Employers survey was conducted.

The 2021 survey saw the ‘customer focus’ metric rise from a score of 8.37 to 8.54 (out of 10). Dr Brown said the rise shows there was an even greater emphasis on customer care among employers and employees last year – perhaps fuelled by pandemic pressure.

‘Clarity of vision’ also rose from 7.56 to 7.73, suggesting that “companies have invested time and effort in refining their business model amidst the pandemic.”

One area that saw a very small decrease in 2021 was ‘employee autonomy’ – which Dr Brown said could be explained by people feeling isolated or disconnected due to homeworking; unable to influence the direction of their company; micromanaged from afar while working from home; or powerless to implement their new ideas.

However, she added that none of these factors are insurmountable – or inevitable – when employees are working from home, and that autonomy remaining relatively stable is a great sign for employers in the Eastern region.

Staff development saw the largest increase in 2021 – rising from 6.87 to 7.05. Dr Brown noted that this increase was largely driven by medium-sized businesses, which can "adapt to changing circumstances quickly, without losing track of staff development goals.”

They also have access to training and development resources that are out of reach for smaller businesses – whereas investing in staff development may be harder for larger businesses that have more people to manage.

The motivation and teamwork metrics also saw slight increases in 2021 – suggesting a willingness to rise to the challenge of Covid-19 – while trust in businesses had a similar uplift. Organisational engagement rose from 7.33 to 7.44, with understanding of brand values and goals up from 7.90 to 8.11.

In light of the pandemic, employee and organisational wellbeing was surveyed for the first time in 2021. The rates of organisational wellbeing were slightly higher than those of personal wellbeing, across all company sizes and sectors.

Technology, engineering, healthcare, pharmaceutical and life sciences saw the highest rates of organisational wellbeing – possibly because these sectors experienced less disruption than others, said Dr Brown.

Scores for personal wellbeing dipped below 6.0 in some sectors, which could be attributed to the stresses of working during a pandemic. However, employees reported high personal engagement (8.11), showing that they are still dedicated to their workplaces and engaged with the work they do.

“The results of Best Employers 2021 show how leaders and organisations in our region continue to find new ways to engage with their people and teams as well as promote their brands,” said Lynn Walters, executive director at Pure Executive. “The pandemic was a catalyst for change for many organisations, and despite all the challenges, the results demonstrated the commitment of organisations to how they engage their people and create better workplaces.

“Since the survey, many of our clients have embraced the hybrid model of working very successfully – and in the current market, where good talented people are in high demand, there is no doubt that this approach is helping them to retain and recruit the best people,” Lynn added.

“There is strong evidence that hybrid working boosts engagement, and we encourage organisations to utilise this model where possible as we find the new equilibrium in our working lives.”

To read the Best Employers executive analysis in full, visit www.prs.uk.com/media/194500/best-employers-2021_-whitepaper.pdf