Mike Calvert is Principal Officer of the Colleague Representative Forum, Royal London.

Mike has been an employee representative for 18 years and worked with Royal London to transform their staff representation model with the formation of the Colleague Representative Forum (CRF) of which he is now the Principal Officer. The CRG engages with the business at every level to support colleagues and improve the experience for everyone that works for Royal London.

Like many organisations, Royal London went through several transformations during the covid pandemic, and recruited 20% of the current head count during that time. Based on his experiences, Mike gives his view on one of the features of the labour market currently challenging UK organisations – the so-called Great Resignation.


I attended the IPA Employee Representatives Hub Meeting on 5 July 2022 when IPA director, Nita Clarke, talked about the Great Resignation and how it was affecting various aspects of our working lives - from short term additional pressure on people caused by a lack of staff, to a longer-term knowledge exodus which can have a negative effect on an organisation in the years to come. 

There can be little doubt that the Covid19 pandemic, and the two years of working from home that resulted from it, has brought many challenges as well as opportunities for UK businesses. Recent studies suggest that almost a fifth of UK workers expect to leave their current job for a new employer in the next 12 months in order to seek better pay and job satisfaction and 27% of UK workers plan to ask their employer for more money in the next 12 months.

Understanding the great resignation

With these statistics in mind, it is understandable that much has been made of the Great Resignation. Shifts in people’s priorities post-pandemic are leading them to choose career and/or lifestyle changes as a way of stepping out of the rat race of the daily commute and spending more time at home. I have also observed other aspects of the Great Resignation.

As the economy recovered in the first half of 2022, job hunters had an increased choice of employers and opportunities to improve their role and conditions. This led to pressure on recruitment, especially for lower paid roles. A direct impact has been to force an increase in the base salary offering, but this can have a negative knock-on effect on established colleagues who feel undervalued. Whether these colleagues remain in role, but lack engagement, or seek alternative opportunities elsewhere, the financial implications of such a scenario can be massive, given the potentially high number of lower grade roles in a large organisation.  Although recent developments with sharp increases in the cost of living, the war in Ukraine, and a forecast recession potentially creating redundancies across the UK may mean that this job seekers market will change.

Hybrid working

The rise of hybrid working has been a boon for many, and of great concern for others. At Royal London the Colleague Representative Forum played a key role in bringing colleague voice to the fore as the approach to hybrid working was developed. The approach continues to evolve and is working well in some areas. We continue to work closely with the business to capture the learning and shape the proposition as it develops.

It seems likely that for many businesses in the financial sector hybrid working is here to stay. I believe that this is a key time for colleague representation to be at the forefront where there are still decisions to be made, and a variety of options are available. Getting colleague voice into these discussions is key.

There are a few niche skillset areas where recruitment is highly competitive and permanent home working has now become the expectation of these employees. This has led to organisations having to be flexible in their approach and allow permanent home working for some specific roles. Not all organisations have done so, and some have adopted hybrid working policies that neither satisfy the business or the employees.

Management culture

Finally, new management appointments are often cited as a direct cause of employee attrition, particularly where staff feel that the established organisational culture has been lost. It has always been the case that managers are one of the key reasons behind resignations, but it is not something that can be ignored. It has never been more important to ensure that managers have the skills to engage and nurture an organisation’s talent.

Retaining talent through innovation

Organisations should now focus on improving internal mobility in order to accelerate productivity and the performance of existing talent. This will involve the movement of employees (vertically and laterally) to new career and development opportunities within the organisation, including promotions or the opportunity to step down a level, creation of new job roles, mentorships, cross-team working or taking on new projects, job shadowing, and job swaps. If companies fail to innovate in this way, they will suffer the dual effects of limiting careers within a company, as well as losing key talent and unnecessarily increasing recruitment costs.

As businesses and employees adapt to the various incarnations of hybrid working, there is little doubt in my view that this is the biggest change to working lives since the Industrial Revolution. As such, no organisation should underestimate the impact and challenges that such a significant change brings with it, or the value of bringing colleague voice into the discussion before the final decisions are made.

Mike Calvert is the Principal Officer of the Colleague Representative Forum at Royal London.

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