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The Great Resignation: Why the battle for talent sees retail staff come out on top

A new report by stakeholder intelligence firm alva has revealed the biggest winners and losers from the last three years when it comes to positive employer and employee sentiment in the UK.

As the UK begins to climb out from the pandemic and find a new way forward, retail workers have emerged as the biggest winners overall when it comes to positive employee sentiment. The data further reveals that the banking sector scored the lowest in sentiment scores for the last two years, with scores plummeting drastically across the sector in 2022.

Amid the backdrop of The Great Resignation, alva’s Stakeholder Intelligence Index: Employment report identifies the top drivers of sentiment amongst employees and employers, quantifying what talent really cares about in the companies they are – and could be – working for. alva analysed sentiment activity in six key employment areas in the UK: telecoms, retail, utilities, professional services, banking and defence. The data spanned pre pandemic analysis from November 2019 to date, enabling alva to quantify the sentiment levels across the six key employment areas from 2020 – 2022.

The three year tracking data has been analysed using alva’s own stakeholder sentiment methodology including millions of media content pieces across traditional and social media, NGO reports and regulatory data. The dataset is analysed using alva’s NLP sentiment scoring methodology. alva’s scores are ranked between -100 and 100.

Winners and losers

The insight reveals that retail workers have risen in positive sentiment activity continuously over the last three years, rising from +27 on alva’s sentiment scale in 2020 to +43 in 2021 and +59 in 2022. With the likes of major brands such as Aldi and Lidl creating new supermarkets across the UK resulting in the creation of up to 4,000 jobs, such retail expansions inject positivity into the sentiment analysis, meaning retail workers have taken the top spot in 2021 and 2022 when it comes to positive sentiment.

This is in stark contrast to the banking sector that ranked at number 4 in 2020 with a sentiment of score of +24 before falling to the bottom of the leaderboard with a score of -24 in 2021 and then further decline in 2022 to -48 – the lowest score across any sector over the last three years. Banking therefore currently ranks as the sector with the least positive employee sentiment in 2022 according to alva’s data and analysis.

Table: UK sector rankings and sentiment scores from 2020 – 2022
2020 sectors and rankings 2020 sentiment score 2021 sectors and rankings 2021 sentiment score 2022 sectors and rankings 2022 sentiment score
1 Telecoms 32 1 Retail 43 (+16) 1 Retail 59 (+16)
2 Retail 27 2 Utilities 40 (+13) 2 Defence 40 (+13)
2= Utilities 27 3 Telecoms 28 (-4) 3 Utilities 34 (-6)
3 Professional Services 25 4 Defence 27 (+7) 4 Telecoms -4 (-32)
4 Banking 24 5 Professional Services 25 (-) 5 Professional Services -12 (-36)
5 Defence 21 6 Banking 24 (-) 6 Banking -24 (-48)
Source: alva data from November 2019 to date

Employer concerns for 2022

Further analysis of the top drivers of sentiment amongst employees and employers in 2022 indicate that the impact of Covid-19 and The Great Resignation has created a seismic shift across the UK employment landscape. Against a wider backdrop of growing worker confidence and job openings rising to hit a new record high of 1.29 million in the three months to March3, the analysis indicates that key areas of employer concern in 2022 are likely to be:

• Employee power shift: The general increase in flexibility, compensation, and overall satisfaction through wellbeing at work reflects the balance of power shifting away from employers as Covid-19 rewrites the rulebook on the expectations of workers.

• Threats of industrial action: Discussion of industrial action has increased in the UK in 2022 as workers demand more favourable conditions

• Employee activism and unity: Particularly in the case of Amazon, coordinated activism between international unions around Black Friday builds a more unified voice, with employees’ attempts to unionise highly visible in 2022

• Job creation: Job creation and job losses are a key talking point for 2022 (overtaking remote working as the key topic in 2021), generating the highest positive impact, with employee pay also remaining consistently high throughout the study period.

Alberto Lopez Valenzuela, founder and CEO, alva, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has created one of the biggest employment shifts in history, and retail workers in particular have played a huge role in the last two years, with many being crucial key workers.

“The UK job market is at a unique crossroads where demand is out stripping supply, and as The Great Resignation has shown, workers are no longer afraid to up sticks and leave or be quite selective about where they work, because choice is very much on their side.”

He added: “This coupled with positive retail news such as wage increases in the sector and supermarket expansions by the lies of Lidl and Aldi, we are seeing a clear picture that shows retail workers very much in pole position over the last two years when it comes to positive employment sentiment. They are miles ahead of other sectors and this doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.

“What we know is this – employers need to listen to what is happening, what employees are asking for and what their drivers are if they want to hang on to their top talent – or risk them walking out the door. Similarly, we are seeing a rise in industrial action across different sectors, and the rest of 2022 could easily see more of this happening. It has never been more important or more timely for employers to be in touch with the sentiment of the people they are trying to reach, and hold on to, the most.”

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