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Many members of the workforce have re-evaluated what they expect from employers during the pandemic. After a period in which their work – and their willingness to make sacrifices – have been shown so overtly to be crucial for the success of their employers, many workers are now substantially less willing to settle for ‘business as usual.’ Due to this, job vacancies in the UK are reaching a record high, and attrition rates are also spiking.

The trend is effecting some sectors worse than others, though. According to a new report by stakeholder intelligence firm alva, 2022 is a year of change for employers as they try to hold on to top talent. With seven-in-ten employees feeling confident about shifting to a new job in the coming months – as job openings hit a record of 1.29 million – financial sector and professional services sector staff in particular are weighing up a change.

UK professional services sector sees second-lowest employee sentiment, behind banking

Data spanning pre-pandemic analysis from November 2019 to date enabled alva to quantify the sentiment levels across the six key employment areas in the last two years. These were telecoms, retail, utilities, professional services, banking and defence.

Surprisingly, considering the pressures they were under during the height of the pandemic, retail workers have emerged as the biggest winners overall when it comes to positive employee sentiment. 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. This has seen the sector rise from +27 on alva’s sentiment scale in 2020 to +43 in 2021 and +59 in 2022.

In contrast, both workers in banking and professional services saw sentiment stagnate in the first year of the pandemic – before enduring a dramatic drop leading to 2022. While professional services firms saw a smaller drop of 36 points, compared to 48 points, that is unlikely to provide much solace to managers worried that they may be about to lose top talent from their firms.

While alva could not state definitively what the route for the falls in sentiment across banking and professional services might be, researchers suggested that it might have been due to a lack of change. According to Alberto Lopez Valenzuela, CEO of alva, employees in other sectors have been “energised by the wider improvement in employee wellbeing and work flexibility that the pandemic has created for them” – and an inability to provide such opportunities in banking or professional services could be seeing sentiment plummet.

Lopez Valenzuela added, “They have become more confident in having their grievances heard and stating exactly what they want and what they expect from their employers, and they have no problem with walking away from an employer now if they feel that they aren’t getting what they deserve and believe to be fair. Choice is definitely on the side of the employee right now. 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.”