Nearly a third of employees will look for a new job between January and June this year, which is 9.4 million workers across the UK[1].

The recruitment agency Robert Half is warning businesses to brace themselves for the talent exodus, as its data shows that the impact of the ‘Great Resignation’ continues to hit hard. 


Regional data shows London most at risk

Businesses in London (54%) and the South East of England (32%) are at the highest risk, with employees in the North East the least likely to consider making a move (19%).

Analysis of Robert Half’s internal data shows that applications have surged in Q1 for the past five years[2] with early analysis of this year looking quite similar. Nearly a quarter of workers (23%) are expected to begin a new job search in the next three months – with data suggesting that the uptick usually begins in the third week of January. 

Matt Weston, UK Managing Director at Robert Half, said: “While we always experience a sharp increase in job applications at the start of each year, we are anticipating unprecedented levels of UK workers looking for a new job this year. Despite an uptick in the number of employees looking for a new role, demand from employers will still outstrip supply – placing the cards firmly in the hands of candidates. “


Better to retain staff

Many employers are already short staffed – there are currently 1.2 million vacancies in the UK[3] – and Robert Half warns the competitive market means it will be difficult and expensive to replace outgoing team members. With this in mind, it says business leaders should do all they can to retain existing staff. 

Around two fifths (42%) of workers seeking new employment are looking for a higher salary, but money is not the only factor to consider. Aside from pay increases, employers may be able to retain staff by focusing on career opportunities and benefits, which are triggers for 25% and 21% of jobseekers respectively.

Mr Weston adds: “Competition for top talent is fierce, with salaries for some roles jumping by as much as 30 per cent in the past year alone, so replacing top talent will certainly not be cheap or easy. Employers need to pull out all the stops to retain skilled workers and understanding employees’ motivations is a crucial first step, as it enables employers to take effective action.” 

The option to work with a hybrid model during the pandemic has risen and stayed after the lockdowns. 24 percent of those looking for a new role say they want more flexibility in their working arrangements on a permanent basis. Across all employees, three quarters (76%) agree that access to flexible working hours is essential if employers want to be able to both retain and attract talent.

However, being unsatisfied with their pay,  opportunities and working arrangements are not the only push factors for employees. 

Since the lockdowns, 23 percent of job-seekers say they have re-evaluated priorities, with more than one in five (22%) saying they want to move into an entirely different field.

Robert Half’s 2022 Salary Guide also showed that more than half of businesses already expected recruitment to become more of a challenge this year with the talent solutions consultancy urging employers to focus on retention.

The company has developed five tips for employers looking to retain their top talent: 

  1.     Be flexible on working conditions. Candidates know what they want from their work environment, and if they are determined to work from home, they will likely look for a new role to accommodate that benefit.
  1.     Offer clear career progression. When it comes to their career, employees are no longer willing to wait for promotions and pay increases and will move on in search of faster career progression. 
  1.     Focus on mental health and wellbeing. Thanks to the pandemic and the associated growing levels of stress and burnout, people are now looking for additional support in the workplace.
  1.     Invest in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives. In today’s climate conscious society, many UK workers want their employers to take more action on ESG and would be more willing to work for businesses with good credentials.
  1.     Offer a competitive salary and benefits package. In many cases, money talks and employers must ensure that their top talent receives a fair salary and benefits package compared to their industry peers. Doing so will allow businesses to keep roles filled, saving money and effort in the long run.


[1] ONS’ Labour Market Overview (December 2021) shows there were 29.4 million employees in the UK in November. If 32 per cent look for a new role, that is equivalent to 9.4 million people

[2] While normal candidate behaviour was disrupted last year due to the pandemic, there was an 80 per cent increase in job applications from December 2019 and January 2020, according to Robert Half’s internal data

[3] ONS’ Vacancies and jobs in the UK: December 2021