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Employees considering career change after furlough

Over half (51%) of furloughed UK employees are considering a career change, according to new research by IT management company NTT DATA UK.

Uncertainty around job security has driven the change, as 60% of respondents said they feared they will not have a job to go back to once the furlough scheme ends.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on the career paths of workers, as 13% of respondents are actively reskilling to change careers.

Pam Chase, senior HR director at IT company NTT DATA UK, told HR magazine the law has allowed employees to take part in training even while furloughed.

She said: "HR is therefore needed to communicate this opportunity to workers, driving home the message that the employer is still committed to developing the worker’s career.

"Any discussion of a career change should be handled with sensitivity, helping workers consider all options available to them internally before considering whether to start the process of an external move.”

Being on the furlough scheme for a long time was highlighted as the reason people are considering a career change.

Those furloughed in the hospitality industry (64%) were found to be most actively considering a career change with 17% are actively using their time to reskill in order to change careers.

In contrast, sectors such as the civil service and government and the financial services industry had higher levels of employee reliability, with 71% and 60% of furloughed workers planning to stay, respectively.

Gael Norris, chief people and culture officer at software company GetBusy, said HR has to make employees feel valued members of the team whilst on furlough, so that they don't feel neglected.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: "HR teams need to keep the flow of communication going, even when there’s little to say. 

"Regular communication at this time is key, it’s good for the employee to know that you are still thinking of them and you can also use the time to remind the employee that they still have access to the employee assistance programme and any other benefits and services you supply."

Norris said furloughed employees should be updated with things happening within the business so that when they return to the office, they know what’s going on and feel included.

"It’s also good to talk to staff about returning to work when the time is right. Discuss the predicted timescales and any concerns the employee may have which will be only natural since they may have been out of the business for a few months. Concerns should be taken seriously and addressed in a timely manner."

Kate Palmer, HR advice director at Peninsula said it's not surprising that some employees are re-evaluating their careers and thinking about where they want to be post-pandemic.

She told HR magazine: "This could be for several reasons, for example, maybe they have learned a new skill whilst furloughed, which they now wish to utilise in a different role.

"Alternatively, perhaps they do not feel secure in their current position due to being furloughed and want to move on before they are made to."

Palmer said that whatever the reason, employers must be aware of this if they are concerned about potentially losing valued staff members just as they plan to reopen and consider ways to help convince staff considering leaving to stay.


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