Employee engagement lies at the centre of regional recovery

June 2021

Vanessa Lee, is a Tax Partner based in our Leeds office. She discusses the latest Rethinking the Economy survey, and the crucial role employees play in business and wider societal recovery. 

The future of the working environment is a much talked about topic. Businesses across Yorkshire are gearing up for new ways of working in a bid to recover from the effects of the global pandemic.

In fact, nearly half of Yorkshire businesses (42%) plan to create permanent remote roles, with more than a quarter (26%) also intending to adapt their office space. What’s more, the same number of businesses are looking to introduce agile working on a permanent basis.

These are some of the latest insights from our Rethinking the Economy survey of 500 mid-sized businesses which show the changing face of workplaces across the region as offices begin to reopen.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the people factor that remains front and centre of plans for growth and recovery – whether that’s recruitment, retention or productivity.

These are all core challenges for regional business leaders with the number one concern being the ability to access the right talent and a reduction in productivity as a result of more remote working coming a close second.

Aligned with this is also the need to find new ways to maintain the core culture of organisations. This is especially pertinent for people who have moved roles during lockdown as lateral hires and crucially for future talent of all firms. Both of these groups have made the challenging transition from one workplace to another or from education to the work environment during the pandemic. The opportunity for business leaders is to rethink the ways they can support people through these moves and ensure they feel well-connected and buy into the culture they have joined.

Employee engagement

There’s little doubt that the questions posed by the pandemic, in relation to the workplace, provide both opportunities and challenges in equal measures. The clear focus on the skills and training of existing staff as well initiatives to support employee wellbeing indicate a strong desire by Yorkshire companies to create an environment for people to prosper and grow.

The intention is to protect those within the business while attempting to attract the best talent through enriched schemes and programmes that offer people more than just the traditional 9 to 5.

One area that’s proved to be hugely successful at BDO is our 5+5 Citizenship Programme. This gives employees 10 days paid leave each year to fundraise, volunteer or take part in team building days. They can also find opportunities to use their professional skillset to make a real difference.

I’ve been volunteering throughout my professional career but it’s initiatives such as these that help to unlock the potential that exists in so many businesses. They encourage people to recognise the professional value they can bring to a whole host of organisations – whether that’s by becoming a Trustee of a charity, working on a big societal challenge or supporting young people in education and providing them with the confidence to be the best they can be.

Making a difference

The last 12 months have taught us that together we can make a real difference. The key is removing barriers and making volunteering part of our everyday working life. Last year, my BDO colleagues spent 9,500 hours volunteering in their local communities as a result of the 5+5 Citizenship Programme. Those hours not only matter to employees, but the people they’re spending them with.

One area that’s been of particular focus for me in the last four years is The Prince’s Trust, where I am a member of the Regional Development Committee in Yorkshire and Humber. Seeing the direct impact of instilling personal belief and confidence in young individuals who have often faced immense personal challenges is hugely rewarding.

The impact of COVID-19 is such that there are more young adults than ever in need of The Prince’s Trust’s help. However, like so many organisations and charities, revenue streams have been severely reduced over the last 12 months and it has been essential to be more agile about engaging with supporters.

You can read more about our Unifying Culture initiatives here.

Social mobility

Interestingly, statistics from our Rethinking the Economy survey shows that business leaders believe investment in youth employment, upskilling and social mobility programmes will help to boost economic recovery in the region – a finding that I wholeheartedly agree with.

Key to this is the important part that business leaders have to play in facilitating employer-supported and skilled volunteering and enabling employees to incorporate volunteering into their working life. Without the structure and emphasis, we risk losing significant potential for the benefit of vulnerable and in-need individuals.

What’s clear from our latest survey is that investing in employee initiatives – whether that’s training and skills, or wellbeing – will have very tangible benefits across the board, with vital knock-on effects to the wider society. This will be hugely important as we all work together on the road to recovery.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues in the blog, please contact me. You can also subscribe for more regional news.


Read more Yorkshire and North East business insights

Read more



Register for upcoming online events.


Meet the team

Speak to local experts in Leeds.

BDO Leeds