HRD Roundtable Report: The Future Talent Market: Reducing Resignation and Building Retention
The Future Talent Market: Reducing Resignation and Building Retention
The next phase of the talent market is unpredictable but early signs are pointing to a period of high turnover ahead – we may be in for ‘The Great Resignation’, as employees take the opportunity of a period of relative stability to leave their current roles. As the war for talent rages on, is your organisation prepared to lose some of your best talent? We can expect employers that have developed great cultures and strong engagement will come out strong, but how have these expectations changed over the last 18 months. What are the new drivers for retention?
This session was led by Meredith van Eeuwen, VP People & Culture, Sterling Check, alongside Dan Rogers, VP Product Strategy, Peakon, Workday.
The Great Resignation in reality – what are we seeing in the talent market?
There are no silver bullets to the challenges in the talent marketplace, but in order to tackle them at all, we need to understand the depth of the issue. We started by discussing how much of this Great Resignation the group is really seeing in their organisations, or is it being over-exaggerated? The unanimous feeling across participants is that it is very much real – one participant shared that their attrition rate since the beginning of the year has risen to around 31.8% across all the regions they operate in.
Another participant shared their slightly different challenge, in that although turnover has only just returned to pre-pandemic levels, they actually need to be growing. How do you grow when turnover is high and attraction is proving particularly difficult? When employees accept competing roles for as little difference as 20p an hour, how do you differentiate yourself in other ways? Understanding your offering in terms of flexibility, wfh etc will be a big factor here.
How do we hire moving forward? One delegate shared a need for a change in approach to the way they work with agencies. People aren’t necessarily actively looking for new roles in the usual places, but often rely on their relationship with a recruiter. For organisations, therefore the usual methods of reaching talent and standing out no longer apply. They now have to rely on the recruiter to recommend them and put them forward to their best talent.
And what about the global challenge. The idea of ‘work anywhere’ is filtering into the business landscape as a competitive differentiator for job seekers. How can we turn this to benefit organisations? The group discussed the opportunity in spreading the net – if we’re struggling to find the talent we need in the office location, let’s look further afield. One participant shared the success they’ve found in expanding their US criteria for example from the city that the office is located in, to the entire state.
Why do people leave?
Do organisations have a realistic grasp on why people leave their business? Employers often cite reasons like compensation, work life balance and wellbeing, whilst employees report not feeling valued, not belonging, and poor relationships with their managers. There’s no one reason for leaving, so organisations need to think about their employees as individuals. One size fits all and blanket policies will leave some people disconnected.
We discussed an example from Denmark where the government’s COVID response has been wound down, but many international employers are asking people to wear them in offices as part of their global policy. Does this actually make sense in a local context?
Similarly, we cannot assume what people want in terms of how they work. Some young people are keen to work in the office again because they live in shared housing, some older employees may have increased caring responsibilities that make the ability to work from home appealing. Assuming what employees want is a huge risk.
Although a lot of businesses have seen that productivity is possible with flexible working, it is often the leadership teams that want employees to return to the office. Workday report that up to 50% of people in sectors like Technology would be willing to leave their jobs if they will no longer be offered flexibility. Expecting full time office work is no longer competitive for talent.
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Can we make the office more attractive?
There is a whole year group of people now that have started their first jobs working from home, with their only interaction with the office being when they picked up their equipment. While some will welcome the opportunity to spend some time in the office, many will be now be so comfortable with working virtually that the transition may be difficult. Although they with have the technology skills, one of the things that is different about working from home is you can’t benchmark yourself against others so easily, as you are working in more isolation. Managers will play a large role in supporting new starters in adjusting and developing the right skills.
It’s important not to forget as well those that have been going into work throughout the pandemic. How do we make the workplace attractive and ensure they don’t feel inequality with their colleagues that can have more flexible working?
The role of leadership
Do we need to be more deliberate in our management processes for this new work environment? Previously much of management was in ‘walking the floor’ but this isn’t possible when not everyone is in the office. What processes do we need to put in place to replace this? How do we equip managers to manage in a different way?
The tone needs to be set from the top about what is valued for and by the business and avoid creating a presenteeism culture. Managers are the glue that hold organisations together, and the group agreed that they had tried to support them during the pandemic. However, it’s possible that we’re overloading managers with the initiatives, practice changes and increased expectations. Organisations need to really focus in for the right approach, to support employees and managers and give them connectivity.
Some of this is in the approach to performance management. One participant shared their shift to a more agile performance review, focussed around connected conversations. These are more regular touchpoints with employees to keep the connection strong and offer opportunity to review things like individual wellbeing. This was also reflected in another participant who has shifted the tone of their performance conversations to include wellbeing in both scheduled and day to day conversations.
The group also discussed how increased expectations have left managers feeling unable to make time for their usual touchpoints with employees. One participant shared some success in driving home to managers that touchpoints don’t have to be a scheduled video call (and some people may find that overbearing anyway!). It can be a short email to say well done, or a Teams or Slack message in the morning to remind that they’re available if needed. It can be in small interventions.
Connecting as an organisation
Recognition is important across the business, not just from leadership. How can we create appreciation cultures? One example was in creating thank you processes that encourage sharing of thanks in a structured way. In the office, this could look a simple as creating piles of thank you cards for people to share as and when needed. Recreating this digitally can create that feeling of connectedness and of being valued for your contribution.
Another example is in encouraging better meeting etiquette – why not spend the first few minutes of a 121 catching up on a personal level before getting into the more transactional content?
One participant described their approach to ‘middle distance’ plans – that is, creating stickiness for people for a few months at a time, with clear benefits to staying. For example, a three to four month learning programme with certification at the end. This works particularly well for youngers generations who might be looking to build up their CV. This also shows a commitment to investing in talent, which encourages retention.
The group also discussed the importance of involving employees in the decision making for the business moving forward, therefore encouraging them to be invested in the future of their role. There is of course practically a fine line here – if you ask, you must be prepared to work with the answer that’s given. Ignoring the outcomes of feedback is a great way to lose people quickly.
Finding opportunity for attraction
This is an important opportunity to re-evaluate the employee value proposition. There are various ways organisations are looking to do this already. One example relates to the employee feedback discussed above – what can we do to better tap into what people are telling us they want from work, to strengthen the psychological contract? How can we prove there is long term opportunity for growth?
One participant raised the importance of ending relationships on good terms. Emphasising that people will always move on, so organisations need to work on the closing relationship as well. How can we encourage people to stay in touch, be ambassadors and maybe even return to the organisation at a later date?
Another area to consider is how to be more thoughtful about how to connect with untapped talent. Perhaps there are community hubs locally that organisations can build relationships with? Are we making the best use of social media like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook? Are we thinking creatively about what the right skillset to hire looks like – does it have to be a certification or is proven experience enough to start?