6 Tips to Help Employers to Attract and Retain Talent
Workplace dynamics have become more diverse and complex since the pandemic and as we prepare to exit the restraints of the crisis employers are increasingly noticing the effects of ‘the great resignation’.
What is the ‘great resignation you might ask and why is it relevant? A recent study for Microsoft indicated that 52% of young people (Generation Z and Millennial employees) confirmed that they were likely to consider changing jobs this year. 35% of Generation X employees and Baby Boomers are also thinking of changing jobs. One thing the great resignation has taught us is that job loyalty may well be a thing of the past. The effects of the great resignation are being felt by companies both large and small; the reason for this is that people are thinking differently about their life and their work. Employees are seeking a more fulfilling existence and are quite willing to walk away from a job that doesn’t meet their needs. Microsoft’s study highlighted several factors that employees consider very important when deciding on their job choice. These include:
- Positive workplace culture
- Wellbeing benefits and a focus on mental health
- A sense of purpose or meaning
- Flexibility with particular emphasis on working hours
- Generous paid annual leave and unpaid leave
This study and similar studies highlight that employees want to have more control over their working hours, the environment they work in, progression opportunities and health management.
There are many challenges that employers need to address as the trend towards ‘job hopping’ continues. Attracting staff in this climate may be problematic for small and medium-sized companies that don’t have the same access to incentives as larger companies or corporations. Staff retention may be challenging for companies of all sizes as the current job market is increasingly being driven by the preferences of the employee rather than the needs of the employer. Many employers are finding it difficult to adapt to this new way of thinking and find it challenging to envisage the adoption of new workplace practices such as flexible working hours, hybrid work, individualized plans and increased unpaid leave. For SMEs and non-profits, this may seem like an insurmountable hurdle, and it does seem like the larger companies will have more ‘buying power’ when it comes to attracting talent. This may be true on one level but there are things that employers can do to attract and retain talent thus converting their new hires into loyal employees.
Recognise the changing attitudes towards incentives and rewards
Ben Lerer CEO of Thrillist Media shared his thoughts on 21st Century employees – he states that “The people who work for you aren’t building a company for you, they are building it for themselves – they are the centre of their own Universe. Just because you are the CEO, doesn’t mean they are coming to work every day to make you happy. They want to be happy and it’s your job to keep them that way.” Don’t make the mistake of assuming that what worked well with earlier generations will be effective moving forward – we know this is not true. Managers & employers must leverage their knowledge of the modern workforce to get better results and therefore they must develop new and innovative ways to communicate with, and incentivise their employees.
Practice Situational Leadership
The ‘one size fits all’ approach just doesn’t work when managing the modern workforce – situational leadership is key. First introduced by Ken Blanchard in 1969 situational leadership means that managers and business owners need to modify their approach to leadership to suit an individual or a group in specific contexts. Leaders who adopt a situational approach to managing their people are much more likely to succeed as rigid fixed (command and control) leadership is a thing of the past.
Recognise the changing employee preferences as an opportunity rather than an obstacle
Leading your diverse workforce through this time of change will be challenging but it is also a vital opportunity. Facilitating the emerging preferences of employees is likely to create a surge in innovation and new thinking. Indeed, many of the clients that we work with are reporting upward surges in productivity due to meeting the demands from employees for flexibility and hybrid working conditions. By embracing the transition towards new work practices employers will have a fully engaged workforce which will in the longer term give them a cutting edge advantage as they seek to capture new and expanding markets in a digital/knowledge economy.
Communicate Purpose – let your business mission, values and vision set the tone to attract talent, and encourage and develop your employees.
This point is not new for instance a KPMG 2015 report stated that “Having leaders talk about purposeful work had a significant impact on their employees’ sense of company pride and work satisfaction. This report highlighted that employers whose leaders emphasised ‘purpose’ were more likely to retain employees than those employers who did not promote their purpose. Modern thought leaders and authors like Simon Sinek have founded their life’s work on this premise. Sinek authored a bestselling book entitled ‘Start with Why’ which emphasises the need for leaders to communicate to employees the ‘why’ of an organisation which is essentially their ‘reason for being’.
We should be moving towards hyper-personalisation of our employees
Driven by the preferences of the Millennial generation hyper-personalisation means offering employees greater choice over the things that matter to them, for instance, incentives/benefits, work location, time out, and even the devices that they use to do their work. LinkedIn’s Pat Wadors frames this very nicely when she talks about Millennials in the workplace, she states that “They are used to being empowered to choose their own destiny and when they come into the workplace, they want to choose what they work on, how they get paid, the device they use, and where, when and how they work.” This has become even more relevant since the pandemic where people found new ways to work away from the hustle & bustle of city life; many are reluctant to revert to their pre-pandemic work life. Listen to what your employees are saying & remember that 75% of the workforce will be Millennials by 2025 – their voice is loud!
Identify a range of Motivators & Set Realistic Expectations
It is important to set realistic and achievable expectations from the outset. Don’t over-promise as this will backfire quickly causing the employee to become dissatisfied. Identify a range of motivators (other than financial) that you can realistically deliver that employees will find attractive. Think of innovative rewards and recognition and remain consistent. Don’t for instance introduce a reward system unless you are fully engaged and, in a position, to deliver on an ongoing basis. Remember the purpose of this is to validate and reward employee effort – financial packages and bonuses are not always successful in this regard. It may be hard to believe but many employees will favour recognition and job satisfaction over financial incentives. Patagonia is a large company that offers its employees some amazing incentives. Dean Carter their human resources VP listed some of these in an article I read recently. He states that they offer the opportunity for employees to tailor the incentives to their personal or professional needs. Some examples include:
- ‘When the surf’s up go surf’ – offers flexible working conditions around the employees’ outside interests
- After one year in employment, employees can request up to two months’ leave for volunteering
- Close the office on Fridays
- Onsite-creche – they say parenting is 24/7 so they accommodate parents to bring their children to work
So how can smaller companies match this type of competition for talent? The focus of your efforts should be to personalise the incentive and validate employees at all levels. It may be difficult to believe but even a modest gesture may have a lasting impression on your employees. Here are some examples that were highlighted in a Gallup study:
- Public recognition or acknowledgement i.e receipt of an award, certificate or commendation from superiors
- Private feedback and/or recognition from a manager, supervisor or a customer
- Acknowledgement of a high level of achievement through employee evaluations or annual reviews
- A promotion or increase in the scope of responsibility that demonstrates an employer’s trust in the employee
- Monetary value award such as a trip, or prize (Recently an employee mentioned to me that he would consider a ‘Netflix’ or an ‘Amazon voucher as a recognised incentive).
- Personal satisfaction or pride in their work
In summary, employers need to adopt a growth mindset when planning for existing and hiring new employees. Understand the changing preferences of employees and respond in a manner and scale that matches the size of your business. Don’t over-promise but equally don’t overstretch your resources – be realistic and open in your dialogue with new and existing employees. Listen to the voice of employees and reassure them that their voice is welcome and is heard. Amplify your mission and values – this should result in attracting like-minded individuals to your business. Small and medium-sized businesses shouldn’t try to compete with companies like Patagonia, Airbnb, Google & Facebook where employee incentives are highly publicised. Instead, be creative and make a list of all the ways your company can attract, reward, and retain employees moving forward.
If you would like to learn more about our workplace communications workshops you can visit our website at https://www.newlinkstraining.com or if you would like to schedule a consultation please feel free to contact me on 086 3897409.
Janet Tumulty 30th May 2022