How to attract and retain top talent in the current market
We recently hosted a series of roundtables discussing retention trends, changes and actions for 2023 following on from the survey we released at the end of last year.
Each roundtable started with a brief analysis of the challenges and pain points seen around retention. Unsurprisingly, many of the challenges mirrored one another yet were neatly dissected across industries or company sizes. The main challenges discussed have been detailed below.
Balancing the generational gap:
Balancing the generational gap was at the epicentre of many of the difficulties HR are facing, particularly emphasised by well-established organisations with long-tenured employees. The demands and attractions for different age groups are often very conflicting and creating a unified, company-wide policy has proved challenging and inevitably controversial or insufficient for at least one generational group. An industry-agnostic approach that has proved effective has been to take an educational approach to Senior Leadership Team (SLT) conversations, share insights on the importance of transparency around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, or flexible work to attract or retain different age groups to help convey how policies are helping to drive business goals. Indeed, in an economic climate with increased pressure on organisations to tighten their purse strings, there is an emphasis on presenting data to business leaders that justifies the need for more creative, and often unprecedented, policies.
The increased emphasis on culture as a prerequisite for retention was almost unanimously agreed across each event. Ensuring that ‘culture’ is not created as a unified concept derived from one person or a small group’s unconscious bias, but should be a fluid concept and notion is crucial for grasping a feeling of belongingness which captures a more diverse net. Indeed, walking the talk on belongingness from flexible working policies, meeting arrangements and alternative social engagements is key and has proven successful for many organisations who attended. Please go to our website to view our article discussing the shift in DEI to include belongingness and what it means to an organisation which was the focus of a previous roundtable.
The need for surveys in some form was noted by all in attendance. However, the most effective use for employee retention and employer activity varied hugely, often dependent on the size of the company and the technology available to them.
Indeed, there was a divided conversation around the anonymity of feedback: By championing named feedback, are businesses creating an environment of psychological safety? Or does anonymity facilitate more honest feedback that employers can, in turn, use to identify key areas for concern and act accordingly?
A number of newly established survey systems which cater to smaller firms were shared over the series. In one instance, employees are sent one question each week on a ‘feedback Friday’ which they can answer on an app during their commute or lunch break and collates the data. This provides a simple identification of company feeling around specific areas and culture satisfaction but is an appropriate investment for a small to medium-sized firm. Having surveys on mobile apps has also proven successful with remote or global companies where other avenues of gathering data can prove timely.
The frequency and style of surveys will always vary depending on, among other factors, the geographical distribution of employees, average age and company size. Yet, however engagement surveys are completed, they are only effective with sufficient and clear communication from leadership on the areas they have identified as concerns and transparency on what they will commit to changing. Ensuring voices are genuinely being heard is crucial and indeed employees will grow increasingly apathetic if they don’t see any satisfactory outcomes from their feedback. For larger firms, communicating the changes through catch ups with line managers has proven a successful way of ensuring employees feel heard.
Mentorship and/or sponsorship has been seen as a facilitator for retention and development for years, however, the term mutual mentorship was certainly an interesting and, for many, a new dissection of the traditional mentorship framework. Mutual Mentorship, or reverse mentorship, is a relationship that is averse to the typical mentor and mentee roles with a loose agenda being set to ensure both the traditional mentee and mentor have the ability to listen and teach to create a mutual growth. This allows a further channel for personal development, learning from the wisdom of those who have been through the process, and also adds the extra development opportunity with leadership experience. Many testified to the process as additionally being a useful platform in educating more senior employees on the challenges or driving factors for more junior staff that can be used to balance the generational gap and also create a broader foundation for areas such as belongingness.
Flexibility Vs Hybrid:
Since the pandemic, hybrid working has undoubtedly been a perpetual topic of conversation. Considering this, it is perhaps surprising that debates around hybrid structures and flexible working policies are still so prevalent and continue to be a difficult area to navigate for HR. Throughout our roundtable series, the dichotomy between flexible working and hybrid working was well understood and, generally, the need for flexibility in retention, attraction and productivity was emphasised. Nevertheless, there was a commonality with professionals from larger and more established firms – especially with SLTs of lengthy tenure - that explaining to those at the top that a strict hybrid structure did not constitute a flexible working model was still proving challenging. Indeed, having to create umbrella policies which enable a clear company direction and align with business goals yet provide individual allowances is inevitably controversial. Those who had managed to establish flexible precedents found the most effective tool was adding a blurb to emails that mentions ‘I work when suits me, please reply when is best for you’. A work-life balance is not necessarily the 9-5 dream of the 1950s and it seems that modelling work on productivity and output rather than hours is an effective way of ensuring the policy is still aligned with business goals.
Show it off:
The talent attraction piece is crucial, especially now more so than ever when economic disruptions and the current cost of living crisis are driving salary demands in markets whilst organisations are looking to tighten their pockets. Moreover, the demands for transparency around DEI, flexibility, and culture from Millennials and Gen-Z are unprecedented and have driven the need for creative benefits that cater to these aspects, rather than a purely compensational focus. However, what became apparent throughout the series is that whilst many companies had exceptional benefits around working hours, family leave policies and formalised mentor programmes, there is a lack of current investment in promoting these benefits to attract the best candidates. Moreover, larger organisations can no longer rely on their name in the war for talent as candidates will take the reviews on Glassdoor and LinkedIn at a greater value.
Despite all of this, one must acknowledge that whilst improving retention is a goal all firms strive for, an objective of 100% retention is neither realistic nor appropriate. Indeed, a certain discrepancy for fluidity and change should be accounted for and encouraged to drive innovation and positive disruption for the company and industry holistically and, consequently, succeed long term.
Should you wish to be involved in future discussions at one of our Roundtable events, or perhaps you are looking for a new role or in need of support with your next hire, please get in contact with us on firstname.lastname@example.org.