Act quickly to tackle the talent exodus

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Written by Jamie Kohn on 28 October 2021 in Features
Features

With the rise of perks at work how can organisations stand out from others in the fight to retain and attract the best people? Jamie Kohn offers her advice

UK businesses have seen widespread employee turnover in recent months, leading 91% of HR leaders to cite turnover as a top concern in the immediate future. Organisations are embarking on post-lockdown hiring sprees, creating a great deal of opportunity for employees who are rethinking what they want out of a job.
 
The result has been fierce competition for businesses to both retain existing talent and fill their open roles. Gartner’s research shows that almost 50% of new hires over the last 12 months had turned down job offers from two other companies, demonstrating how favourable the market is for employees currently.
 
But underlying this steep competition is a fundamental shift in the employment deal – what employees are willing to give to their employers, and what they want in return. In 2022, business and HR leaders must make three key changes to become an employer of choice for high-quality talent moving into this new era. 
 
Wellbeing takes centre stage
In our 2021 Candidate Panel Survey1, it was found that the most important thing for all candidates was to find organisations that see them as a people, not just employees. Similarly, candidates prioritise organisations that care for their emotional and mental wellbeing, as well as their family life.
 
While candidates might accept a job with a massive compensation increase, they stay at organisations that support their well-being and life satisfaction
The turbulence of the last 18 months has caused people to re-evaluate what they want from their employer. Candidates today are quizzing businesses on how they helped their workers during COVID-19, what wellbeing benefits they have in place, and what strategies they deployed to make work more sustainable. While candidates might accept a job with a massive compensation increase, they stay at organisations that support their well-being and life satisfaction. Organisations must design and articulate a value proposition that shows how the organisation benefits employees’ lives, not just their work.
 
While it is difficult to cover every aspect of the employee experience, the good news for businesses is that staff reward them for their positive intentions. We’ve it’s been found that workforce health increases when benefits are available, regardless of whether employees use them. Organisations also have a lot of leverage – studies show that holistic well-being support can boost employee discretionary effort by 21%.
 
Flexibility is an expectation
Organisations must also rethink their flexibility practices. Many businesses relied on the flexibility of their workers to maintain operations during pandemic lockdowns, so the companies that choose to suddenly remove those flexible offerings risk showing a lack of appreciation and respect to staff.
 
During the pandemic, employees have become accustomed to balancing work around their day-to-day lives, often adjusting schedules or working from different locations to juggle childcare requirements, for example. Research shows that employees want to maintain this flexibility – after the first lockdown, 55% said that flexible policies would impact their decisions to stay.
 
Business leaders should be making efforts to maintain flexible practices as they manage the shift to hybrid working. However, this isn’t always easy. Recent research found that while 75% of leaders believe they maintain a culture of flexibility, only 57% of employees agree. This is because flexibility goes beyond official policies; it’s also about how leaders and managers put those policies into action.
 
Organisations should consult their staff about the approaches that work best for them i.e., which days they would prefer to be in the office. A ‘radical flexibility’ approach – where employees are given control over when, where, and how much they work – not only boosts happiness but also performance too.
 
Career growth expands beyond the role
Businesses also need to look at how they can evolve their job roles to give employees better access to skills and non-traditional career paths, tackling what is another post-pandemic trend. Research2 found that a staggering 62% of candidates have explored a career change in the last year. Many employees want to broaden their skillsets having seen or experienced the impact of mass furloughs and redundancies, while others want to access skills that now appear more prosperous. Some have simply paused to reflect during COVID and want to take their careers in a new direction.
 
Typically, workers struggle to make these changes at their existing employers due to factors such as rigid job structures and difficulties communicating with managers. Therefore, by facilitating internal mobility, organisations could make up significant ground in the talent war.
 
The first step for business leaders is to create greater visibility into internal career opportunities and skills gaps.  Organisations are using internal talent marketplace platforms to match employees to a variety of roles, hiring career coaches to inspire honest conversations, and putting in place development programmes to help staff strive for new opportunities.
 
As well as helping them maintain and attract new talent, this focus on skills and non-traditional career paths could help make organisations more agile and resilient in the face of crisis. After all, 58% of the workforce needed new skills to get their jobs done after COVID-19.

Demonstrating commitment
By honing-in on these three parts of the employee value proposition, leaders will make their companies more attractive places to work. However, the truth is that many traditional ‘perks’ are becoming expectations in modern workplaces, and businesses need to do more to stand-out.
 
When thinking about flexibility, well-being and skills, employees should be considering the specific needs of their employees and finding creative ways to enhance offerings. There is a unique opportunity for businesses to experiment on the back of the uncertainty of the pandemic – and, for example, some companies across Europe are trialling a trial a four-day working week.
 
The most important thing here is for businesses to be authentic and transparent around what they are doing and what they hope to achieve. In making decisions over a new role, employees are less interested in the results of workforce development strategies than they are in the organisation’s commitment and desire to improve the employee experience.
 
References
1. 2021 Candidate Panel Survey is available to Gartner clients only
2. This research is available to Gartner Clients only
 
Jamie Kohn is research director at Gartner HR 

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