The employment landscape has shifted significantly in the wake of the global pandemic, but what can businesses do to retain the talent they already have, as well as continuing to attract top-tier candidates? We explore the strategies employers can use to keep talent happy and productive at work.
Renewed talent expectations
March 2020 saw companies around the world scramble to ensure business continuity as people were displaced from the centralized office environments we have known since the 1900s. While some organizations had already begun the shift to hybrid working, most did not have the infrastructure in place to support a fully remote workforce.
Following a somewhat rocky few months, most organizations now have an idea of the level of remote working they can support. Crucially, their workforce does too. With countries around the world beginning to ease restrictions on movement and business operations, it would be a mistake for companies to assume that they can press the reset button and return to the way things were.
Research shows that 98% of people would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their career, and over half report feeling less stressed (53%) and more productive (56%) when working from home.
Any employers hoping that their working environment would return to normal in the coming months may therefore be in for a shock; people are clearly unwilling to give up the flexibility and improved conditions they have experienced when it comes to choosing how, and even when, they work.
It stands to reason, then, that employers must have a very good reason for denying any requests for flexible working to talent which has proven that it is possible, and occasionally preferable, to do the same job remotely. If pushed to return to the office full time, as many as 41% of people would quit their jobs. 54% say they would leave their jobs for one that offered more flexibility.
What’s clear is that if they hope to retain their top talent and continue attracting fresh candidates, businesses must be accommodating of the way people want to work now or risk losing out to more flexible competitors.
If remote working isn’t feasible or practical for certain roles, employers should go the extra mile to explain why and reassure talent that case-by-case decisions are taken regarding the possibility of remote working: a blanket policy is likely to be construed as outdated and out of touch with modern reality.
Putting people first
The lockdowns of 2020 meant we all had more time on our hands to think about what we really want from life and our careers. Recent data shows that as many as 25% of people across Europe are looking to change jobs in the next 12 months; of these, 12% say their desire to move was prompted by their employer’s response to the pandemic.
The pandemic brought to light those companies with poor HR provisions, and people became very aware of the different approaches taken by organizations in how well they treated their workforce. Businesses lacking in empathy did not do well in terms of employer branding: putting people first became non-negotiable, and any disconnect between PR and reality was scrutinized by both the media and talent alike.
Additionally, many people went above and beyond the call of duty during the pandemic to ensure business continuity; it is now time for businesses to repay that loyalty by ensuring clear progression paths for talent. This repayment may be literal as well as symbolic: 30% of people still believe they will receive a pay rise in the next 12 months despite the pressures caused by the pandemic.
In terms of attracting new talent, clear progression paths and competitive salaries are always a good idea, but the real winners are likely to be those companies which adopt a long-term approach to talent development. Even worse than no hopes of progression would be attracting talent with false promises only to disappoint later down the line: a robust learning and development system should be in place prior to talent joining, not something promised and never delivered.
The days of people hoping for the best when they join a new company are officially over: 79% of people use social media to research a prospective employer before applying, rising to 86% of younger jobseekers.
With similar benefits, tools, and software used across many companies today, employers are competing for talent primarily on the basis of employer branding: LinkedIn research shows that companies with a strong employer brand see 50% more qualified applicants and a 28% reduction in turnover.
Crucially, however, an employer’s branding must match with the reality of what it is like to work there. As with the dim view people took of PR stunts during the pandemic, talent will not accept an inauthentic representation of what life will be like with a company; they will resign to find somewhere that really does match their expectations.
Authenticity is then the order of the day. Companies must strive to create an attractive, supportive, and progressive environment for their talent, and then create the branding to match. Promising candidates the earth only to reveal that the enticing benefits are still in development will only serve to disappoint and frustrate both existing and new talent.
While the road out of the pandemic may still be emerging, there’s no reason why employers can’t begin putting strategies in place to improve their environments for talent today.
Considering what people really want from their jobs, keeping them at the center of all decisions, and creating an accurate representation of what it’s like to join a company are all straightforward ways that businesses can both retain existing talent and continuing attracting new recruits. The employers failing to do so may soon find that they have a great resignation on their hands