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Life After ‘The Great Resignation’ – How to Retain and Hire the Best Talent in 2022 and Beyond

After an unprecedented year named ‘The Great Resignation,’ the war on talent still rages on. In this article, our CEO Alice Weightman explores the shift of power from employers to candidates, and offers expert guidance to help you retain and attract talent in 2022 and beyond.

The Year of ‘The Great Resignation’

When the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns forced remote work upon us – many of us for the first time – the new, unfamiliar challenges came thick and fast.

I’m sure you’ll recall the overwhelming stress and claustrophobia of those first few months. Whether you were struggling to balance home-schooling with your busy work schedule or living in a small setting without enough space for everyone to work comfortably, it was exhausting for us all. 

While working from home, daily interactions with colleagues – like grabbing coffee or going out for a team lunch – were also lost, yet this was often one of the things we enjoyed most about our jobs. The isolation also made it harder for managers to spot disenchanted people who needed extra support.

As lockdown continued for over a year, many people began to feel like they needed a change and wanted to reignite their careers with a new role. It’s unsurprising that we soon found ourselves in the middle of a trend that’s been called The Great Resignation.’

Now, two years after the pandemic started, we thankfully seem to be through the worst of it, but the war for talent is still raging on across virtually all industries.

Navigating the Talent Landscape in 2022

Following ‘The Great Resignation,’ the demand for top talent is still at an all-time high, and there’s a lack of available candidates in the market. This has caused a significant shift of power from you, the employer, to the people you’re looking to hire.

One main reason for this lack of candidates is because businesses became reluctant to invest at the junior end of the market during lockdown, as onboarding and training became more difficult remotely.

This has increased pressure on roles higher up the career ladder, and also created a gap in the talent supply for junior and mid-level roles. Of course, lockdown also gave people the rare opportunity to reflect and think about what they really wanted to do with their lives. As a result of this:

  • Some left their industry completely to pursue entirely new careers
  • Some turned to freelancing or self-employment
  • Some have moved abroad for a change of pace and scenery.

Now that businesses are once again looking to invest in new talent to help drive growth, there simply aren’t enough people out there who can deliver the skills required.

Another consequence of lockdown was that industries like sustainability, ESG, healthcare, e-commerce, tech, fin-tech/crypto sector have all experienced significant growth. For example, new tech start-ups have been popping up to capitalise on the rising demand for digital products and services from the comfort of their homes.

Established businesses also had to pivot and translate their services into a digital context, building apps to facilitate trends like home delivery. This has created fierce competition for candidates in these sectors, with roles like design, digital marketing, PR, UX, and so on now coming at a premium.

Life After ‘The Great Resignation’ – How to Retain Your Talent

After so much change over the past 18 months, it’s vital to be proactive to keep your best talent and minimise employee turn-over.

To do that, you need to understand how people’s priorities have changed, as COVID-19 has put things into a new perspective.

In a recent survey, we asked candidates what the most important factor was within their role. The responses were:

1. Team, people, and culture

2. Working policy – flexibility

3. Competitive salary and bonus structure

4. Purpose, vision, and values

With that in mind, here are some constructive steps to take to ensure you’ll retain your most talented people:

Promote a positive, inclusive company culture 

The most important thing to candidates today is finding a positive company culture and being part of a team of people who are inclusive and enjoyable to work with. This is understandable after 18 months working from home.

While remote working has made it more challenging to create an environment that provides this, you must find creative new ways to build and maintain a positive culture.

A good starting point is putting more effort into company social events, team-building exercises, and activities that help your people bond beyond their working relationships. It can even be useful to appoint culture ambassadors and advocates, or possibly creating a role dedicated to overseeing your company culture. Changing your bonus structure to be based on team performance, rather than individuals, will also foster a positive shift.

You should also be mindful that people are actively looking to work within more diverse and inclusive teams today, and rightly so. Old fashioned businesses with outdated values won’t succeed in the current job market, so you should make adjustments to ensure you’re supporting these trends.

Make your people feel trusted and valued

Almost one third of candidates are actually seeking or accepting roles based entirely on a flexible working policy. Our survey also found that only 3% want to return to working in an office full-time.

If you’re still yet to accommodate this trend, you’ll face increasing challenges to hire and retain talent. We’ve found the businesses that offer each employee a choice of their own ideal balance between office and home-based working – providing true flexibility – are currently most popular.

Lockdown proved that people can still be productive working unconventional hours from remote settings, so providing the freedom and autonomy to do this will make your employees feel more trusted. In fact, 50% of employees found that working remotely actually increased their productivity in 2021.

So, keep an open mind. The businesses winning the war on talent are the agile ones helping each individual employee find an arrangement that suits their unique situation. To ensure your employees feel like valued members of the company, introduce more rewards and incentives for good performance. You could offer traditional things like pay rises, additional holiday time, or other prizes. Alternatively, you could take a more creative approach with your benefits. Some businesses have even used surveys to allow their teams to select from a long range of options, so they each get things that mean the most to them.

Prioritise your employees’ wellbeing and personal needs

After the stress of the pandemic, people are far more mindful of their wellbeing these days, both from a physical and mental perspective.

It’s essential that your policies reflect this change and accommodate the personal needs and wellbeing of your people. Consider increasing the amount of time off you allow, offer more substantial sabbaticals, and introduce practices or activities that focus on mindfulness and wellbeing.

According to the ONS, anxiety levels in December 2021 were the highest they’ve been in almost a year, with 38% of adults are experiencing high levels of anxiety. Help tackle this issue by investing in a service to provide your employees access to mental health support networks or care.

A great example of a company going above and beyond to offer their staff a positive work-life balance is Publicis Group. They’ve introduced an initiative that allows everyone in the company to work anywhere in the world for six weeks per year.  Other companies have invested in cost effective apps, invite guest speakers in or have developed groups where individuals can come together and talk openly about how they ate feeling and tackling these issues. One company asked their employees to turn off all their notifications on their phones and computers – so that their employees don’t feel constantly bombarded by message and then diarise the time that they will manage the streams of emails, what’s app, texts etc.

Have a clear mission and strong set of values

The pandemic brought a lot of uncertainty and raised concerns about our futures. During lockdown, with most companies cutting costs, people were grateful to simply have a job.

Now the market is recovering, people want to get their careers back on track too. Career progression, and the opportunity for personal development, are now top priorities for candidates. The sense of working towards something more meaningful and fulfilling is also crucial.  

Ensure you have a powerful story to tell about your brand, your mission, and your future. Whether you’re a small start-up or a large corporation, you must demonstrate to candidates that your business is an environment where they’ll achieve growth and success in the long-term.

It’s also become a higher priority for people to be working in businesses that are actively supporting issues like climate change and sustainability. To reduce the likelihood of employees moving elsewhere, make an effort to take these kind of values seriously as an organisation. Whether that’s by adjusting your practices, donating to charities, encouraging volunteering, or putting things in place like a B Corp. certification.

Bring the human connections back to work

Another effective way of improving talent retention is by re-establishing the human connections that were fundamental to the workplace before the pandemic. Help your employees re-build the bonds and camaraderie they had before lockdown started, and foster a collaborative, team-oriented work environment.

This may involve re-opening your offices to allow people to work on-site whenever they choose, or perhaps investing more budget into facilitating regular social events for your team outside of work. Don’t be afraid to open invitations to family as well, or possibly even encourage your team to get more involved with the local community.

The impersonal feeling of communicating entirely via Zoom and instant messenger while working from home was influential in making people seek a change. Now the world is slowly starting to get back to normal, so should the human connections within our companies.  

A Strategy to Recruit the Best Talent

Once you’ve got your strategy to improve staff retention in order, you’ll be able to invest more energy into recruiting to get your business back on track.

Here are some key components of a successful strategy to help you recruit the best talent in today’s job market:

Create a Strong Employer Brand

First and foremost, build an attractive employer brand that emphasises the strong company culture and values we spoke about earlier.

Start by having a compelling story and a clear mission. This will help each candidate feel like they’ll be joining a team that is working for a purpose and working towards a shared goal. 

When recruiting, always focus on what the opportunity is for the candidate, and how you can help them, rather than dwelling on what you want as an employer. It’s also important to put the candidate first, and talk their language to resonate with them as much as possible.

Be sure to prioritise the human aspect of work, as mentioned above, making it clear your organisation is willing to support the personal needs of the people you’re hiring. The past two years have been tough on everyone, and people today want to work for companies that promote empathy and understanding in the workplace.

Find a Balanced Interview Process

Amid such fierce competition, careful management of the interview process could make all the difference. Start by determining the appropriate number of interview stages for each role. Show candidates you’re taking hiring seriously, but don’t make them feel like they have to jump through hoops either.

Each interaction with your candidate is another chance to highlight the value of working with your business, but also to make them feel valued. Use your interviews to sell the opportunity as much as assessing if the person is right for the role. 

Give the candidate a positive impression of what life is like working for the company and with the people in your team. Remember that people are attracted to other people, so choose carefully who’s involved in your interview process to attract the talent you need.

It’s valuable to have at least one interview stage face-to-face as well. Inviting candidates into your office to meet you in person, and get a feel for the working environment, makes an enormous difference after two years of Zoom burn-out. This could also include an informal aspect to the process, whether that’s going for lunch or coffee in a more relaxed setting, to make the candidate feel more comfortable.

Feedback is also key, from both sides. Give clear, insightful feedback to each candidate, and don’t forget to collect feedback from them as well. Take this on board to help you continually refine your approach.

Make Sure You’re Matching Salary Expectations

Over the past year or so, we’ve seen inflationary pressures on salaries across all industries and levels of seniority.

This has amounted to staggering increases of as much as 50% at the mid-level by businesses desperate to hire, with the average across most roles placing at around 20%.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be easing up anytime soon, so you need to be prepared to meet candidate’s expectations and keep up with your competitors. Approach this with caution, though, as candidates over-pricing themselves could cause you to set your expectations too high. This will only result in more employee turn-over.

It’s often helpful to work with a partner or objective third-party consultant who can assess your candidates for you, based on the wider market. The support of a trusted advisor is one of the most reliable ways to solve your challenges with setting appropriate salaries for new hires.

Be Aware of Counter-Offers

With companies desperately trying to retain their staff, there’s also been a big rise in counter-offers over the last six months.

Having a candidate agree to come aboard, only to be beaten by a counter-offer later on, is something you want to avoid at all costs. To prevent this from happening to you, try to build an emotional attachment between the candidate and the opportunity, and with you and your business as well.

You should be proactive in answering all the questions and concerns a candidate has before you make your offer and demonstrating the value of joining your team. Ensure your full offer – including salary, bonuses, holiday, and benefits – is as strong as possible, to minimise the likelihood of a bidding war. Be sure to do this in person or over the phone, so you can judge their reaction and adjust accordingly.  

Again, working with a recruitment partner is a great way to ensure you’ve created a package that stands the best chance of being accepted. This is done by providing valuable insights into what the candidate is thinking and what it will take to get them over the line.

For example, as mentioned earlier, the candidate’s priority might not always more money. Unless you have an objective partner working in the best interests of both sides, it can be difficult to find out what is driving the candidate’s decision.

Once you’ve made your offer, be aware that employers are also holding candidates through the full length of notice periods today thanks to this talent shortage. With that in mind, even after the candidate has accepted, you can’t afford to let the conversation go cold.

A pre-onboarding process that keeps your new recruits engaged through their notice period is crucial, as it will reduce the likelihood of your new hire changing their minds in favour of a counter-offer. For our article on Counter-offers read https://www.hansonsearch.com/our-insight/articles/a-tale-of-two-sides-when-considering-a-counter-offer/

Final Thought

With the war on talent set to continue for the foreseeable future, you need to adapt. It’s vital that you position your business as a great place to work if you want to remain competitive today.

If you put the above advice into practice, you’ll be able to stand out from the competition and start to see your talent pool filling up again.

 

If you need support attracting or retaining talent, or would like to learn more about solving these challenges, our experienced advisors are always happy to chat.

Get in touch with us below, and a member of our team will be in touch as soon as possible to learn more about your needs.

Posted on 16.03.2022

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