Three Surefire Actions to Win and Retain Talent

Do a search on “tsunami” and you’ll see some amazing images. It’s not only a wave of huge proportions, but also a series of extremely long waves. According to National Geographic, tsunamis can reach heights of more than 100 feet and cause widespread destruction when they slam onto shore. We are undoubtedly amid a talent tsunami that shows no indication of ebbing soon. The Great Resignation is creating wave after wave of disengaged employees, stress, burnout, and departures.

In October 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that 4.3 million Americans, or 2.9% of the entire workforce, quit their jobs in August. This record-breaking month topped a series of previous, record-breaking months. Almost all industries are experiencing the exodus. According to a recent survey, 55% of the overall U.S. workforce and 72% of those in tech/IT roles are considering leaving their jobs in the next year.

The reality is that it is not a talent issue; it is a workplace issue.

How do you win the war for talent? Focus on your environment and your culture.

Where do you start? It starts with your leaders.

Leaders set the tone, create the environment, and sustain the culture. They build rapport, facilitate employee engagement, initiate relationships, and offer the recognition and praise that cultivates loyalty.

Winning the war for talent boils down to three urgencies:

  • Keep the best
  • Get the best
  • Build better

1. To Keep the Best, Prioritize Employee Growth

At their core, people want to make a difference – and want to work for a company that shares those values. Being their best and making the greatest impact requires continuous development, exploration of new ideas, learning new skills, and growing as a person and leader – which requires a company that is committed to investing in the futures of their employees.

Companies that attract and retain top-performing candidates have processes and initiatives in place that support professional development, growth, and fulfillment. With that in mind, what steps can you take?

Reprioritize Professional Development

When the pandemic hit, most companies cut back on professional development efforts. As the crisis continues to subside, the need to provide opportunities for learning and growth increases. Professional and personal fulfillment is near the top of the list for job searchers, who are prioritizing their health and wellbeing. 80% see career growth as a major contributor to their overall satisfaction. In fact, 9 in 10 tech workers want more learning and development opportunities from their companies, and 62% say these opportunities would increase their motivation at work. Investment in employee growth, including a path to success within the company, results in a more satisfied and loyal workforce.

Emphasize Growth Tracks and Develop the People at the Top

Identifying the competencies of top leaders and matching them with roles in which they can excel, can amplify their satisfaction and loyalty. Pinpoint the skills and behaviors needed to be successful in your company, then break those out for each role and growth track. Follow with 360° evaluations that identify skill and behavioral gaps and blind spots. Provide developmental coaching and skills training to fill the gaps. Continual development of your senior team’s competencies and those of employees who show potential for higher levels of leadership, will pay dividends to your company’s growth, and help retain a top talent bench.

2. To Hire the Best, Create a Standout Recruitment Process

70% of workers report that they will stay with a company for more than three years if their application experience was a positive one. With a tight labor market and many companies vying for their attention, job seekers are more likely to apply to those that create and promote a good experience during the application and interview processes. And they are more likely to recommend those companies to their contacts.

About 34% of HR recruiters (twice as many as last year) say they plan to decrease their budgets. The danger in that is that companies could fall back on old, less effective, hiring tactics at a time when it’s critical to improve their processes. In this difficult situation, it’s important to make every action count and focus on what is most effective, such as the following:

  • Have an “always looking for talent” mindset, rather than a “replacing departures” approach. Starting from a positive place positions a company to create a positive experience.
  • Respond quickly. Fast turnaround time makes applicants feel valued—even if they don’t get the job.
  • Be clear about the process internally and externally. Describe how the process ensures a good experience for applicants. The expectation of a positive experience makes potential applicants more apt to spend time applying and makes your company more appealing from the outset.

3. Hire for the Culture You Want to Build

In the job market, companies are known for the cultures they create. When they clearly define their vision, they can hire strategically to support it. This helps focus hiring efforts, attracts the best-fit candidates, and can improve overall company performance. In a Deloitte survey, 79% of respondents said that a sense of belonging within the workforce was important to their organization’s success over the following 12 to 18 months. 93% felt that a sense of belonging drives organizational performance. Additionally, a 2019 Deloitte study indicated that a feeling of belonging at work can improve job performance by 56%, reduce turnover risk by 50%, and decrease sick days by 75%. How can you create an exceptional company culture?

Prioritize DEI

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are critical aspects of a culture of belonging that will attract top candidates. Companies that prioritize DEI cultivate workplaces in which each individual feels respected and treated fairly, regardless of their racial or ethnic identities. An environment that promises safety, respect, equitable pay, and opportunity for all – which has previously been undervalued – will appeal to a diverse pool of candidates. Incorporating different perspectives fosters thought innovation, and research shows that within an inclusive environment, 83% of millennials are found to be actively engaged in their work.

Ask Better Questions

Ask questions of candidates about how they learn. This can help those doing the hiring understand their potential for growth and ability to contribute to the company’s aspirations for their culture. Return to this topic throughout the hiring process to get a complete picture of the candidate’s potential to grow beyond their current abilities.

Look in the Right Places

To find potential applicants, tap into company alumni associations or connect with past employees who left on good terms. Many companies have large alumni associations in which current employees are enrolled. (Booz Allen Hamilton is perhaps the best-in-class at this). Upon departure, they become great ambassadors for the company, and can then be tapped when roles open up that may interest them. Use LinkedIn or company HR records to set up these connections.

In the current job landscape, hiring and retaining high-performing employees is a genuine challenge. But an effective and efficient focus of your efforts will reward your organization with top-notch employees who are loyal and active contributors to its success.