Many companies have been challenged during the pandemic to attract and retain talent. Talent retention challenges can create talent acquisition and retention opportunities when properly managed.
Recruiting and hiring are and remain top concerns, of the 563 U.S. employers, 66 percent said recruiting and hiring would be either “somewhat” or “very” challenging for them this year. The next greatest challenge was workforce planning, as cited by 59 percent of employers. Despite the anticipated challenge, though, 48 percent indicated that they expected to increase their workforce over the year; only 10 percent indicated they would need to eliminate positions.
Many businesses are struggling not only with finding great candidates but also with thinking strategically about their overall talent strategy and how to address important topics like succession planning, staffing daily or weekly jobs, talent retention, diversity, and inclusion, which are all very much top of mind these days.
Businesses Face Unique Challenges
Businesses, many hard-hit during the pandemic, face unique challenges as they attempt to reopen and, in some cases, respond to renewed or increased demand.
Three key challenges facing businesses as they successfully emerge from the pandemic:
- Safety and health are top of mind. Employers must be intentional about respecting employees’ comfort levels with respect to health and working conditions. The last year has left many employees shell-shocked and sensitive about crowded or cramped working conditions, or about being in person at the office daily.
- Demographics and desires are also changing. An increasingly activist and diverse workforce has a very low tolerance for issues related to misconduct such as sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.
- Expectations about diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), and overall fairness within the workplace are changing. Many businesses do not have the internal bandwidth to have a designated person working on equity efforts within their organization. Still, there are things they can do: hire a DE&I consultant to work on an hourly basis or can dig into books containing actionable tips on creating equitable and fair workplaces.
Today’s talent market is tight. As hiring bounces back post-pandemic, competition is fierce. Companies are struggling to find and hire the next level of leader.
Tackling a Tough Talent Market
Companies must consider both the talent and skills they need now and what they will need in the future.
There is one interesting impact on companies that have taken many employers by surprise- employees are taking into consideration how well prospective employers protected their employees over the past year. Did the employer immediately lay them off last March without doing everything possible to avoid that? Did the employer insist that customers coming into their premises be masked? When employees got sick from COVID-19, did the employers ensure they suffered no financial hardship from lost wages? Did the employers provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated?
Employers’ actions during the pandemic send a strong message to potential candidates about the type of employers they might be.
Fortunately, many businesses can and should be proud of how well they took care of their employees, even if that was detrimental in the short term to the owners.
Another obvious challenge that companies face when it comes to the war for talent is the ability to compete with organizations that have better budgets and the ability to offer far more attractive wage and benefits packages. Companies can and should combat this by offering appropriate equity, sharing a compelling vision and creating an inspiring role for the candidate; if your job description / posting is stock, so to will the candidates responding / responses be (most likely).
There can be a tendency for organizations to focus more on what might make them less appealing than competing organizations. However, especially in this shifting workforce landscape, organizations can also take advantage of some unique opportunities they may be perfectly poised to offer.
Companies are in a unique position to address the issue of sustainability, including placing an emphasis on products, plants and people, as they work to develop sustainable solutions for customers and employees.
One of these unique opportunities can be awards or recognition for things like energy use over a specified (e.g. 12-month) period.
An example of sustainable business practices to consider includes a comprehensive telecommuting program- having employees participate in some level of teleworking, which has helped to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, saving gallons of gasoline, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Understanding What Good Candidates Look Like
A market research group containing only a homogenous group is not going to yield useful data; companies ought to seek a workforce makeup that represents their customer makeup.
Hire more “cooks” than “chefs.” If your business is at a stage in its life cycle where you need people to actually do the work, you need “cooks”; obviously, you’ll want these people to be able to flex into leadership roles over time. Remember when looking at candidates / “cooks” don’t look for your doppelganger at your current age and stage, look for raw talent / yourself when you first entered the workforce. It is often easier to teach initially than to try to change a previously learned practice.
While the adage “hire slow, fire fast,” may be easy to say, it’s nearly impossible to implement. It can be hard to see when a job outpaces a person in a high-growth company.
Try to set measurable, objective targets and monitoring of your employee’s output, ability to handle stress, and to delegate to new peers or build their own team. Career ladders also can help.
If there is anything that the last year-plus has taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected. There are a number of opportunities, ready-made from the challenges companies have faced and will face prospectively. Concentrating on converting challenges to opportunities: focusing on what a good candidate looks like; sustainability practices; developing and nurturing the skills and abilities of your employees (especially entry-level employees), the latter through employee development programs, are crucial to prospective success.
By John David Gardiner, Bodman PLC
Mr. Gardiner has a decade of experience practicing business and employment law in West Michigan. His legal practice is focused on the representation of employers in employment law matters and on general business and civil litigation. He also represents business owners and their families in connection with alleged white-collar crime and other criminal investigations. He is active in community and professional activities, serving on the board of Legal Aid of Western Michigan and on the Human Resources Committee for the Michigan Bankers Association.
This article was originally featured in The Source.