As we continue to wage a war on the virus, another war is creeping upon us. The war for talent. Best talents remain elusive irrespective of the market dynamic. After the great round of layoffs led by the pandemic, organisations are scuffling to win the war for talent. Salaries, benefits, flexibility, and perks don’t hold water anymore to attract young workers today. Given the extraordinary pace of change, the hastening shelf life of skills, and changing business priorities, managing talent has become a critical issue for leadership. Given that pre-pandemic ways of working aren’t something workers are ready to go back to, how can fix the new talent management equation to win this war?
In an exclusive interaction with us, Nimisha Das, Director HR, Kellogg South Asia, sheds light on the critical imperatives for employers seeking to attract, retain and engage top talent and strategies that organisations can bank upon to win the war for talent.
Workers are quitting or switching jobs in droves which some economists have dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’. In such a scenario, what are the critical imperatives for employers seeking to attract, retain and engage top talent?
The way I look at this, the experience is not uniform across organisations and industries as certain industries are more insulated than others. Up till May this year, most organisations had put a stop on talent hiring. And this was equally true from the side of the candidates, where people were a little more cautious to switch as they were probably seeing comfort over growth. So there has been a sort of pent-up demand from both sides. Much of the change is on account of that, which is also validated by the attrition numbers as well, which flattened out last year.
In all this, companies that stepped up as progressive employers showing concern about their employees’ wellbeing and financial health, are still insulated from this flux and have low attrition. So for attracting and retaining top talent, the basics remain the same as earlier. The piece that has started mattering more to employees is how companies can offer more flexibility. They are looking at how many organisations are weaving the temporary flexibility that came into effect due to COVID in the work policies and are making choices based on that.
In addition, the last four-five months have been really tough where people have been hit by the escalation of the medical cost. So the cost of medical, access to healthcare is impacting the whole piece around benefits that organisations are offering. So these things have started to matter more above and beyond the basics of growth, learning, and career.
Lastly, is the piece around organisational culture which supports empowerment, flexibility and if it supports hybrid work.
What as per are those broken links in the current work structure that need to be fixed by organisations in order to create sustainable work cultures?
I think the pandemic and the way things have moved have given the industry an opportunity to rethink ways of working. The entire expectation of getting out of your home for work, making it through traffic, reaching your office- was established much before technology systems were not there to support hybrid work. The uptake of how technology can enable work has been seen in the context of the pandemic where many companies who did not think remote work was feasible, came around. If we waste this opportunity, it would be a shame. These are the broken structures.
The pandemic, though devastating, has offered an opportunity to reexamine the entire setup for flexible working. The rules of the game have changed because earlier technology was not involved enough to support remote collaboration.
Hence it will have implications for how do you design for diversity for a team, half of whom are sitting in a room and half are working remote. It will have an impact on the pay structure, policies, and the kind of office spaces that we would have. Hybrid working is a huge piece that needs to be explored because you will have different strokes for different folks. For instance, our supply chain teams were working throughout the lockdown period. Similarly, the sales team went back into the field as things opened. Then you have the backend office supporting them, who have a little more flexibility when it comes to where they can work from. So when we are looking at devising a policy, it has to be fair, empowering, and has to suit different employees. Flexibility was more forced than organic last year; it is now time to put a structure around it so that it’s sustainable.
What should be strategies to elevate employee value proposition to mirror what employees seek in the changing work environment?
We just launched our EVP last month ‘NOURISH YOUR GRRREAT’ to help employees realize true potential by providing opportunities to thrive. What I strongly believe is that EVP should be rooted in authenticity and not just be a creative communication exercise. Because people would see through it. It has to be based upon what people experience within the organisation and that’s the process we followed-by taking feedback from employees from different locations.
Organisations need to be very vocal about what talent needs and speak to your prospective talent about it. There is a lot of clutter and noise out there-hence the strategy should be to use authentic voices, build a proposition which is based on actual experiences and what differentiates the organisations versus it just being a creative exercise. If you do it authentically, you will also understand what really matters to people.
What do you think would be the top big differentiators for companies to win the talent war?
I have a different take on war for talent. I don’t think I want to win a war for common talent. For me, winning the war for talent is ensuring that the talent we are aiming for, we are able to convert them. I think EVP becomes the filter or the talent magnet for the kind of people we want to attract to Kellogg. Kellogg stands for being the real you, making your mark and doing a world of good, and we are vocal about it. So for me, it is less of a war for talent but actually being able to target the kind of talent we see will be relevant for Kellogg. Ultimately, the package that you offer to a person is the entire piece on the culture that you have, the growth path, and the kind of careers you can develop.
What is your take on how organisations should approach rethinking location strategy and remodeling roles for flexibility to retain top talent?
The easiest answer for that is asking the people. The strategies that really work for consumers work for internal employees as well. We are part of an organisation globally which understands the fact that different people will have different priorities. You need to design a system which addresses this versus one size fits all. So you have to build personalization of experiences where employees can choose to come to the office as they want.
Technology enablement to design for flexibility is the key; reaching out to your own employees to capture their likes and preferences very frequently is important; and then assessing how that flexibility will come into effect for different pools of employees is where the focus needs to be. It will translate into different things for different people, but the starting point for me is insight and listening to your employees.