While the war for talent has been an unprecedented and an increasing problem since the past decade, the big shift in the past 18 months has triggered a digital and human capital transformation agenda across all organisations, regardless of industry, maturity and location. Thus the sudden increase in demand for similar skills across industries and organisations.
This has been coupled with a push from talent, prioritising their individual priorities, sometimes choosing to move towards more flexible work options. So how can organisations fix the new talent management equation to win this war?
In an exclusive interaction with us, Chaitali Mukherjee, Partner and Leader - People & Organization, PwC India, sheds light on the critical imperatives for employers seeking to attract, retain and engage top talent and strategies that organizations 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?
Organisations would need to make a few critical choices in order to manage the talent agenda in the longer term. These could include the following:
Flexible Talent Model: To attract the right talent, organisations will need to get innovative with their talent models and make room for different talent needs. This just doesn’t mean flexibility on offer, but also hybrid and flexibility. But most importantly, not assuming and drawing a common goal for all but creating a unique plan, focused on individualised experience
Build v/s buy talent: While most organisations are talking about the challenges around attrition, this is an outcome of recruitment will have to be a short term agenda. The longer term agenda will have to be about building talent for the future that’s right for the organisation and drives the purpose of the organisation.
“Connect for life: Employees should be viewed as Brand Ambassadors for life, when they become alumnus.”
Connect for purpose: At a time when building commitment and connecting has been the single biggest challenge between employees and employers, employers may need to go beyond the transactional facets of a role and demonstrate the organization’s purpose and what it means/ how it is relevant for employees. All things being comparable (if not equal) living organisational purpose is a differentiator that can hold the right talent in good stead.
Hire for alignment (attitude, culture and purpose), Train for skills / capabilities for the future and deploy / provide experience for career growth: It’s impossible to hire a candidate hoping he or she could be later aligned to the organisational culture. Compromising at the time of hiring is the biggest peril. Again, while hiring, disproportionate focus is given to skills and capabilities. Required skills however, evolve. Organisations have to be mindful to hire talent that will have the right attitude and drive to evolve and re-skill/ upskill as required, align culturally and connect with the organisational purpose. These facets have to be ascertained at the time of hiring because these facets are difficult to inculcate in a person at a later stage.
Once hired, it is important to ensure there is as much career conversation as performance conversation. This ensures it’s a two way ownership that gets built. Finally, the employees’ skills and capabilities have to be a joint ownership of the employees and employers. Employees can’t just look for ready skills- that would be a very transactional approach. They’d need to look for an attitude to learn and evolve and provide opportunities, whilst the employee will have to focus on keeping themselves relevant and be comfortable to go above and beyond the call of the job to ensure relevance.
What as per are those broken links in the current work structure that need to be fixed by organizations in order to create sustainable work cultures?
Sustainable work cultures in the past have gotten built around experiences that were designed around workplaces. From creating awareness, to celebrating and building commitment, all of it was done by getting people to come together and by using office spaces. As organisations move to virtual workplaces and the opportunity to get all employees to come together and drive some of these factors seems more and more difficult, organisations are facing the hard reality of building commitment, relating and driving joint success without building personal bonds. Human mind has not been trained to do this over a short period of time with multiple people. The trust building process becomes that much more difficult and a strenuous, time consuming process.
“To manage this, it may be necessary to look for newer spaces to connect, beyond workplaces and drive the connection differently. This could also mean accepting that the kind of bond people had in the workplace in the past, may never get formed or learn how global teams have focused on building relationships when together and focused on working discreetly when virtual.”
In the past, building time and space for building trusting relationships was never accounted for. It just happened by meeting and being together. But going forward, acknowledging the importance of relationship building and driving it with some thought would be critical.
The new joiners’ integration is perhaps the single most important link that companies need to think differently. Most of the new joiners’ onboarding is focused on understanding the ways of working which get covered through processes. But the real ways of working (the informal processes) that account for the culture need to be covered, and that experience needs to be brought alive.
One big challenge for organisations has been the process of working together to drive innovation. Innovation / idea generation and problem solving at its base is about breaking the norms / consideration that’s been in practice. That requires a group of rebels who are positively dissatisfied to come together and create the energy that’s strong enough to think out of the box. To create that energy, organisations may need to design options for discussing positive dissatisfaction in an unstructured manner.
Innovation, thus may need its space; that space where like-minded people come together and share their concerns and choose to innovate to solve it. Making this happen virtually, will be the biggest challenge.
What should be strategies to elevate employee value proposition to mirror what employees seek in the changing work environment?
The starting point for an employee value proposition to work is to listen to the employee and try to respond to their voice, not just the process using technology. There isn’t any right or wrong technology. There is just the right experience that can be enabled using the technology. But more often than not, organisations go overboard on the technology and assume that will drive the experience outcome. Experience gets delivered when the employee appreciates the real problem in the true sense, acknowledges it couldn’t solve all the problems but is critical and partners to solve it.
Experience changes, when employees choose to make it happen through adoption. This is perhaps the most difficult but the most critical lever for delivering experience.
Employee value proposition in the true sense is in the purpose alignment, the experience alignment and growth / development enablement. If we can focus on these three, we could perhaps enable the entire experience in a unique way for all employees.
What do you think would be the two three big differentiators for companies to win the talent war?
“The talent war will not be won on compensation. Compensation is going to be table stakes. Grossly overpaying or underpaying both will be counterproductive.”
The three most important differentiators could be:
Your employer brand: what are you known for, what does your talent say about you outside of the organisation and how their families and friends view you, as an employer
Your alumni brand: what do they say about their experience with you while they were with you? This is perhaps one of the most underrated factors but can create a huge impact. There are hardly any prospective employees who wouldn’t speak to a past employee to understand their experience. It’s critical to remain connected with the alumni and keep them informed of the progress of the firm.
Your leadership brand: it’s a known fact that employees/individuals join brands and leaders. The leadership brand is as important as the employer brand. The leader’s personal career trajectory and their belief in the organisation are going to be critical to drive success.
Your talent growth agenda: What and how are you driving the career and capability agenda of your people? There are two categories of career conversations that organisations need to have with their people- career discussion for succession and career discussion for development. Both are critical, but the latter needs to start early on, consistently, for employees to see a larger purpose and opportunity with the organisation.
What is your take on how organisations should approach rethinking location strategy and remodeling roles for flexibility to retain top talent?
If left to employees to choose, the location strategy for any organisation could be as varied as the number of employees. Hence, the need to think of a location strategy that’s flexible and works for the business and employees is going to be critical. This needs to start by acknowledging the roles and jobs that can be and cannot be made virtual. At the same time, thinking of roles that can be completely virtual and ones which can be designed for hybrid arrangement, need to be categorised.
“The big factor to consider in workplace design for the future is not just the hybrid factor but also the criticality of the job and the skills availability.”
For jobs that are core to business, with skills difficult to find, organisations may want to design the workplace construct around talent. For skills that are easily available and / or not critical to the business, organisations could experiment with not just the workplace model but also the employment models. In short, if there is one strategy that could be a differentiator for organisations to enable their strategy, it’s going to be this one- having the strategy that brings the best fit to a role.