The last two years have potentially altered the nature of work forever. More than ever, retaining and maintaining a pipeline of top talent will be one of leadership’s most significant challenges. So how has the COVID pandemic impacted talent, and what can be done to address these unprecedented changes? Read on for three challenges leaders will need to overcome.
1. Retention – Stemming the “Great Resignation”
The pandemic was a harsh reminder of how fragile human life can be and exposed the vast inequities in our society. It has also corresponded with increasingly evident proof of the ravages we can expect from climate change. As a result, workers are re-evaluating their life priorities, the role work plays, and what they expect from employers.
A pulse survey undertaken toward the end of 2021 by the global consulting group DDI found that more than half of the HR respondents were dealing with increased staff turnover. This so-called “Great Resignation” has severe implications for organizational knowledge, and companies will need to adopt a different approach to retention. Where, previously, offering employees remote work opportunities made an organization competitive, it’s now merely a “permission to play” factor. To retain top talent, organizations must put people front and center in every way possible. This includes:
- Focusing on Employee Wellbeing
DDI’s research found that companies where managers showed genuine concern for employee wellbeing were 2.3 times better at avoiding employee burnout and resulting attrition. A 2021 Mercer study of over 14,000 employees across the world confirms this. In addition, it found that companies that destigmatize mental health struggles and recognize mental health as a critical aspect of the human experience are more likely to retain employees. As a result, Mercer, a major provider of employee benefits, is experiencing greater demand for benefits related to digital wellbeing and self-care.
- Being a Force for Good
McKinsey’s research indicates nearly two-thirds of employees are reflecting on their life purpose due to the pandemic. In addition, 70 percent of professionals report that their work defines their purpose. Younger workers, in particular, are demanding their workplaces demonstrate a genuine commitment to issues such as diversity and inclusion, says the Washington Post.
Leadership must be seen openly supporting initiatives that inspire employees’ confidence to achieve a compelling shared sense of purpose. Committed leaders can establish a purpose-driven culture where employees feel they can be part of a force for good. Where employees identify with an organization’s sense of purpose, engagement and retention rates are higher than average.
- Improving the Remote Work Experience
When employees work from home, it can confer significant cost savings on the company. However, just as organizations have traditionally invested in making the workplace inspiring, comfortable, and productive, they should do the same for at-home work environments. For example, leaders should consider flexible home office stipends for equipment and furniture to optimize the employee experience. In some cases, companies can acknowledge their employees’ need for socialization by reimbursing them for time spent in co-working spaces.
2. Identifying and Developing Talent in a Remote Workforce
The crisis management that characterized the pandemic is drawing to a close. As a result, leadership is refocusing on succession planning efforts that largely fell by the wayside during the pandemic. But with all or even a significant portion of the workforce working remotely, the reduction of valuable face time impacts talent visibility.
According to a recent Jefferson Wells report, it costs organizations 25 percent more to hire than retain and develop current employees. So, leadership must find other ways to surface high-potential talent, which may include:
- Articulating What to Look For
It is potentially easier for talent to rise to the top in the physical office setting. Energetic and ambitious talent can more easily become aware of where seniors need support and step in to fill the gaps. As such, in the past, identifying and developing the next generation of leaders may have been a somewhat organic and subconscious process. But now, leadership will need to be more intentional about succession planning. This means articulating and reaching a shared understanding of what skills the organization requires of its future leaders.
- Start Early and Search Widely
One of the benefits of a more intentional approach to succession planning is that it can be more inclusive and start earlier. Digital processes can help to broaden the search without overwhelming HR. Plus, technology such as artificial intelligence will increasingly help identify high-potential candidates who might otherwise be overlooked.
- Develop Remote Talent-Building Capability
DDI’s pulse survey identified that less than a third of leaders had received help adapting their leadership skills to the new virtual workplace. As a result, many report they lack confidence in their ability to develop talent remotely as effectively as they did in the physical workplace. Providing leaders with these critical virtual skills must become a focus for HR.
3. Attracting New Talent in the New Normal
Attracting new talent to the workforce has also changed post-pandemic. As a result, leadership will benefit from the following talent acquisition trends that are emerging in 2022:
- Data-Driven Recruitment
Increasingly, organizations are adopting a data-driven approach to recruitment to understand which recruitment channels are most successful, thereby maximizing their budgets.
- Hiring to Address Diversity and Inclusion
Recruitment based on diversity and inclusion not only attracts younger workers, but it also makes good business sense. Research shows that diverse teams produce more creative and enduring solutions to work problems. And with the ability for teams to work remotely, organizations can extend the talent search globally to attract workers from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Remember, though, that leaders will need to be equipped with skills like empathy and conflict resolution for the benefits of diversity to be realized.
- Including External Networks
Employers are increasingly looking to external talent networks to recruit new talent. Freelancer sites, for example, can significantly cut down on pre-screening and interviewing time.
- Emphasis on Coaching and Feedback for Growth
DDI’s research found that new and prospective leaders seek out opportunities for coaching and feedback. This requirement is even higher when looking at next-generation leaders, with 1 in 3 leaders saying they require immediate coaching. Therefore, organizations must be prepared to provide high-quality development exercises that push workers to develop, progress, and excel along their desired career paths.