Hiring talent for the long haul requires rethinking your talent strategy

26 January 2022

“We’re finding that the biggest challenges organisations encounter today aren’t necessarily technology, innovation, or leadership. It’s actually the process of finding, hiring, and engaging with the right talent that will ultimately thrive at your organisation now and in the future.”

-    John C. Taylor, CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management
author of Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval

First mentioned by Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, the term ‘Great Resignation’ refers to the recent string of pent-up resignations due to the prolonged uncertainty. But more so it refers to people re-evaluating their work-life balance and purpose in their careers. John’s statement coupled with the latest buzz term related to the world of work is a stark reminder of the evolving nature of the post-COVID workplace when they set out to recruit for new roles.

The much-publicised mass exodus affects employee roles on all levels, a trend that could add to potentially losing valuable talent within organisations, resulting in higher attrition and operational costs and a negative impact on organisational culture. 

In the United States, a 34% increase in resignations was seen in September 2021 compared to the previous year. MD of Outsized for Africa, Johann van Niekerk, expressed the opinion that South African employees may follow the trend in the months to come. In spite of recent Stats SA record-breaking unemployment figures, this year organisational leaders would need to have a firm grip on what it is that makes their employees tick to craft policies that keep them engaged in their jobs.

The Deloitte 2021 Millennial and GenZ Survey showed that in South Africa, Millennial and GenZ employees specifically experience high stress and anxiety levels related to their finances, family welfare, jobs and career prospects. The report also cited a decline in job loyalty. More Millennials and GenZs indicated that they would like to leave their employer within two years than before —36% and 53% respectively, compared to 31% and 50% in 2020.

However, whether or not employees actually take the leap and resign, remains to be seen. What organisations do with this information to improve their strategy for recruiting and retaining the right talent, is the more pressing concern. What the results of the recent Millennial and GenZ survey brought to light was that for these groups, ethics played a major role – 60% and 61% respectively have made choices over the types of work they’d do and the organisations they’re willing to work for based on their personal beliefs/ethics over the past two years. Let’s explore further:

Start with organisational culture when crafting a talent strategy

The reasons behind employees’ intent to resign their jobs has a few common denominators. One of the most significant is having an unhealthy organisational culture. It may serve organisations well in particular to think carefully about the characteristics that mark its culture. Does this match up with the values of the caliber of talent the organisation wishes to attract and retain?

With that being said, a forward thinking organisation with a pro-change culture refrains from viewing recruitment as a mere tick-box exercise. These types of organisations recruit for competencies as well as the values and ethics of talent they may wish to align with the organisation’s own purpose and culture.

Employee experience and its place in the forward-thinking talent strategy

The one approach that an organisation may wish to focus on for the long haul is employee experience (EX). EX effectively enables an organisation to deliver on its customer experience.
Beyond the initial stages of attracting and retaining talented people, EX has the potential to initiate the long-term journey of professional development and fulfillment through enhancing an employee’s day-to-day experience. Think of EX as the full circle of an organisation’s recruitment strategy.

Prioritising EX requires an investment into every aspect of the organisation that an employee interacts with, whether that be up-to-date technology, streamlined systems and processes or a well-designed hybrid working model.

In a Harvard Business Review white paper on Professional Services’ key to success Dion Hinchcliffe, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, said: “The worst thing you can do is hire the smartest people and then give them poor tools to do their job.”

Here are three key focus areas for improving your organisation’s talent retention game:

1. Know your organisation’s ideal candidate

Just as important as knowing your organisation’s ‘why’ to consistently ensure that every decision aligns with it, so too should an organisation be aware of who their ideal candidate is. We suggest looking first at the potential values and organisational culture fit as part of the talent strategy or profile. Then considering the ideal competencies needed for the role.

For example, many organisations place higher value on an employee who adapts easily and possesses important interpersonal skills but may not have years of experience under their belt. We’re of the opinion that organisational fit takes priority – specific competency gaps or variances can become a function of further training or mentorship.

2. Create a clear role specification

Of equal importance is the organisation’s ability to translate the reason for recruiting, for example the competency gaps it would like to fill, into a role specification that leaves no room for ambiguity. Starting the recruitment process without a clear role specification is like going grocery shopping without a clear shopping list. A clear role specification can be the tool that guides the process and keeps the recruitment objective top of mind.

3. Cultivate a sustainable a two-way relationship, built on mentorship and development

The employer-employee relationship of yesteryear – the one that left little room for collaboration – has been replaced by an understanding that both parties rely on each other in the workplace to thrive, and to balance work-life responsibilities. 

In particular, adopting a mentorship approach has long since proven its value in terms of contributing to an organisational culture of continuous curiosity and learning while facilitating different perspectives. More importantly, mentorship and development create an environment in which mutually beneficial and complementary relationships are nurtured.

An organisation needs specialised talent to effectively deliver value to its clients and an employee seeks to grow professionally and contribute meaningfully. Striking the delicate balance that this synergistic relationship requires, incubates the trust and loyalty necessary for a long-term commitment. 

Motivated organisations are able to secure a competitive advantage through attracting and retaining the most talented people if they invest into changing the way the organisation views the recruitment process and the employee journey that follows.