7 minute read – The following blog post was written by c. myers and originally published by CUES on November 22, 2021.
We’re experiencing upheaval and uncertainty in the employment arena. One of the most common issues we’re hearing and talking about in strategic planning engagements is talent—more specifically, how to retain and engage the right team members, and attract and onboard the right candidates for your desired value proposition and business model. As you plan how to respond, it’s helpful to break down what’s happening in the environment, determine which effects will be with us long term and consider the challenges from different angles.
Both retention and hiring are difficult right now. At the most basic level, while it’s uneven between industries and regions, there is a labor shortage. There are several contributing factors, some of which will likely last longer than others. The most cited reasons for the unemployed to delay getting a job include fear of catching the virus and childcare responsibilities that are harder to meet with the uncertainty around schools and day care. Other factors include the extra $300 per week in unemployment insurance payments, which has recently ended, and the stimulus money received earlier in the pandemic. About 2 million more retirements than expected during the pandemic also contributed to the shortage.
It’s interesting to note that there was less than one unemployed person for every job opening before the pandemic, too. But it feels different this time.
A reason for the difference is that the number of people voluntarily leaving their jobs has been higher than usual. The Great Resignation, as it has been called, is partly driven by a backlog of resignations as people who otherwise would have left their jobs stayed put during the uncertainty of the pandemic, and are now ready to make a change.
But out of everything that’s happening, perhaps the most difficult aspect to gauge is that people have taken a step back and reevaluated their situations. Work arrangements fundamentally changed for over a year – long enough to give people the space to think about their priorities, for example, family time, commutes, what they want and don’t want from their employment, and where their jobs fit into their lives. This has led some to purposefully seek something different in their work.
Talent Market Challenges Will Continue
The bottom line is that the talent market is going to be competitive for a while. Most institutions are concluding that they need to compete differently to get the talent they need. And while it’s natural to lament the current challenges, those challenges also present tremendous opportunities to build a better talent machine that will serve the organization far into the future.
What’s important to team members is the subject of much discussion and many articles. Organizations are focused on providing more of what team members want and offering a clear value proposition to candidates. Viewing the company through the lens of the team members’ experience is important, but it’s also critical to ask what’s important to the organization and what type of work culture is desired that will meet the organization’s needs and team members’ needs?
Here are some strategic thinking questions to help gain clarity as an approach is developed:
- Think about the reasons for labor challenges, some of which were discussed earlier. Include specific factors for our market. Which do we think will be short-term and which will be long-term?
- How can we turn our talent development, recruitment and management into a competitive advantage?
- What kind of a talent organization do we want to be? In other words, what is our desired strategic people plan (our talent structure and competencies to take us into the future)?
- How can we achieve our strategic people plan? How can we refocus our talent retention, development and recruitment efforts for this purpose?
- Which areas of the organization need more depth or more bandwidth? How do we anticipate that changing in the next five to 10 years?
- How are the competencies required to support our business model changing?
- Will we highly value self-starters, innovators, collaborators or experimenters? Will we provide more certifications and training or do we want people to drive their own development?
- What is our desired value proposition as an employer? Why?
- Imagine the best place you can think of to work. Go beyond pay and benefits. What are the most important aspects?
- Who are our high performers? Why? Were they developed internally? If so, how? If not, what would it have taken to do so? How will our definition of high performer change in the future?
- Some people just want jobs and are not interested in professional advancement. What conditions make that a good exchange for the organization?
- Think about those who clearly understand the purpose and strategy of the organization. Did they drive toward that knowledge themselves? What were the defining moments or events that cultivated this deeper engagement? What level were they in the organization when they started to “get it”? How can we use this knowledge to get more team members engaged on a deeper level?
- What are the characteristics of those who thrive in our organization? Why? Are those the characteristics that will serve the organization in the future?
- What are we going to do differently that is truly enough to meet our talent challenges?
As you engage in strategic thinking around these questions, recognize that if your desired outcomes amount to building a better talent machine for the future, a change in culture may be in order. This is not a task to be handed to the human resources department to “fix.” It will require senior leaders working together to make it happen. To shift the culture, people at many levels need to think and act differently. The senior leaders must model new behaviors and discuss them regularly until they become ingrained in the culture.
Individual organizations don’t have much control over supply and demand for labor, but you do have opportunities to match team members’ and candidates’ desires and needs with the desires and needs of the organization. Imagine looking back in five or 10 years and realizing that team members are generally more satisfied and engaged, and the workplace landscape, as a whole, is better than it once was—all thanks to a pandemic that rapidly and radically shifted how we think about work.