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Attraction and retention may no longer be sufficient

Surprisingly, the current crisis is not fundamentally changing the drivers of talent attraction and retention. However, it is plunging many sectors into a real war for talent.

Recruitment trends differ across industries; some are recruiting massively (IT, healthcare, banks, start-ups, etc.), while others are struggling to attract and retain talent (energy, manufacturing, construction and mining). However, the challenge is the same across the board: focusing on attraction and retention alone is no longer enough, you need to know how to position yourself to have a competitive edge. Even companies that are currently in good health are not immune: some of their employees are leaving and heading for companies that offer greater security, are more aligned with their values or allow them to fully realize their potential in a motivating environment that has a superior quality of work life.    

In this context, the question remains: how can we influence the dynamics of the talent market? Certainly not exclusively through attractive compensation. To do so, companies must now be able to better understand how to influence the internal and external dynamics at play in order to come out on top in a highly competitive talent market. The focus here is on attracting, retaining and developing talent (highlighted in grey in the diagram below) in addition to optimizing, differentiating and evolving the organization as an employer (highlighted in green). In this article, we will focus on these last three dynamics, the others being well known and addressed by companies and discussed in various literature.

Graphic about Internal Dynamics (Talent Demand and Talent Offer) and External Dynamics (Market Offer and Market Demand)

Optimizing talent retention and loyalty through mobility and training

Professional mobility remains attractive to foster talent loyalty

Companies that stand out in this respect emphasize individualized internal mobility paths for their talent, taking into account their competencies, skills, strengths and the company strategy. Internal mobility has the advantage of offering evolutionary perspectives to talents while responding internally to the organization's needs, all while reducing the costs generally associated with recruiting and hiring for vacant positions. It is therefore a particularly relevant lever at a time when many organizations are slowing down their hiring or need to redeploy their people in a more agile way to meet changing needs. However, to achieve this, many organizations do not have the data and tools to influence this dynamic. Business intelligence and artificial intelligence can be important allies in making "smart matches" or proposing "fluid" career paths within the organization, ones that are not limited to vertical opportunities but based on the similarity of talent skills between different positions within the organization.

Optimization also means fostering collaboration and organizational effectiveness. In this context, a certain emphasis must be placed on accelerating virtual collaborations and idea exchange - it has been proven that this fosters innovation, motivation, and a sense of belonging. However, with remote work, many organizations report that their employees feel less connected, even, less loyal to their employer. Thus, we need to review what the employee experience means in a total or hybrid remote work approach or when part of the team is in this arrangement, in order to maintain interactions and solid, lasting ties. Expectations are certainly different for managers, teams and employees, but is it clear to all?


The value of talent training is enhanced when it is bespoke

Leading organizations define bespoke training for their talent by aligning it with the individuals' professional expectations, the organization's strategy and of course, the evolution of current and future roles or work. These types of training often take the form of a core curriculum of collective training (allowing to create a group synergy and to federate talents around key issues in the organization), with the possibility to add training choices made by employees themselves or developed by high performers in the form of micro-learnings. Key employees are thus contributors to their own development or that of their colleagues. This approach places the employee at the center of the training dynamic: "We are developing a learning culture, i.e., no longer having a training plan, based on learning actors. Our people are trained on how to take charge of their own growth process," says the head of international human resources development for a group in the luxury sector.

New technologies also allow for the so-called "intelligent" proposal of training courses from an online catalog, thus allowing employees to be accompanied in their career development within the organization. This is based on their current skills and the skills of the role they wish to target: artificial intelligence then identifies related roles that may be in high demand, and proposes a personalized learning curriculum for acquiring these skills. This allows companies to achieve greater sustainability of their workforce while giving employees choice and control over the why, how and when of their continuous learning.

Differentiate by putting an emphasis on the company's Employee Value Proposition and the employee's quality of work-life

Only a concrete Employee Value Proposition (EVP) leads to engagement and motivation

EVP is a critical issue in today’s work environment, as it refers to what the organization offers in exchange for the work of its employees and the value that employees perceive in their relationship with their employer (meaning, responsibilities, skill development, management practices, work atmosphere and conditions, opportunities for growth and benefits). This is the case, for example, in the fossil fuel sector, which is often considered to be too little in line with environmental issues, and in the banking sector, which suffers from a conservative and capitalist image that can conflict with the values of some people.

The main challenge for organizations is to translate their values into concrete actions. It is important to onboard employees in the logic of a "mission-based" organization, by offering them the possibility to blossom in professional and personal projects that echo their values. "We are now deploying a project for an organization that is responsible to all its stakeholders. The project includes the definition of sustainable development objectives, the development of partnerships encouraging employees to get involved in community projects, and concrete actions in favor of gender equality. This project is the subject of a specific communication", says the HR development manager of an organization in the environmental sector.

The EVP must therefore serve as a basis for the organization's communication, but, above all, be in line with reality in order to convince employees. It's important to demonstrate a visible and tangible culture through the behavior of all the players. It is a differentiating approach that helps to define your company's DNA is, what makes you stand out, the "fit" of potential and current employees with the organization, not only in terms of values, vision and mission, but also in terms of employee expectations in terms of rewards, culture and work-life balance, among others. This is an important groundwork that needs to be highlighted with a strong, multi-channel communication campaign in order to get the maximum value out of it.


Enabling employees to access the best Quality of Work Life (QWL)

Differentiation is also about creating a healthy work environment based on QWL. This is increasingly cited by employees as a decisive factor when choosing whether or not they will join or stay with an employer. Indeed, in a constantly changing work environment, absenteeism, psychosocial risks and mental health have a lasting impact on operational efficiency. Certain work practices and expectations can be strongly challenged by employees and therefore, influence their motivation, wellbeing and even, in some cases, their health. In our study on the new role of managers published in 2021, 37% of respondents said that they were managing their team's fears and psychosocial risks to a greater extent. For HR partners, this was 2.5x more, up to 82%.

From this perspective, prioritizing quality of work life (QWL) is a major issue. However, its definition varies from person to person. The important thing is that the actors in the organization take some responsibility and are active in shaping their QWL. An organization in the health sector shared with us: "We see QWL as a portfolio of key actions, a lever for improving the working conditions of our teams and the performance of the organization, all the more so within the context of the pandemic - mental health is an issue that cannot be ignored.

Quality of work life should not be limited to health and safety issues. The QWL approach has a broader ambition to anticipate and prevent workplace risks, framing organizational performance through healthy, enabled and empowered employees. Taking care of the well-being of a workforce increases loyalty and is an element of attraction and differentiation on the market: one only has to look at the comments on organization evaluation platforms such as Indeed and Glassdoor to quickly come to that conclusion.

Evolving HR practices in an agile manner

Learning can also be put in "Agile" mode: iterative and dynamic

Beyond the format, it is also the content of training that organizations must adapt today. On the one hand, the uncertain context reinforces the need to develop the employability of the workforce, through training materials adapted to market changes. Organizations must be on the lookout for changes in business, in terms of skills and roles themselves, in order to carry out strategic planning of employees through their development (upskilling) or their requalification (reskilling). A major bank is using artificial intelligence to offer training to refocus its workforce on high-growth roles in its organization, thereby reducing separation and recruitment costs and, above all, increasing retention.

On the other hand, it's essential to focus on "soft skills" such as resourcefulness, emotional intelligence, authentic leadership and coalition building. These are all skills that organizations need to be able to rely on, especially in difficult times. These soft skills will remain important in the future of work as we increasingly let "robots be robots" and "humans be humans”. However, this also means that humans must learn to collaborate with these robots and understand the information presented to them. Indeed, one major hospital identified data literacy and change management as core skills for all levels of leadership, from emerging leaders to senior executives, emphasizing that "they cannot ignore the opportunity cost."


Local HR management   

Employees from organizations we work with continuously emphasize the importance of close, personalized HR management that listens to the doubts they express, and responds to them in an appropriate manner. "HR talent management is done in real time: we need to get away from the "classic" annual process," confided a talent manager in the luxury sector; "this is the condition for anticipating the risks of departure as much as possible. Employee experience is one of the factors that can help prevent departures."

This can be interpreted in several ways, such as:

Six steps to improving your employees experiences: Offer a personalized experience | Collect feedback | Embrace new ways of working | Get to know your people's expectations | Don't think only about results on a short term | Simplify interactions and access to info/services

In addition to fostering a positive and iterative employee experience, it is now crucial for HR players to act on the reasons for departures. To do this, they must be able to understand the expectations and motivations of employees, which vary according to their profiles (emerging or senior talents, technical or more transversal profiles, etc.). Design Thinking is an immersive approach that allows you to bring out your expectations through personas or experience mapping. It is therefore essential for organizations to listen well and collaborate with their workforce. "We believe strongly in individual follow-up: we know all the employees who are part of the talent pool very well, and these employees know that they are closely followed and that they have a direct line to the Human Resources Department (HRD) group. So, if they express certain doubts about management, their mobility, their career management, etc., we can act quickly," sums up the HR development director of a large agri-food group.

This "listening" can be done in various ways: either through conversations, surveys, sentiment analysis (Artificial Intelligence), or internal Crowdsourcing.

Companies must be proactive in their approach but also keep an eye on the changing market

The management of actions aimed at talents must integrate the measurement of their ROI 

In order to evaluate and adjust the levers used to influence the talent market, the organizations we spoke with rely on Return on Investment (ROI) metrics, such as talent retention rates, the percentage of critical positions filled by high-potential employees in succession plans, or the signs of dissatisfaction or fatigue expressed during a talent review.

Measuring the effectiveness of talent retention strategies is particularly important in difficult times, as it allows HR to quantify the value it brings to the business units and the organization's strategy. Many of the benefits of measuring this ROI were noted by the organizations surveyed:

  • A better talent retention rate at the corporate level (87%) in a large pharmaceutical group.
  • A positive impact on succession issues for an organization in the banking sector: "in three years, 65% of senior executive positions were replaced by employees from the talent pool".
  • An increase in the share of women targeted as high talent: one organization mentioned having reached more than 40% of women in their high potentials (HiPOs) - admitting that this is not yet parity, they recognized that this effort has however translated into a greater representativity on its management committees.

It is also important to note that ROI can be calculated with respect to change management within the framework of a transformation by using the observed adoption of desired behaviors, or by a progress measurement of the number of activities carried out with respect to a plan or roadmap. This is coupled with the need to communicate extensively and consistently. This is particularly important since, with the pandemic, more people are working remotely or in hybrid mode, a trend which is likely to persist, but perhaps, in a more balanced proportion: McKinsey predicts a 25% increase in remote work pre vs. post COVID-19. This is reflected in the results of our own market research, where 68% of managers said they need to ensure more regular inter and intra team communication. This number goes up to 91% for HR business partners.


To influence this highly competitive talent market, we need to act quickly but also have a good understanding of how market dynamics affect our organization

The scarcity of talent is real in many sectors. This is one of the paradoxes of the current period: even in times of crisis, we must fight to retain and attract talent! To achieve this, there are no concessions: each organization must jointly mobilize the multiple levers mentioned above in order to influence the market dynamics: we must go beyond attraction, retention and development and better understand optimization, differentiation and evolution in order to benefit from them.

We believe that by doing so, every organization will be better equipped to prepare for the future and build a competitive advantage in what can sometimes seem like a cutthroat talent market.

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