Attracting and retaining top talent with EX and culture trends

Employee expectations around EX have changed – here's how employers can keep up

Attracting and retaining top talent with EX and culture trends

The world of work is changing, and employee expectations have also shifted dramatically since COVID-19. Employees now routinely share information and challenge their employers to ensure they’re getting the best possible deal. Recruitment and retention are constantly on HR leaders’ minds as they grapple with serious issues around labour shortages.  

In a global survey conducted by Kincentric, an employee engagement and HR consultancy, almost 50% of those surveyed said they were considering leaving their current roles to work elsewhere. Although vacancy rates vary between industries and sectors, with some suffering more than others, recruitment, retention and onboarding process have become critical success factors.

Senior executives Darryl Parrant and Seth Hartdegen at Kincentric, drew on the results of the survey to explore trends in employee engagement so that they can assist HR professionals in their battle to attract and retain top talent. Setting the scene, Parrant described the unprecedented changes that organisations and individuals have experienced in the past five years. Digital acceleration has led to organisational transformation with all the associated change management that requires. The normalisation of hybrid and remote working has led to a blurring between home and work life, which although has created greater work-life balance in many cases, has also posed challenges.

“We know that 70% of employee-employer relationships will be remote in the future. But we also know that stress levels have gone up, particularly among middle management where engagement remains low,” Parrant says.

How often an organisation conducts pulse or engagement surveys will, inevitably, come down to capacity of the HR function. It isn’t something that should be neglected as Kincentric research shows that employees want more of a voice and they want to be heard more regularly.

“Make sure you can follow up on the surveys and give meaning to the action. Getting the right cadence has been a challenge for a number of organisations, as they are not getting the right response rate or the right actions. So having the right mapping and being very intentional about the architecture of the questionnaire is key.”

However some organisations also see this moment as an opportunity to differentiate their talent engagement strategy, asking themselves who must we retain and who can we let go who maybe aren’t performing so strongly?

The focus on EVP is having something tailored and customised to help aid retention. Although fair pay is high on the list of priorities for employees, particularly as the cost of living crisis bites, intrinsic motivation – how employees feel valued – is also a big draw card. The consensus is that there is not enough celebration around achievement. Parrant advises any survey to include questions around recognition and reward. This is also an opportunity to refresh and reset the company vision and strategy so that people are clear not just on their role but how they fit into that. Your employees want to be involved in that direction.

“Employee activism is becoming critical, especially if they are impacted by change and particularly if they are high performers. Finding the right balance and getting them involved early is what we are finding from our results,” Parrant says.

This feeds into the culture of the company, how inclusive and responsive an organisation is to its people. It’s about understanding their psychological contract and whether they strive for the business and are inspired to work. So, how do you align culture with engagement?

A sense of belonging is a key measure and an inclusive culture is critical to achieving that. But the truth about inclusion lies beneath the surface and requires intersectionality analysis, breaking it down into parts:  male and female, tenure, years of experience, etc.

It’s also good practice to get engagement results validated for the C-suite. Adopt focus groups and get their ideas then go back to the senior executive team. Concentrate on the areas where you can have most impact and focus attention on those. 

“One of the key areas for improvement as we come to the tail end of 2022 is middle management engagement which has dropped off by six per cent since COVID and is predicted to drop further,” says Kincentric’s Seth Hartdegen.

“Survey results suggest that they don’t feel supported as they have to deal with change and that there is a misalignment at senior and middle management levels. Only half of middle management think that change is being well managed and that the values coming from the senior team are not shared by those at the middle level,” says Hartdegen.

When this happens, workforce planning becomes critical. As our workplaces evolve to mediate these changes, the HR function also needs to evolve. CHROs need to ask whether they have the right delivery and service model appropriate.

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