Softly softly – how to win the “war for tal­ent”

NZ Business - - RECRUITMENT - By Kirsten Pat­ter­son, New Zealand Coun­try Head, Char­tered Ac­coun­tants Aus­tralia and New Zealand. She is a for­mer HR man­ager and a Fel­low of the HR In­sti­tute of New Zealand.

I’VE BEEN READING a new sur­vey about re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion – what is more com­monly known these days as “tal­ent”, or (more dra­mat­i­cally) the “war for tal­ent”.

The sur­vey, re­leased ear­lier this year by spe­cial­ist in­ter­na­tional hu­man re­sources (HR) re­search firm Korn Ferry, gives some in­sights on how to win this war.

Pay will get you into the fight, but the sur­vey shows that if you want to get the best per­son for the job, you need to pay a lot of at­ten­tion to the soft stuff: com­pany cul­ture – is your work­place a happy one? – and ca­reer pro­gres­sion.

In this time of one of our high­est em­ploy­ment rates ever, re­cruit­ment is gen­uinely a two-way street – can­di­dates are check­ing you out just as much as you are in­ter­view­ing them. Are you the kind of or­gan­i­sa­tion they want to join? More im­por­tantly, are you the kind of man­ager they want to work for?

To­day’s job can­di­date is less in­ter­ested in how much you pay them than they used to be. Sur­vey re­spon­dents (more than 1100 HR ex­perts world­wide) be­lieve that five years ago salary and ben­e­fits pack­ages were rated, by far, as the main rea­son for job can­di­dates choos­ing an or­gan­i­sa­tion. Now that pref­er­ence has dropped by half. In­stead, the top two cri­te­ria for can­di­dates are “com­pany cul­ture” and “ca­reer pro­gres­sion”. The ben­e­fits package comes in at num­ber three (19 per­cent com­pared with 39 per­cent five years ago).

A huge shift. Think­ing back to 2011-2012, re­spon­dents reck­oned only about seven per­cent of can­di­dates were choos­ing an or­gan­i­sa­tion for its com­pany cul­ture.

“Five years ago the world was still reel­ing from the Great Re­ces­sion [other­wise known as the 2007-2008 GFC], mass lay­offs, and all-round jit­ters,” says Korn Ferry Fu­turestep global op­er­at­ing ex­ec­u­tive Wil­liam Se­bra. “It only makes sense that can­di­dates felt the need for a sta­ble pay­check... To­day work­ers are gen­er­ally mov­ing beyond ba­sic needs to dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties.”


And it’s a dif­fi­cult shift for em­ploy­ers.

It’s easy to get your head around ad­ding a few thou­sand dol­lars to the monthly salary bill to se­cure your cho­sen staffers. It’s much harder to build and main­tain a cul­ture em­ploy­ees want to be part of.

Com­pany cul­ture is more vague and ab­stract. Hav­ing a good com­pany cul­ture prob­a­bly in­volves hav­ing a clear and con­sis­tent vi­sion and try­ing to put peo­ple be­fore op­er­a­tions.

More specif­i­cally it could mean any­thing from be­ing fam­ily friendly, to avoid­ing mi­cro­man­age­ment. It might be about the phys­i­cal lay­out of the of­fice and/or it might re­flect how trans­par­ent your or­gan­i­sa­tion is – or how good the com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

For some peo­ple, a good com­pany cul­ture will in­volve so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity. For oth­ers it will be about well­ness, or feel­ing well-sup­ported and ap­pre­ci­ated – the in­ter­nal stuff. Or all of the above.

Part of the change in­volves the rise of mil­len­ni­als (20-35 year olds) who now out­num­ber Gen Xs (35-50 year olds) in many work­places. Both groups are look­ing for com­pany cul­ture, says Korn Ferry Fu­turestep’s pres­i­dent of tal­ent ac­qui­si­tion so­lu­tions Jeanne Mac­Don­ald.

“Mil­len­ni­als want to feel good about where they’re work­ing, beyond cos­metic changes to cre­at­ing a sense of pur­pose. Gen X are more in­ter­ested in tak­ing their skill set to a place where they can make an im­pact.”

The fo­cus on com­pany cul­ture isn’t go­ing away. The Korn Ferry sur­vey sug­gests flex­i­ble work­ing will be the num­ber one pri­or­ity for can­di­dates in five years’ time, with com­pany cul­ture not far be­hind.

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