Six things you should do now for talent retention and recruitment

I read two articles this week that made me think about the first and following lockdown times last year and of the beginning of this year and what it could mean for corporations and their recruiting strategies. The first article was from the New Yorker and is about the COVID boosted movement to “pull the plug” and rethink life, starting with your business life and work situation, leaving knowledge workers to increasingly resign even from good positions. My social media feed was full of it.

The second article, published on NBC news, is about the skyrocketed burnout rate among this workforce (a mindblowing 55 %) and gives some advice on how to unplug from ever present work duties these times. 

What both have in common is the tremendous impact that COVID had and will have on our work (and private) lifes. And on corporations finding the best talent people and personalities needed to thrive their businesses. The following thoughts come with the intention to shed corporate light on this (still rather neglected) topic and what companies should do NOW in order to retain and recruit needed talents going into the post COVID era (that hopefully starts soon).

Most of us probably still remember the first time when our employers told us to stay at home in March 2020 and the following days. At this very moment we probably did not realize what impact this would have on most of our lives on the way we live, we socialize (or not), and we work.

A couple of weeks of lockdown and several Zoom sessions later working from home was the new normal and the number of my sessions just went through the roof. Back to back and without any even short “check ins” or breaks in between. I guess most of the schedules of other workers looked like mine: one neverending, day filling meeting.

The “Zoom” nation 

Already fatigued people were in search of absent entertainment and (online) distraction led to streaming subscriptions skyrocketing and all time highs screen times. I already had a netflix subscription and a lot of screen time so I started to find ways in order to balance sitting the whole day on my not so ergonomic kitchen table chair. As a frequent gym visitor I subscribed for gym online classes that didn’t lower my screen time but made me move at least some times a week. In addition, I went for a lot of walks outside in the nearby park. 

As time went by I started to read about people thinking about their lives also boosted by (not so new) new work content, having been there for quite some time since its first coverage in the 70/80s. What’s different since then? Well, a global virus epidemic, leaving not only the business world switching from offline to online “pandemic mode” literally overnight. 

The corporate perspective: Leaders and their teams at the edge of reasons

From a corporate perspective this was not a piece of cake either. At least two major challenges occurred: the technical, mostly easily solvable challenge (even though it was hard and expensive for a lot of companies to buy hundreds of laptops) and the hard thing, letting go of physical presence and leaving most leaders with a never experienced situation managing their workforce (including their new ”pandemic” issues) remotely. Especially the younger ones, found themselves in situations they never trained for, being a young leader and having no skill set or toolbox to deal with the sheer number of different issues their employees had.

With the accompanying situation of heavy economic impact due to COVID, most leaders lost sight of their employees and had neither real strategies nor experiences coping with this. As one consequence, employees that would have needed special guidance and attention just slipped through, leading to worsening some of their individual situations challenged by so far not known private and work issues. On the contrary ambitious and talented individuals faced a perceived (and sometimes also actual) downgrade or halt of their career development by not having the (rewarding) personal and professional feedback received within face to face conversations and meetings. A situation that also increases the burden of the initially mentioned group of sensible workforce. 

Within the second, the longer lockdown things consolidated, leaving leaders coping with these situations. Leaders tried to act reasonably either supporting the first group and neglecting business needs or micromanaging the second group with the same consequences. In addition, the second group of highly talented individuals felt “leashed”, not appreciated and started to slowly disconnect themselves from their responsibilities. In addition to business issues people started to rethink their whole life, putting every detail on the test.

So what to do for HR and business leaders now

Coming back to the mentioned article a lot of people made up their minds and want to change something. Some of them already know specifically what to do, some others don’t. In my view we reached a crucial point here where corporations are still able to do something. So what to do for HR and business leaders now?

1. Invest in your culture but don’t expect immediate results

In the last months I often heard about the initiative of improving company culture and values. I do think that this is a really important matter, but a) Not something that a corporation should do without strategy, overall fit and support and b) Not as an initiative with expected immediate effect. Because there won’t or rather be an immediate effect. So yes, work on your culture, get professional help and have a long term plan.

2. Talk is cheap, still…Be the leader you always wanted yourself

What could have an immediate effect though is getting a holistic picture about your people. Walk the talk. Get to know them better. Ask your employees what’s bothering them at home and at work. It’s kind of a no brainer but I know a lot of people telling me that their managers almost never ask. Especially in times of no presence it’s even more important to frequently check in, creating opportunities to (virtually) meet. Try to (actively) listen, be empathetic, be supportive.

3. First who: Examine your leadership team wisely and be ready to act

Another initiative can be having an effective leadership evaluation and the right consequences you draw out of them. And I explicitly do not mean a lighthouse company program but a thoroughly proceed hands on personal evaluation. Having done that correctly you gain valuable insights of your leadership team, their effectiveness and even consequences on your team’s mood and corporate culture. But this comes with a small warning: you should have the courage to change your leadership team as knowing the facts and don’t acting will lead to an even more toxic environment.

4. Don’t be cheap on training

With effective and empathetic leaders your good people will retain while others will leave. That’s ok, as some individuals’ performance impacts the overall team’s performance tremendously. 

If you find out that your current leadership has what it basically takes but needs some training, don’t be cheap. Finding good leaders out in the field is much harder and more expensive compared to retaining your leadership team.

5. It’s probably not about the company car any more

Having replaced or mentally upgraded your leadership team it’s time to work on their existing teams. Leave it to them to identify key roles and requirements for new members. But work on common benefits that gain importance due to COVID. Among others, more flexible office hours including of course a mix of home office and presence or temporary “leave” programs are key. But also learning initiatives mostly offered within an individually owned training budget that can also be spent on external well-known programs.

6. Recruiting (better) people

It sometimes seems promising copying former role requirements in order to finish early. Don’t do it. There are some ways that HR teams almost never do: listing not only key tasks to perform but also identifying situations that are likely to occur in the upcoming weeks and months. Special situations like a market entry while the team is not ready yet or product development with not yet reached product market fit. Instead of looking for single requirements and pure experiences, look for personality patterns including potential that might help you. People who have already mastered crises sometimes don’t want to do the exact same thing in another setting. 

Where Rainmaker Society can help

Of course it’s harder to find these people, but help is out there. Rainmaker Society offers many ways in supporting you on that important yet challenging journey. We give you access to a leader and talent pool full of game changers, innovators, movers and shakers. In addition we can support your corporation by providing the most cutting edge consultants helping you and your organization through your most challenging issues. Be aware that the war for talent has increased during COVID and is going to further tighten. Reserve your organisation’s seat on the side of these corporations that leave this challenging time as winners.

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