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Attracting and Retaining Top Talent

HRTalks expert panel weighs in on best practices for recruiting the most qualified candidates.

Ann Rhoades Ann Rhoades
Damon Jones Damon Jones
Tue Le Tue Le
Tamas Lengyel Tamas Lengyel

HR professionals are faced with a challenging task in this era of flexible schedules and remote workspaces — how do you recruit, and retain, top talent in a global pool of candidates? Technology has made it all too easy for the most highly qualified candidates to shop their skills to companies located far outside their local areas, giving them a big advantage in the marketplace.

Desirable headquarters location isn’t the perk it once was. Job seekers on the West Coast, for example, can expand their search to companies anywhere in the U.S., throughout the Pacific Rim and beyond. And competition is due to intensify. By most projections, the economy is poised for significant expansion once the COVID pandemic is over, with potentially explosive job growth.

Regardless of the economic climate, employee retention is always important to the bottom line. High turnover is expensive and prevents a company from moving forward. It dulls competitive advantage along with company morale. It’s simply a bad look all the way around.

So how do companies attract and retain top talent in 2021 and beyond? Here are five keys to success, shared by an expert panel on HRTalks, a free webinar series sponsored by UCI DCE.

Build a Strong, Positive Culture

Projecting a distinct, values-based culture creates an inviting environment for top-level talent, the right type of employees who can perpetuate that culture. So, don’t recruit candidates based on competencies and skills alone, but also the values they project, said Ann Rhoades, President and Founder of People Ink.

“I really believe that you have to customize and create an environment that is based on a set of values that ultimately creates your culture, the collection of behaviors of an organization,” she added. “I’ve discovered that great organizations become great places to work because they attract people who want to work for an employee-centric and customer-centric organization.”

Rhoades points to JetBlue, Salesforce, Procter & Gamble and Southwest Airlines as excellent examples of employee-centric companies with strong cultures that are equally appealing to customers. “If you fly Southwest Airlines, one of their values is fun. They're always having a great time on a flight, and that happens because it was designed specifically that way.”

Showcase an Inclusive Workforce

Conversations about equality and race have moved front and center for corporate America, but while most companies endorse these values, they don’t necessarily showcase them in their own organizations. That can be a deal breaker for many highly qualified individuals, according to Damon Jones, Chief Communications Officer at Procter & Gamble.

“We’ve seen the organizations that say that Black lives matter, for example, yet don’t necessarily have the right culture inside their own walls,” he said. “Black employees don’t feel that the leaders live those values. Not only will that potentially impact the bottom line, it can also impact your ability to recruit and retain the best people.”

Don’t rely on ads or commercials to tout the importance of inclusive policies, showcase your own workforce as a living example. Signaling support for gender and racial equality isn’t enough. Keep in mind, it’s easy to scour company websites to see who’s really running the shop.

Offer a Remote, Flexible Lifestyle

Companies that aren’t open to flexible lifestyles for their employees run the risk of being left far behind more proactive organizations. The tide is irreversible; companies that said a year ago they’d never go remote are now fully remote, and it won’t change post-pandemic, said Tue Le, VP of Global Brand at Remote Year.

“It’s an employee market right now, and employees are shopping around for companies with the best lifestyle benefits. The idea of flexible work is no longer a perk or a benefit — it's an expectation and a norm for everybody.”

Beyond an attractive employee enticement, a remote workforce can increase morale and even boost productivity, Le added. She knows from experience. “I don't care where employees work, all I care about is being results-driven. So, as we deliver as a team, I don't care if you're calling me from a boat in the middle of Vietnam.”

Solicit Employee Feedback

Encouraging regular, targeted feedback from employees is an effective way to improve conditions, measure satisfaction and stay abreast of current trends management might not otherwise be aware of. But it’s important to let the employees know why the survey is being given, its purpose and how the company might benefit, Tue Le said. “It’s important to create an environment and a culture where you're welcoming feedback and showing people why it matters.”

Le spends an hour after each survey creating a presentation, an action plan she shares with the entire organization. Often, employees will sign up to give an extra one or two hours of their time to share feedback directly with Remote Year’s leadership team.

“If you show employees the actions and behaviors that have changed as a result of their feedback, they're going to be extremely open and welcoming to giving you further feedback.”

Encourage Creative Input

Inviting members of your team to ideate, brainstorm and take part in the creative process contributes to a positive, employee-centric environment and helps improve the final result. One of the best ways is through the prototyping process, one of the creative tools recommended by Tamas Lengyel, Founder of DOERS Conference and former VP at DHL Express.

It’s an effective way to visualize, outline and revise an intangible such as a service or process from its inception.

“Prototyping is really important,” Lengyel said. “If you create the prototype, then you can share it with people so they can react to it, offer their own ideas. Then you can redesign and refine it.. What’s important to remember here is that it's a first draft, an early attempt to build something in the low-fidelity format.”

Like any first draft, it’s a rough cardboard sketch of sorts that gets the creative juices flowing and encourages revisions — in this case leading to a polished vision that everyone can share in.

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