August 18, 2021
Trends are cyclical. “The Great Resignation” can easily create panic for some employers but should ultimately be viewed more as an opportunity. The market is telling us something beyond the typical war for talent and forcing every industry to understand what people value and what will make them put on some dress slacks, and make that commute into the office. As summer vacations wind down and employers brace for “The Great Resignation”, there are four key areas where organizations can ensure that they are both attracting and retaining the best talent on the market:
Make Flexibility > Perks
Historically, companies have relied on often “fun” perks to attract up and coming talent. The ping pong table, the slide that goes from the third floor to the first floor, the free food, or happy hours. This model worked well for a while because it was a vast departure from a previous era of cubicles, corner offices, defined spaces, and monotonous routines. It was by design made to intertwine personal and work life, in the corporate office setting. Perks like the above, offered by big tech companies like Google and Facebook led the way. Today’s ultimate perk doesn’t resemble the ping pong table and happy hours of yesterday but rather tunes into how employees have pivoted during the pandemic—prioritizing and valuing flexibility to manage the new challenges of life and work as the world still grapples with uncertainties.
Sean O’Driskoll, founder and CEO of management consulting firm Springbank Partners underscores the shift away from office perks toward flexibility as a talent attraction/rentention strategy across all talent, full-time and contingent: “Ultimately, you’re only as good as your ability to attract and retain the highest value talent in your industry. ‘In-office’ perks will never exceed the importance of flexibility for the post-pandemic workforce. The enterprise will adopt flex models across both full time and contingent workers; the only question is whether they will lead their sector or finding themselves switching gears after key talent already has left for more progressive competitors.”
So the idea of perks is being re-invented while offering flexibility is being evaluated as the most coveted—It’s why Linked In recently instated a policy to permanently remove office expectations and allow employees to work remotely indefinitely. It’s also why Google may find employees are willing to take pay cuts based on geography if it means keeping their work from anywhere status.
Adopt An “ABR” (Always Be Recruiting) Mindset
“Retention is the new growth not just for customers but employees as well,” says Rani Mani, Adobe’s Head of Employee Advocacy. “Continual recruiting of your existing workforce that develops a strong internal brand and culture is the way to persuade employees to stay. Employees want to engage with the company’s value proposition so they can internalize that and relay it to their customers in a personal and engaging way.”
Mani underscores what I like to think of as the “ABR” mindset (Always Be Recruiting), which means starting with your existing talent. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that employees want to share values with a company. An ABR mindset means aligning your company values with those of the employee and making continual efforts to show your appreciation, dedication, and commitment to your existing talent base while you work to expand it. New talent is essential for an organization, but treating existing talent like you are in a perpetual state of recruitment will ensure that the talent feels valued and valuable and attracts the best of new talent to the organization. Word gets out when a company operates with an “ABR” mindset.
Re-Think The 9-to-5 Workday
For those already in the workforce, flexibility is also a push back to email availability. A 9-to-5 office job was an acceptable bargain at one point. In the last ten years especially, with the increased speed and capability of a smartphone, being able to check an email any time from anywhere has led to bonus work on top of the workday. This is fine if it comes with flexible work times. Then—working at 9 PM isn’t as taxing. That’s a real sticking point for people in their careers right now. People want to work, they want to grow in their careers, but they need a balance. Also, it’s tough to refer to the entire workforce as a monolith. There are hundreds of different motivation combinations people have.
For parents—the school day isn’t always happening within the same 9-5 window as the workday as education becomes more remote as well. The largest online learning platform, Canvas, had 30 million users before the pandemic, and that number only continues to grow. You can anticipate that this current generation of students, well versed in remote work from an early age, will only expect more remote options, not less. Most major assessments, how we track student progress, are moving online because they are far more efficient that way. 81% of K-12 educators believe remote tools will play a more influential role in teaching and learning moving forward, according to Canvas parent company, Instructure’s study on the State of K-12 Education. That being just one of many data points that suggest if current talent in the workforce and future talent are both accepting more fluid work days, then the toothpaste is already out of the tube.
Know Your “Talent Net Worth”
Not to be confused with how much employees make or own in assets. Every organization has a “net worth” of the aggregate of their talent, and increasingly, the best talent understands and knows their net worth to the organization. Conor McGregor is the highest-paid athlete in the world right now. He has charisma, but he has one win in the last five years. It’s because he bet on his whiskey company Proper No. Twelve and it sold for $600 million. LeBron James right now is following suit with heavy promotion of his tequila, Lobos. While professional athletics or entertainment may not look relevant to a company and its workforce—increasingly, an organization’s MVPs are starting to think the same way, and they know the net worth of their talent. The average employee isn’t going to start a whiskey brand, but they are exponentially better at understanding how they impact the bottom line, what they can do, and now you’re not just competing to hire someone; you are competing with a variety of equally advantageous self-employment options. Success creates more of something.
Julianna Richter, Global CEO of Ogilvy PR, believes that employers need to think differently about the professional opportunities they offer outside of the work itself. “The best talent, regardless of role or age, want to contribute to something bigger than just the individual client they are hired for or project that they are working on. They want to build something new, to chart new paths and are looking for opportunities to create the blueprint, not just follow it. Employers today need to think and act like a ‘start up’ by offering opportunities to build something new and having the chance to experiment, to work in different team structures, learn new skills and use their super-powers in different ways.”
Athletes, influencers, and anyone who can endorse something are opting more and more toward equity deals and building a brand from scratch—very much like taking a equity in a start-up. The upside is higher. That’s what knowing your “talent net worth” means. Because the demand for work isn’t higher, it’s just the supply of options is much greater.
Remember a few of these factors when creating that job posting, calling an all-hands with HR, or contracting that recruiter. And don’t forget to “ABR” your organization’s existing talent. Try and get in the heads of the talent that might want to work with you and what all of their options are, including but beyond compensation and benefits. Once they are there, keep recruiting them (ABR) and creating reasons to engage further with the product, the mission, and the company as the great talent migration plays out.
Source: David Armano via Forbes.com