As it became clear that COVID-19 would be a once-in-a-generation pandemic, the general consensus was that economic impacts would be significant, fuelled by growing unemployment, in a vicious cycle.
It is staggering to think that unemployment has, instead, declined rather than grown and that employers are competing harder than ever to attract and retain great talent.
However, one person who did see this reality was Professor Anthony Klotz, who is credited with coining the term 'The Great Resignation' when predicting the mass resignations that would occur. Despite his predictions being based on the US job market, we are seeing the same impacts playing out in Australia, even if they have been somewhat delayed.
With weeks and months in and out of lockdown and so much uncertainty, employees are re-assessing their career and lifestyle options. They are placing a greater significance on the purpose of their role and a sense of shared belonging, which is stimulating a desire to change careers, or at the very least employers, at rates beyond what most would have expected.
A PwC survey suggests that 38% of Australian workers will be looking for a new job this year. So, whether it's The Great Resignation or just natural turnover in your business, you need to leave no stone unturned to ensure you can retain your existing employees and attract new ones if need be.
Retaining Your Employees
Retention starts with a deep understanding of your employee's needs. Knowing where to start can be a roadblock. But inaction increases risk. Here are 3 key actions you can do today to ensure you are doing what you can to retain your people in your business.
1. Speak to your team
Speak to your people and do it regularly. Having regular conversations - and I mean talking ‘with’ them, not ‘at’ them - and truly listening and seeking to understand will show them very clearly that you care and want to help. At a minimum, having fortnightly catch-ups over coffee or a virtual walk & chat is recommended. These conversations should not be about the work necessarily but rather checking-in with your employees. Asking them what's working, what isn't working, what they enjoy, what their challenges are, and what you can do to help them will help open up meaningful dialogue to enable you to really connect, understand and support them.
2. Focus on wellbeing
There is a strong link between employee wellbeing and attrition. So, a focus on employee wellbeing will pay dividends. I can hear you say, “but we offer access to wellbeing programs, and the take up is low”. This may be the case. However, you can encourage employees to more regularly access such programs.
You may have an EAP in place, organise yoga sessions or meditation sessions, provide healthy eating classes or undertake virtual walking challenges, but if your team are feeling fatigued, overworked or overwhelmed, they may not have the headspace to participate in such programs despite seeing the value in them.
Creating space in the day or across the working week to allow employees to engage with wellness activities will help increase their engagement and therefore, benefit from such programs. For example, scheduling time in the week for employees to ‘down tools’ and attend a yoga class will encourage them to feel they have the time and capacity to get involved.
Simple measures like ensuring your team actually have breaks during the day will also add to their increased wellbeing. Encouraging taking tea and lunch breaks and not 'working through' will aid your employees in feeling more refreshed and, therefore, productive. And by doing the same, you'll benefit too. This is particularly important as a lot of the workforce is currently working remotely, and lines between work and meaningful rest can blur.
Unsurprisingly, flexibility is a big-ticket item for many employees. But flexibility means different things to different people. Again, this comes back to speaking to your team. Find out what makes them tick. What motivates them? How do they do their best work? When do they do their best work? Everyone is different, and there is not a one size fits all solution.
Having an organisational-wide approach to flexibility is important as it promotes fairness, equity and inclusion. Furthermore, what resonates with each team member will be different. Some people are morning people, and some prefer later starts, some want to work more in the office, and some less. Understanding who you are as an organisation, your values and your overall approach to flexibility will create a platform to help you have these conversations with your team.
Recruiting the Right People
If employees leave your business despite your best efforts, you will need to look at strategies to fill the gap. Rather than seeing this as a challenge, see it as an opportunity. An opportunity to pause, reflect, and consider the business needs going forward. Rather than rushing to replace a role 'like for like', take time to think if the structure is correct, if the scope of the role is adequate for what lies ahead and what you really need from the role in terms of skills and experience.
Use a vacancy as an opportunity to promote from within. Perhaps someone is being groomed or developed for the role, so it would be a natural step to promote them into the role. At the very least, make sure you open up the opportunity to your team to express their interest in the role. An employee who may have been flying under the radar may have the skills, experience and desire to take on the vacant role. Inviting employees to apply for roles aids in maintaining a respectful and inclusive environment where all employees have the opportunity for promotion, and any such decisions are made on the inherent requirements of the role.
Just remember to give adequate feedback to unsuccessful internal applicants and create a development plan that helps enhance and build the skills they need to progress in the future.
Letting your employees know of any vacancies within the organisation may also create an opportunity for them to refer a person within their own networks to you for consideration. After all, your team know best what it means to be successful in your organisation. You may even formally thank them for any successful referrals, with monetary rewards as part of Employee Referral Program, which has become commonplace.
Despite these efforts, you may still need to go to market to fill the vacancy.
In a tight candidate market, you must be creative and proactive to ensure the role and your business is presented as an interesting and ‘best employer’ opportunity. Once you have your shortlisted candidates, whether internal or external, you are ready to interview.
Or are you?
You might need to tweak your usual line of questioning in light of the ‘new normal’.
Employees have had to fine-tune their skills around resilience, adaptability, problem-solving and critical thinking as they've navigated working from home in the last couple of years. All employees – not just leaders - need to be equipped with these skills as we look to the future where remote working will still play a significant role.
Our mantra is always ‘hire for behaviours, train the skills’, so understanding a candidate’s behavioural preferences will help you make effective selection decisions. The best way to predict future behaviour is to understand past recent behaviour. Drilling down into behaviours or competency based questions will help you do this.
Asking candidates to tell you “about the time when... “ allows you to understand how they managed a certain situation and gives you confidence they would manage through a similar situation in your business. With this in mind, some competency or behavioural based questions you should be asking to explore their resilience, adaptability or problem-solving skills are:
• Tell me about a time when you were working from home, and an urgent situation arose; how did you handle this situation and what were the outcomes?
• Provide an example of when you had to engage with multiple internal stakeholders who were also working remotely to deliver a common goal?
• What strategies/ practice have you put in place to manage your time effectively to ensure that you are on top of all of the required deliverables?
• What strategies have you put in place to ensure you were able to have an effective work-life balance while working from home?
Taking a proactive and consultative approach to retain your employees, but being prepared to make effective selection decisions, will mean you are better able to ride the waves ahead.