The global pandemic has struck organisations across all industries with unprecedented challenges, and there are signs that as the waters calm, a new talent threat is appearing on the horizon. Having navigated the myriad of market and operational challenges, corporations are now bracing themselves for a battle to retain their business-critical talent at a time when they are going to depend upon it most.
An approaching storm
Assessing and managing the impact of the global pandemic on near-term performance and productivity is old hat, and most organisations are now firmly fixing their analysis on how to exit restrictions and compete in the “new normal”.
A principal challenge identified by many is how to engage and retain critical talent members as markets and opportunities begin to open. Sentiment in the candidate market indicates that the “work from home” structure has heightened individuals’ sense of mobility, while simultaneously eroding the meaningful bonds firms have previously relied on to keep their key employees. Businesses should be very concerned about this threat and should take action to mitigate the risks of an exodus of their key people.
This begs the question, what is the catalyst of the threat and why is it happening? Feedback taken by Phaidon International from its global network of business-critical candidates has unearthed a significant level of clarity and a growing appetite for candidates to explore new opportunities. Overall, candidates increasingly report that the enforced “work from home” period resulted in feeling less engaged with their current employer and consequentially more open to switching companies.
Some frequently cited contributing factors were a lack of perceived investment in their development, lack of social cohesion in their teams, less frequent physical interaction, and primarily vocational “ad hoc banter” that virtual platforms are limited to create.
This perfect storm of heightened push factors and abundance of emotive pull factors of competitors looking to target talent indicates that contented and stable individuals are now at risk of moving on.
Battening down the hatches
By implementing strategic plans and accelerating long-lasting change, enterprise leaders can mitigate a talent exodus post-pandemic. Forward-facing organisations are beginning to incite action and engage with talent through top innovative practices.
Successful firms, who go beyond MS Teams and embrace immersive technology, are cultivating strong networks and developing interpersonal relationships which is vital within the workforce. With longer-term incentivisation, pioneering businesses are also starting to align with corporate and individual motivations through CSR activity and a cultural reinforcement strategy.
Flexibility is a necessity with regard to existing employees, particularly with a focus on outputs over inputs. One size certainly does not fit all: business leaders and management teams should look beyond the “work from home” narrative to demonstrate how they value high-calibre employees and cater to their specific needs.
For some employees, remote working has blurred the distinction between personal and professional life; a structure which may be deemed simply intolerable. For others, the work-life dynamic is highly desirable and opens up a plethora of different opportunities, such as spending less time commuting and more time enhancing productivity and harnessing a unique skillset.
Ultimately, business leaders must nurture their workforce and begin to facilitate the development of new skills and opportunities to avoid talent jumping ship and seeking a career in other places. Forward-thinking firms are investing in people, articulating development plans, maintaining team cohesion and continuing to drive culture – albeit through a virtual communications strategy – to mitigate talent exodus problems.
Preparing for all weathers
In order to manage the risk of a talent exodus after the pandemic, organisations need to be proactive around engaging and retaining critical talent. Employers should act now to plan for the long term and ease potential talent pressures. By implementing a talent success strategy, organisations can coherently communicate a meaningful goal that adheres to workers, and remain the employer of choice.
But there is also a need to go beyond engaging with the existing workforce. Managing the risk of a major exodus post-pandemic requires contingency plans to be put in place. It is deeply important that organisations understand the talent market; when to bring in new prospective talent and to be knowledgeable on what would motivate an attractive candidate to move. Ideal candidates may not be actively looking to move but with the right partner who has eyes and ears in the talent market, it is possible to identify the people who would best fill any potential vacancies.
Calmer waters after the pandemic
Universal optimism exists around the return to growth expected from the post-pandemic period. Subsequently, competition will be as fierce and intense as it has ever been. The ability of firms to retain and inspire key staff will have a strong impact on their ability to thrive, but it will be equally critical to attract a wave of new talent. Inevitably, competition for the key hires will be intense; candidate sentiment indicates the right engagement strategy will be as instrumental in gaining talent as it will be in keeping it.
When we come out of choppy waters and challenging market conditions, opportunity exists. It is clear that for firms to succeed in achieving their goals, they first need to succeed with their talent strategy. There is little doubt that as the world continues to emerge from the constraints of the pandemic, the need to mitigate and manage risks around an exodus of critical talent is a key priority. Some firms will weather the storm and prosper, some will be irreparably damaged. But the talent storm is coming – which side of the coin will your business be on?
Find out more on navigating the talent challenge post-pandemic and how Phaidon International can support your business.