A pair of hands open on a table. In between them is a group of wooden figurines. This symbolises retaining talent.
Image: © Andrii Yalanskyi/Stock.adobe.com

Addressing the challenges of attracting and retaining talent

26 Aug 2022

Aon’s Siobhan Kelly explores what the future of work means for staff retention and the importance of addressing age-old problems.

Click here to view the full Future of Work Week series.

While the future of work will bring a lot of new trends, we’ll also still see many of the long-established challenges within the workplace, from wellbeing to staff retention.

Some of these challenges have only gotten worse in recent years. Aon’s latest global HR pulse survey of more than 800 companies indicated that talent shortages and high turnover are making attraction and retention of employees the top concern for organisations worldwide.

Siobhan Kelly is managing director and executive coach of Aon Assessment Solutions, which helps organisations and employees to make better people decisions. She has worked with Aon for more than seven years and is also qualified as an occupational psychologist.

Kelly said the landscape for staff retention and employee engagement has shifted significantly in recent years.

“What has been dubbed the ‘great resignation’ is undoubtedly a by-product of the ongoing pandemic. However, disruption affecting the world of work can be traced back to trends taking place prior to the emergence of Covid-19,” she explained.

“For example, technological advancements and regulatory enforcement routinely impacted a company’s business strategy and the need to update workforce capabilities. And social movements of the past gave way to the newly found focus on diversity in the workplace, which is changing the hiring requirements of many companies.”

In order to build resilience against these trends, Kelly said employers must listen to their employees’ needs in the new world of work.

“Our survey shows that work-life balance and accommodating arrangements are highly valued and sought out by employees and prospective talent these days,” she added. “Health and wellbeing programmes, employee benefits and greater training and career development are also highly valued.”

Tech’s role in talent acquisition

With talent shortages and skills gaps at the forefront of many employers’ minds, the role of a talent acquisition professional has become broader.

Luckily, tech is there to help. “Technology has revolutionised talent acquisition like never before,” said Kelly.

“First of all, it’s enabling mangers to move beyond their ‘gut feeling’ in hiring. New and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and natural language processing are being integrated into candidate evaluation tools, helping to improve employers’ talent acquisition strategies. Augmented reality can also be used to simulate job environments, enabling recruiters to learn how candidates react in proxy environments,” she said.

“During the pandemic, virtual recruitment processes, including the facilitation of group simulation exercises, became the norm and the technology around them has continued and will continue to evolve so that face-to-face processes become the exception.”

‘Technology has revolutionised talent acquisition like never before’
– SIOBHAN KELLY

Other technologies such as applicant concierge tools to streamline recruitment and digital career wallets to help jobseekers authenticate their professional credentials could soon become commonplace, while job-matching tools are already allowing recruiters to identify top talent.

“As employers seek to overcome their talent challenges and hire the best people, these technologies are helping organisations to gain access to broader talent pools, reduce cost, improve process time and efficiency, and unconscious bias in the acquisition function, while also making the hiring process more satisfactory and efficient for prospective candidates,” said Kelly.

Ongoing workplace challenges

While the tools that shorten time-to-hire, curate a stronger talent pool and make it easier to interview candidates might be helpful, the real key to talent attraction and retention is addressing employees’ needs.

One of the challenges is around wellbeing and, while wellness programmes are becoming widespread, Kelly said the majority of employees still struggle with resilience.

“Amid digitalisation, macroeconomic pressures, changing sociocultural values and a widespread skills evolution, converging pressures are testing businesses’ resilience. To build a sustainable operating model and protect revenue, leaders must focus on building workforce resilience,” she said.

“There are a number of ways for leaders to do this. The first thing, and what we often say to our clients, is to look at your people proposition and define what you mean by it. What are your values? How do you communicate those and convey those in the marketplace? How do you live those internally? How do you create role models?”

Another element of employee wellbeing is being clear and transparent about what opportunities are available to employees. Kelly added that when it comes to wellbeing, leaders need to think about benefits beyond pay.

“There is a tendency to do too much and launch a whole range of initiatives that can’t have the same impact as one or two key initiatives closely linked back to an opportunity statement. For this, data is absolutely critical. Data can tell you so much about your organisation and where the gaps exist. The key is for leaders to use this data to create initiatives which can address these gaps and make the most impact within an organisation.”

Kelly also said managers play a critical role in ensuring staff are engaged and motivated, making staff retention a lot easier for the people practice.

“Lately, evolving business requirements have brought new first-time manager requirements that companies have not yet accepted or evolved in line with, and it is having a significant knock-on effect in terms of retention, culture, team wellbeing and employee engagement,” she said.

“We’ve all heard the saying, ‘People don’t leave a bad job, they leave a bad manager.’ Managers need to be able to influence others, role-model the culture and enact the values of the organisation, including the setting of expectations around output and productivity. This will set norms around the effort expected and help to address the concern of quiet quitting.”

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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