The War for Talent – 5 Ways to Win

Pre-pandemic, the fight to recruit talent for a company was complex. However, geography largely restricted most. Prior to 2020, it’s estimated that less than 6% of workers in the US worked remotely. Today and in the “post-pandemic” world, over one third of HR surveyed by PR Newswire “expect 40% or more of their workforce to be primarily remote,” vs. one twentieth pre-pandemic. Talent can choose to go almost anywhere, without leaving their home office. That said, remote work burnout goes deeper than zoom fatigue. It continues to haunt organizations that fail to meet the needs of their distributed teams. The challenge to answer the question “why should I choose your company?” just escalated. We’re seeing and going to see, to put it animatedly, a war for talent.

In the last few months, we conducted research amongst technology workers and developed The Hybrid Workplace Report 2021 in conjunction with internationally recognized thought-leader Britt Andreatta, PhD. She applied her expertise in leadership, neuroscience, psychology, and learning to this report as we assessed the new normal. One core takeaway from this research was that companies – including yours – are at risk of losing the war for talent. Download the full report and check out our tips to win the war for talent below.

How NOT to Lose the War for Talent

1. Establish Flexible Work Options.

Survey after survey shows that workers prefer at least the choice to work in a remote or hybrid work setting. The Hybrid Workplace Report 2021 (HRW) found that “60% of employees want to maintain a flexible work schedule.” While some employers are quickly pulling back on remote work options, many are doubling down on their commitment to hybrid work choice as leverage in the recruitment process.

Flexjobs’ Remote Work Statistics: Navigating the New Normal from December of 2020 even noted that 25% of workers would be “willing to take a 10% to 20% pay cut to work remotely.” Not offering flexible work options instantly cuts you out of the race for many viable candidates. Opt to give your staff choices about the work style that works best for their life, or lose out on staffing choices.

2. Prevent Remote Work Burnout with an Appropriate Toolset.

Offering remote options is great, but it also requires the right intent. We found that “51% of employees find themselves getting frustrated or burnt out by their remote work toolset.” Zoom fatigue hit all of us. Remote work burnout is real. Additionally, post-pandemic if you choose a hybrid work model without appropriate tools, you ensure that your remote workers will always be second-class-citizens in your workplace to employees who return to the office full or part time.

Audit the tools your team used pre-pandemic and evaluate their relevance to your present structure. Choose a tech stack that works for your roles without sacrificing your humanity. Protect your team’s ability to connect with each other. This will likely take more than a combination of Zoom and Slack, or something in between like Voodle with short async video. Sense of belonging and team culture suffer without appropriate space and time for team connection, which brings us to our next tip…

3. Prioritize Company Culture.

As covered in HWR and the next blog in this series, traditional corporate culture has been upended. The hold physical HQ’s held on our psyche has been broken – to a degree. Most workers view this as a victory. That said, “53% say company culture has suffered since the pandemic began.” (HWR) Workers need more intentional opportunities to build relationships with each other and work their way up to vulnerability and trust. According to Andreatta, “When relationship-building is shortchanged, it’s harder to build trust, which in turn may lead to more conflict, decreased productivity, and ultimately attrition.”

In recent years, attrition cost US businesses approximately 1 trillion dollars annually. If that doesn’t scream serious casualties in the war for talent, I don’t know what does. Quick perks don’t cut it anymore. Neither do awkward virtual “happy hours” that just pile on Zoom fatigue. Companies with a true culture of caring about employees demonstrate their commitment to this with comprehensive benefit packages. Offer opportunities to build relationships through distanced mentorship matching, asynchronous team building, and other remote-first options. Think beyond our old limitations.

4. Take DEI Work Seriously

A word to the wise: diversity, equity and inclusion work is not PR work. It is not a legal strategy. It is not something to be dumped on a committee with no resources and then ignored. Talent will see through this either during the hiring process or shortly after beginning work. And they will move on to a company that more accurately reflects their values. ZipRecruiter reported that over 86% of job seekers on their site saw diversity as an important factor in prospective workplaces. With the cultural reckonings of the last year, these priorities hold firm. This especially rings true for Millennial and Gen Z workers.

Additionally, Deloitte Insights found that inclusive environments, where employees feel a sense of belonging and value, result in employees that are “3X as likely to be high-performing” and “8X more likely to achieve better business outcomes.” Investing in systems of accountability at your company – not just one-off workshops – will benefit everyone. A phenomenon known as The Curb-Cut Effect “illustrates the outsize benefits that accrue to everyone from policies and investments designed to achieve equity.” In other words, making things and places – including websites and workplaces – more accessible to the most marginalized improves life for everyone.

5. Know Your Shortcomings in The War for Talent.

Your company is not perfect. It’s never going to be. However, it is critical that you know where your growing edges are with respect to team culture, tech stack, etc. Do not assume that candidates won’t notice. Cracks in the foundation will show, sooner or later. Ignorance about where your company needs to improve may leave you confused by why you keep losing candidates and/or blindsided by current employee exits. Just because employees coped with shortcomings previously doesn’t mean they will forever. In fact, “40% of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer in 2021” according to Microsoft WorkLab’s study “The Next Great Disruption is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready?”

Develop critical awareness continually about what is not working for your team to stay competitive in the war for talent. Create feedback channels then meet feedback with action, not animosity. Beyond zoom fatigue and slack overload, remote work burnout will ebb and flow post-pandemic. Build an environment where employee-identified problems have the space to be named and are actually addressed to curb burnout and build trust. Research repeatedly demonstrates “that employees with a strong sense of belonging are over 6X more likely to be engaged than those without.” (SHRM) Normalizing open conversations about where your company can and must grow will reinforce your team’s belief that their voices matter. Additionally, it will inspire prospective talent to buy into your capacity to lead a future they want to join.


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