How to Attract And Retain Talent in Today’s Job Market


October 23, 2021


180 Engineering

With unemployment rates dropping, job growth surging, and the Great Resignation in full swing, the balance of power has shifted in the job market. Suddenly, employees have more influence than ever before.

In the struggle to fill roles, employers may need to rethink their recruitment and retention strategies. A piece at Human Resource Executives advises that businesses start thinking of their employees as customers and develop a customer-centric employment model where listening to employees and meeting their needs takes precedence over established practices or quick fixes.

Many employees who continued to work throughout the pandemic witnessed a substantial shift in how they performed their jobs. Either they worked remotely, which allowed them more flexibility than ever before and prompted a re-evaluation of their work/life balance. Or, they continued reporting to the job site, adapting to fluctuating procedures and safety protocols and often working in understaffed environments. Whichever scenario they worked in, employees had time to reconsider what’s important to them in the workplace.

Human Resource Executives reports the top three things employees are looking for after “what we’ve all been through [are] flexibility, pay and job security.” Other things, like company culture, company stewardship, and assistance with their mental and physical well-being are priorities for employees as well.

In order to recruit and retain top talent, employers may need to shift their focus. The best thing you can do is to reach out to your employees one-by-one and ask what’s important to them in order to refine your hiring strategies. But as that employee feedback rolls in, start thinking about your game plan.

Provide Competitive Compensation and Benefits Packages

According to a piece in Forbes by David Sturt, the top three reasons why people choose to stay in their current roles are: “flexible work options, strong benefits packages and competitive compensation.” In the current job market, it may be necessary for companies to adjust their benefits and compensation packages – and to do so quickly.

Many companies are proactively adjusting their compensation rates in an attempt to recruit and retain talent. As reported by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), those adjustments may appear as off-cycle merit increases, ad hoc bonuses, retention bonuses, midyear salary adjustments, one-time equity payments, or across-the-board pay raises of 2-3 percent. As well, particularly for roles that are difficult to fill, employers may be paying at the 60th percentile instead of at the median. As a result, pay rates are in constant flux. Employers need to stay on top of real-time information about the labor market in order to offer competitive packages.

Benefits packages are also a key to attracting and retaining top talent and may need to be reassessed. For example, as the SHRM piece points out, “The pandemic … caused many employees to realize the importance of reliable child care. Employers that provide child care support could have an edge when it comes to recruiting employees.” Traditional packages may need to be reworked and supplemented with less common benefits like duvet days.

Reconsider Work Space and Time

Although there’s been an inundation of news pieces about hybrid workspaces, their focus is often on the physical location of work. But remote work also allowed employees a great deal of flexibility in terms of their daily work hours.

While working remotely, employees had the chance to help their kids with math problems, join self-improvement webinars, and start dinner or laundry during the course of the workday. They were also able to more easily manage their productivity. By choosing to work during hours where they are naturally highly productive or by using part of the day to manage chronic or minor illness but still completing their daily duties before logging off, many employees significantly ramped up their productivity. In fact, in a piece at Forbes, Ashley Stahl states that, “The Gartner’s 2020 ReimagineHR Employee Survey showed that 55% of the workforce was more productive when they were able to choose when, where, and how much they worked during the week.”

Few employees are keen to relinquish the flexibility that remote work offers. Stahl reports that more than half of survey respondents said that they wanted to continue working from home or to adopt a hybrid model of work; and, further, that over half of those respondents said that they would look for work elsewhere if they were forced to return to the job site five days a week.

It’s clear that in order to attract and retain top talent, employers need to reimagine when and where work can be completed. If it’s decided that at least some work must be completed at the job site, employers should attempt to maximize the value of the time that employees spend there. For instance, in-office days provide the perfect opportunity for those one-on-one interactions that make employees feel valued and that foster retention.

Foster Employee Success

Beyond competitive compensation and flexibility, employees in today’s job market crave job security, strong support from their people leaders, and opportunities for career development. All of these contribute to employee success.

New employees who were hired, onboarded, and trained virtually may be missing out on the connections with their colleagues that would contribute to their success. Lacking access to impromptu collaboration, brainstorming, and exchange of information at the water cooler, new employees may be feeling a little more lost than usual.

But, as Sturt points out in the Forbes piece, it’s not just connections with colleagues that are missing. Many people leaders have cut down on their one-on-one meetings with employees. This is unfortunate because one-on-one meetings make employees feel heard and valued, and ultimately contribute to their commitment to the company. They also give people leaders a chance to feel out, and possibly retain, employees who are considering leaving.

Prioritize Mental and Physical Well-Being

Mental health issues rose to the surface during the pandemic. Some of those issues may have been caused or exacerbated by working conditions. Isolated and struggling to find their footing in the new remote environment or, alternately, adapting to new and constantly-changing new health procedures onsite, many employees experienced increased stress at work.

In addition to stress that may have been felt in the workplace, a piece in Nature points out that limited social interactions, increased tensions between families and friends, and fear of illness and stigmatization all contributed to mental health deterioration. Data shows that, in the US, more than 42% of people reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in December 2020, which is a startling increase from the 11% reported in December 2019.

But of course stress and mental health deterioration that is caused by factors away from work still affects employees during the workday. And as Stahl points out in her piece, “Savvy employers realized that supporting their employees in their personal lives led to a more productive workforce.” Well-being is truly crucial to productivity and satisfaction in all areas of our lives. As we come out of the pandemic, supporting the mental and physical wellbeing of employees is more crucial than ever.

Company Stewardship

Work/life balance has long been a talking point when considering employee wellbeing. During the pandemic, many people saw  a shift in the way that their own personal work/life balance is defined and they may be keen to continue activities that bring meaning and fulfillment to their lives.

Working for a company that practices corporate responsibility is one way that employees can feel good about themselves and the work that they do. If you don’t already have a stewardship program in place, an ideal way to approach this is to let employees choose which community organization they would like to contribute to, which makes the endeavour extra meaningful. However, corporate stewardship programs that help develop relevant job skills can benefit everyone involved.

Hire Proactively

Regardless of what exactly you offer to prospective employees, you may still fall short of applications. As Sturt says in his Forbes piece, everyone is struggling to fill positions:

Companies who had a huge hiring advantage in their local markets are facing new competition from out-of-state companies offering remote-work opportunities. Employers accustomed to receiving a flood of applications for each job opening they post are suddenly coming up empty. Those with stellar reputations as their industries’ premier workplaces are noticing their best people jump ship to other companies and sometimes entirely different industries.

Possibly the best solution is to hire proactively. Instead of posting open roles and waiting for applicants to come to you, start exploring other options like:

  • Using LinkedIn to seek out passive candidates;
  • Tapping talent from other departments or industries, even if they require training or reskilling;
  • Hiring with an eye to a candidate’s growth and potential rather than basing hires on experience;
  • Contracting a recruitment firm for assistance.

In this post-pandemic world, lots of people are keen to explore new options and take on a fresh start. Why not offer opportunities to those who are willing to embrace change?