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Shifting Tides, Shifting Retention Strategies

February 28, 2022

Why being empathetic to evolving needs in a new environment is crucial to attracting talent

The world has changed and digitisation continues to reshape our workplace. Martin Geiger is a man in the thick of APAC’s talent scene. As the Head of Corporate Talent Acquisition at Circles.Life, he’s shaping the way this innovative telco attracts and retains the right people. He shares his insights on what has been happening in this space. 

A Shift in Talent Acquisition

The tides were already shifting in the talent acquisition scene prior to the pandemic but when COVID19 happened, it accelerated the pace of change. Talent acquisition is no longer employer-driven. Rather, it’s an increasingly a candidate-driven market. Talent is bolder now – “Talent is getting more confident,” muses Martin, “They do what they want much more than before which changes the whole landscape as well.

At the forefront of recruitment, Martin is seeing all these changes firsthand. Career-switchers are gaining the upper hand and the interesting part? They know it. 

Candidates are more confident

Martin sees the impact of this newfound confidence. No longer the run-of-the-mill employees who strive for tenure, candidates are the slick new kids on the block who are undeniably fast-paced and versatile. Some time ago, he interviewed an applicant with a good (albeit choppy) CV – 10 years’ worth of experience with a new employer roughly every year. He pointed this out, noting the time it usually takes to settle in before attaining achievements. Her response was quite the curveball. Puzzled why pursuing career opportunities as they arose might be an issue, she replied with, It’s normal that you want to see something new. It’s normal that you want to have different experiences and not stay too long in one environment. The bottom line? Candidates are less inclined to be in it for the long haul.

Employees used to stay in a company for many years. These days, their tenure is getting shorter and shorter. Describing the employee-employer talent acquisition dynamic, Martin says: “It’s really more about gaining exposure, gaining experience, making a difference for candidates, seeing a different environment, [and] developing their skills.”

Developing a Career Growth Plan

When dealing with new challenges, we cannot use old solutions and expect new results. Normal retention strategies do not work anymore in the candidate-driven market. Companies wanting to maximize opportunities with talent will need to think about the critical junctures between their business goals and their talents’ drive and aspirations.

Ideally, the two fit together very well. In reality, it’s not like that. It depends a lot on the commitment from both sides in the first place. It depends on how much someone wants to grow and how the company wants to support that…Companies need clear goals, clear milestones of what they want to achieve and the plan of how to get there.

With increased attrition across the board, companies are realising that It is no longer exclusively about hitting targets 18 months down the line but also about developing our employees. A specific strategy Martin employs is developing career growth plans, where team members list their development points and talent acquisition lists the company goals. Both parties identify where the gaps lie and find ways to align their objectives. The gaps are crucial as they indicate what employers can do differently – how can we support and provide additional training – in order to get the employee to the next stage. 

Designing a model that works for everyone 

Uncertainty and caution loom but Martin acknowledges that this is a natural development of our environment and he prefers to spot opportunities during this interesting time. Fundamentals remain – talent still wants good benefits – but there are things that just aren’t a priority anymore. Swanky corner offices aren’t the bargaining chip they once were. 

Freedom and flexibility are the newest incentives to  add to the mix, with frequent questions about location, flexible working, and hybrid models coming up in job interviews. As for the bulk of companies, they want to find that common ground which benefits both them and their employees. “Let’s find a model that works for everyone,” Martin remarks. 

Personally, Martin finds inspiration from the everyday interactions with potential talent. New information and ideas spring from these discussions: what motivates them, how their environment has changed, and what makes them happy. Gathering and integrating these pieces of information allows Martin to design models that work.

Talent Acquisition Bridges the Employer-Employee Gap

It’s no secret that the pandemic affected our situation tremendously and most stakeholders are open to new models of work. However, for leaders who normally do not speak with candidates, the situation may be harder to grasp. This is when talent acquisition becomes a crucial bridge, not just as a representative touching base with talent, but as a reconnaissance reporting on what’s happening on the ground. He gathers talent market sentiment, and presents data points to stakeholders and leadership for creating more attractive models or enacting changes in policies or culture. “Talent acquisition as a function is the voice of the company, but at the same time, also [the] voice of talent, making sure that their thoughts come into the company and our process.

That said, there are also hypergrowth startups with owners doing the hiring themselves. Martin advises them  to keep an open mind. He acknowledges the limitations we develop from being too involved in operations and maintaining certain views. Suspend those judgments and take the feedback for what it is. Think about it and process it. The challenge is turning the data into something attractive for talent (which we cannot do without taking a step back and starting with a blank slate)

A Sustainable Hiring Route

Martin hopes that the market will normalise this year amidst turbo-charged over-hiring we’re seeing.  He speaks with job seekers who typically have 3 or 4 job offers on hand, not to mention the snowball effect that happens with big increases in salary, title and responsibility. He reflects on how sustainable it is.

I hope companies really see the benefits of taking the employee’s view of building a hybrid model that works, of making sure that it’s not only about the goals of the company, but also the goals of the individual. Ultimately, when individuals are more motivated, when they have a feeling their development plans are taken into account, they will perform better. That benefits the company as well.

Final Thoughts

Attracting talent is being empathetic to how their needs has evolved in our new environment.

  • What are the common gaps in your organisation in terms of career growth plans? How can you offer support and additional training to close this gap?
  • What kind of work model suits your organisation? How can you offer freedom and flexibility as incentives for your employees?
  • How can you use feedback from recruitment interviews as data points to design better and more attractive models for retention?

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