Are You Behind in the Race for Employer of Choice – Does it Matter in an Unstable Economy? (Part 1)

Many corporate leaders are dusting themselves off, picking themselves up after a crazy time, and are trying to look towards the future. The most important thing you can do right now, is focus on those people who have ridden out the storm with you and upended their lives to get you through, your employees. They have worked with toddlers hanging onto their legs and dogs barking in the background, and somehow made it through an unprecedented time in their lives – all while still being productive. Being an employer of choice sets your company up to be successful now and in the future. And the best time to focus on your employees and set yourself up for future success is now – in a down economy. In this two-part series we will cover a number of factors that contribute to creating a workplace people want to be a part of.

In order to become an employer of choice, there are a number of areas of focus you need to address. In part one, we’ll focus on being aware of and embracing a changing workforce, purposefully creating culture, and providing high-touch outplacement when needed. If you are asking the question,“How can we get talented people to come work for us?,” you are already behind your competition. The good news is, you are not alone. If you make the appropriate improvements, you can advance your position as a destination employer. But you have to make significant changes to how you approach HR and your talent management processes. 

The Workforce is Changing

Attracting, retaining and engaging employees is vital to being an employer of choice. A new mix of employees, including  Generation Z, rapidly-rising millennials, Generation X (who are taking over the C-Suite), career-swappers, and people re-entering the workforce, are all emotionally and intellectually ready for a new way of working. They have different needs. They understand that the workplace, technology, and the world are all evolving, impacting the way we do things. This new workforce no longer wants to just “come to work.” They want to be part of something more meaningful – purpose-based work that is mutually beneficial for them and their company. 

The way companies have operated in the past will not drive sustained growth in the future. You will not be able to attract a diverse pipeline of talent if you do not change. Period. So, what are you doing to re-shape the structure of your organization? How are you adapting your approach to a more agile way of identifying, selecting, developing, rewarding, retaining and exiting employees? What is your new talent proposition that will make you the employer of choice in the communities that you serve and attract people of all generations?  

The Talent Pipeline Has Changed              

Generation X is moving into the C-Suite, with Millennials not far behind. This has shifted a greater focus on talent management. The Boomers are retiring or retiring differently than in the past, and organizations are finding that their succession plans have left them unprepared to sustain the desired organizational culture. The pipeline was not built as anticipated. In fact, a recent study from the Association for Talent Development (ATD) found that only 14% of organizations rate their succession planning process as successful. 

Organizations must scrap their old succession management practices as they simply don’t work. Leaders and human resources don’t have enough candid conversations about talent. Talent identified as successors are frequently not promoted in lieu of an external hire. Ask yourself:

  • How many of your “ready now”candidates are placed into the next open leadership role? 
  • How many successors are identified as ready in less than three years and sit in that same category for over three years? 
  • How many of your successors are less than five years from retirement? 
  • How many of your emerging talent even know they are thought of as successors? 
  • And most importantly to being an employer of choice – will these successors be able to maintain the desired culture? The issues go on and on and on.

There is a solution. Engage external partners to help with talent reviews for more candid discussions. Create a succession plan for the middle leadership levels in your company. Get better at using assessments for the identification and development of top talent. Finally, tell people they are future successors and have an impactful development discussion. It should not be a secret.

Culture Drives Success – But, It’s Not About Ping Pong Tables

A recent Gallup study found that only 34 percent of employees are actively engaged at work. Additional research finds that 51% of U.S. employees say they are actively looking for a new job or watching for openings. Clearly, many employees are ready to look elsewhere for the next step in their careers.  

The culture of a company is not just about whether you’re allowed to bring pets to work, play ping pong in the cafeteria, take a siesta in a pod, or have bocce ball courts on your rooftop. Those may be fun, but they do not have a sustainable impact on culture. Remember, culture is an outcome that comes from leadership behaviors. Putting on a “culture band-aid” is not going to make you an employer of choice. It is not going to lead to exceeding objectives set in your strategic plan or drive revenue growth and cash flow optimization. Leaders are the answer. Leaders drive culture from the top down.

Today, organizational culture has reached a tipping point. CEOs most commonly mention it as a critical internal factor in the success of a sustainable business model. It has now become one of the most important, even overused, words in corporate board rooms, and for good reason. Most people know that culture matters and has a strong impact on business results. Companies that focus on culture are becoming the destination for top talent and the younger generations in the workforce.

However, you can’t simply change culture for the sake of change. There must be a link to business strategy and purpose. Align your current-state to the behaviors that will drive your future-state culture. Then, freeze old behaviors and anchor new behaviors in leaders. Integrate and align human resource and business practices so they provide a path to a new culture. And make sure rewards complement desired behaviors and hold leaders accountable to how they “show up” each day.

An organization’s culture comes to life by either default or design. Shaping a culture supporting your business can change the behaviors and mindset of leaders, teams, and the company, creating a defining competitive advantage in being an employer of choice.

High-Touch Outplacement Supports Employment Brand

One of the factors driving demand for high-touch outplacement is the evolving purpose of work in the lives of employees. There’s also mounting stress among workers due to the cost of education and repayment of student debt while people struggle to find meaningful work.  And with the stress our economy is facing in this down market, workers will have added anxiety around being able to find any new work, much less work they enjoy.  

The problem is that while trying to reduce harm is a noble pursuit, if outplacement is not done right, it can have a negative impact on the individual and the company. Too many companies are missing the mark and are finding themselves, their employees, and the outplaced worker in positions of stress, distrust and disengagement. Employees are customers and they talk to other customers.  A negative experience will impact retention, engagement of remaining employees, customer opinions and business outcomes. 

For businesses that genuinely care about people and their wellbeing, and for companies that want to protect their image and reputation while preserving the productivity and engagement of their workers, outplacement services are the answer. Meaningful and personal — or what we call On Purpose — outplacement services are a major element that defines corporate culture, elevates employer branding, enhances the cultural fit, and reduces distrust both within and from outside the company. There are financial and , most importantly, it is a kind and compassionate thing to do for people who are likely facing one of the worst times in their lives.

One Common Theme

Companies need to shape talent processes to promote an environment that is attractive to the new workforce in order to become an employer of choice. The workforce has changed and therefore the talent pipeline has changed, culture drives success and high-touch outplacement is needed. 

But there is still more to consider. In our second post on this topic, we’ll explore why traditional hiring practices are not working, how companies need to step up their game when it comes to developing leaders, and how to better address employee engagement (or lack thereof).

Missed part two? Read it here >