Recruitment July 23, 2021

How to win the upcoming war for talent

All signs are pointing towards a recruitment boom in 2021.

Our latest Vistage Confidence Index found that 70% of CEOs are planning to increase their workforce next year. This will lead to a war for talent – meaning leaders will have to up their game to employ the best people for their organisation, and ensure they retain existing talent too.

We spoke to JG Consulting CEO, Jeff Grout, to find out how CEOs can win the upcoming war for talent.

How to win the war for talent

“The term ‘war for talent’ was coined by McKinsey and Co back in 1997 to describe this sort of tightness in the marketplace,” Jeff explains. “It’s returned with a vengeance.”

“It’s fuelled by two things. Recruiting is a top priority for CEOs. Plus, the job merry go round has started up again.”

Throughout a normal year, a certain proportion of the workforce will change jobs. But as we know, 2020 was no normal year.

“In 2020, people were looking out on what they saw as a relatively bleak landscape – something which lacked certainty. Now there’s this pent up demand, which I believe is going to release itself over the next six months.”

“This should be on every CEO’s radar. It’s not just about the climate outside, it’s also very much about retaining your best people.”

Establish who means the most to your business

Jeff recommends leaders take some time to make sure you know exactly which members of your team they simply can’t lose.

“Whose resignation would give you a sleepless night?” He asks.

“The reality is in any organisation there are often two or three people who are absolutely mission critical. Therefore, what are you going to do as an employer to keep hold of them? How will you keep your arms around these key people?”

Ensure employees feel valued now

Once you have established who your star employees are, it’s key that you make them feel like a star. Are they getting some stretch in their role? Are they receiving the recognition they deserve?

While you may consider them a star performer, failing to communicate this properly can leave employees feeling unacknowledged or taken for granted.

Find out what other leaders are saying with our full write up of the Vistage Confidence Index results.

Demonstrate commitment to employee growth

Jeff also recommends sitting down with employees at least every six months to ensure you’ve explored their aspirations and the opportunities that might exist for them in 12, 18 or 24 months. Plus, are you paying each of these employees in line with other star performers in your company?

In Jeff’s experience, this question can often be one of the most illuminating.

“What I tend to find is people feel very uncomfortable at this point because they realise they’re not recognising the contribution their top people are making.”

Once you’ve answered all these questions, you should be able to clearly see if you’re doing enough to keep your top people. If you’re not doing enough, you’re at a pivotal moment.

“What are you going to do to try and keep them?” Jeff asks. “Do you need to act now and conduct a retention interview with this person to prevent an exit interview in two or three months’ time?”

Court candidates with a good employer brand

“The mistake many companies make is that they believe they’re in a marketplace where there are plenty of candidates and they can pick and choose,” Jeff says. “They can't. The key message is that the very best people have the most choice.”

Winning over the best candidates requires a certain level of courtship.

“You need to ask yourself why candidates would want to work for you. You need to make your company and the role you’re recruiting for compelling and attractive.”

“This is what’s known as employer branding. If your brand is about attracting and retaining customers, your employer brand is about attracting and retaining employees.”

Create a good employer brand by demonstrating what your company offers besides the role. This can include flexible working, learning and development opportunities, and clear long-term career development.

“Millennials are certainly looking for a fast track career path. Some talk about big companies acting like a slow moving escalator. There’s a level of impatience – and these days keeping a millennial for more than two years may well be a challenge.”

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Be sure of what you’re looking for

“Where companies let themselves down is that they don’t always know what they’re looking for,” Jeff explains.

“They’re focused on skills, qualifications and experience. But in almost any job, the difference between good performance and great performance has everything to do with attitude and behaviour.”

Leaders need to establish what attitudes and behaviours will make someone an asset to their business.

“Companies that do this well are the ones that have spent time identifying what these key characteristics are - the ones that will help people perform well within the organisation.”

“Do you know what best actually looks like in your business?” Jeff asks. “Once you determine that, how are you going to set out your store to make your employment proposition as attractive as possible to the right candidates?”

Harness your alumni

Jeff’s final piece of advice for leaders is an interesting one.

“Your next new hire could be someone who used to work for you three or four years ago,” he says. “This requires a movement now towards better off-boarding. I part company with employees in a professional manner, which means at some point in time, I can try to re-recruit them back to the organisation.”

“When I was MD of my business, I would get a list of leavers from my HR manager, and establish which employees we were truly sad to lose. I would then update them with company news once or twice a year, and wish them all the best in their career – letting them know that there was always a job with us if they wanted it.”

With this method, Jeff managed to re-recruit five to ten former employees every year.

“In many cases there was something of a PR benefit. They’d come back from a competitor and actually tell other employees that they’re better off where they are than with said competitor!”

The war for talent doesn’t have to end in attrition. By focusing on retaining your best people, clarifying what you’re looking for in terms of recruitment, and refining your employer branding, you can ensure your business emerges stronger than before.

Connect with other like-minded executives by becoming a Vistage member today.

Image: By ink drop via Adobe Stock

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