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7 Tips to Attract and Retain Employees in the Post-Pandemic Labor Market

Broadleaf Results, spoke on From Day One’s “Staying Ahead of the Competencies and Skills You’ll Need in Your Workers” panel. From Day One is a conference series and media organization focused on how companies can develop and leverage strong values in diversity and transparency.

This panel brought representatives from five companies to speak on workforce skill building and the best practices for organizations that want to continue developing and growing. In addition to Broadleaf, other organizations represented were Claria, GroupM Nexus, Newell Brands, and UPS.

The pandemic has undoubtedly changed the workforce as we know it, but the transformation is not yet over. The panel of leaders from across multiple industries offered tips that organizational leaders should follow to attract and retain talent to stay ahead of their competitors.

  1. Adapting to new post-pandemic norms

Broadleaf noted that since 2020, we no longer operate in an employer-driven market. As many businesses adopted a remote or hybrid workforce during the pandemic, the economy shifted to be employee-driven. Now, people want jobs that allow them the flexibility they witnessed during the height of the pandemic. In fact, a 2022 EY survey found that 35 percent of millennials and 29 percent of Gen X respondents who intend to leave their job in the next year said hybrid/work-from-home options would entice them to stay. Businesses must adapt strategies to attract and retain talent in an economy controlled by the candidate. This also requires companies to seek data to support newly adopted strategies to ensure they are attainable and assist in making informed adjustments when necessary.

Related: The State of Remote Work in 2023

  1. Accommodating your employees

To meet employees’ needs, it’s crucial to embed human-centric skills like empathy and authenticity into your performance management processes. Some multigenerational workforces might not fully understand the importance of growing the “whole” person. In fact, only 69 percent of workers feel their direct supervisor is empathetic. People managers need to care about their employees, and promoting open lines of communication is necessary. An organization must stay committed to this part of the talent process to ensure that each team member is engaged and help employees connect the value between their work and the organization’s overall mission.

  1. Maintaining company culture amidst change

Chris Bartlett has been with UPS since 1992. He sums up his thirty-year career with one word: change. However, the company’s mission and purpose should remain consistent despite global technological, leadership, or hiring and sourcing changes. Understanding your company’s purpose and using that as a “Northstar” or “destination” will help an organization maintain a deeply embedded culture amidst industry or economic changes.

  1. Balancing AI and human interaction in the workplace

As Broadleaf puts it, “Tech and AI are not going away any time soon.” We are seeing a significant shift in how technology and data are used to monitor and hire employees. To ensure companies use these technologies ethically, Broadleaf adds, “it’s like anything in the world; you need a balanced approach…The focus needs to be on strategies you’re going to put in place.” He claims the integrity of the data is important, meaning, “how are we building the data to begin with and how are we monitoring it as it moves along.” When used successfully, organizations migrate collected data into a human skill. A strong strategy and plan must accompany the use of data for success.

Katie Hall of Claira added a data set “will only ever be as intelligent as what you feed it.” So, to keep pace and be equitable, an organization should turn existing data into competencies but then fill in the gaps with a training data set that is inclusive and representative of the entire labor market. By building a data set with these qualities in mind, an organization will find itself on the “right side” of the AI and HR lawsuits that are becoming more frequent nationwide.

Debbie Morris added that becoming a data-driven organization is part of a “long game strategy,” and a business must create the conditions and appropriate culture to manage data. To that same end, employees who need to see movement and changes regarding what is important to them require a balance. While some employee issues, desires, or conversations might be solved easier with data, it is always possible to start a meaningful conversation about these issues without it, reiterating the necessity of finding a balance between human interaction and data.

  1. Ongoing career-oriented conversations between managers and employees

Amidst discussions about technology advancements and the future of artificial intelligence, Jodi Weintraub of GroupM Nexus reminded the panel that the goal of any process system should be to improve the quality of the conversations between managers and employees. Fundamentally, employees should always have robust conversations about their next steps from a career growth standpoint. In this mindset, technology modernizes the venue where the exchange occurs.

When asked how to manage employee requests regarding company culture and career development, Debbie Morris of Newell Brands noted that a listening strategy is a powerful tool to determine an employee’s desires and goals for their career. Morris added that it is essential for an organization to understand the weight behind the phrase often used by employees: “I want growth in my job.” It then becomes the organization’s responsibility to determine what that looks like for their employees, whether that be mobility or a genuinely meaningful connection to their work. Without these conversations, businesses risk losing their workers to another company that presents them with more promising career opportunities. Nearly 1 in 3 workers (30 percent) actively searching for a new job say they don’t have a meaningful career, and retention becomes an issue when employees feel this way.

Related: The Importance of Stay Interviews to Retain Talent

  1. DEI initiatives should be deliberate

According to Broadleaf Results, deliberate should be the main word associated with a company’s DEI initiative strategy. Broadleaf stated, “You have to be deliberate to attract diverse talent. Women only apply to positions that they feel like they meet 75 percent of the job description. Men, because we’re men, will apply to anything.” He noted that a DEI initiative is not an overnight fix; it takes a true commitment to see a change in a system or culture. Educating those who write your company’s job postings on the value of inclusive language and how to use data to inform your company’s talent search is essential, especially when relying on AI for this part of the hiring process.

  1. HR’s presence and value down the road

From a diverging lens, employers can ensure they are proactive in developing capabilities to stay ahead in their industries by embedding the HR department into the business. Understanding whether these needed skills exist or how they can be developed keeps the promise of delivering on a commitment to clients at the forefront of a business. Weintraub asserts that the easiest and most useful way to impact a workforce’s capabilities is, “from a practitioner standpoint, a lot of this is driven by HR asking, “does that capability exist? Do we need to build it or train for it? Do we need to buy it?” A vocally present HR department is essential to staying ahead of competencies and skills in every industry.

Related: A Skills-Based Approach to Attracting, Retaining, and Developing Talent