The future of talent
A lot has been written about the future of work but equally important is the future of the workforce. The pandemic changed the attitudes and the demographic make-up of the workforce. Most organisations have been struggling with skill shortages – a perennial problem for UK plc throughout my now 30+ year career.
In times when organisations are struggling to recruit it becomes even more important to value existing talent. Firstly it is important to take pay off the table as an issue. This isn’t about paying at the top of the market but it is about paying fairly. Providing employees feel that they are being paid a fair rate for the job they will accept that there are better paid opportunities available for them elsewhere and they will be prepared to remain loyal to an employer who they feel continues to invest in them as individuals. Leaders must demonstrate that they are willing to invest in the continued development of all of their people and in particular their most valued and talented employees.
As I look across the skills landscape it seems that we have critical skills deficits in digital and ESG. All business are digital businesses yet these skills are too often limited to specific groups of technologists rather than being embedded as core skills across the workforce. The same applies to ESG.
However, as well as focusing on key strategic skills development to retain the very best talent, it is important to allow people to follow their passions. Organisations must avoid being too prescriptive and allow individuals to shape their own development in relation to what they are most interested in.
As part of their development employees want to be able to move freely around the organisation to try new things and gain new skills and experiences. Too often I have heard that it is easier to accomplish a job move by seeking a new job externally then to secure a move within the current organisation. This is such a waste of talent. Organisations must prioritise making it easy for people to move job internally. They must remove the internal barriers such as old-fashioned policies designed to restrict movement and, importantly, address line manager attitudes. All too frequently line managers take a selfish parochial view, not wanting to release the best talent to other areas. This attitude risks losing vital talent from the organisation for limited short-term benefit. Organisations should consider introducing non-negotiable internal notice periods, confidential internal applications and active talent management and succession planning with managers proactively suggesting moves to employees.
Organisations need to build a reputation as a place where diverse talent can flourish. The link between diversity within the workforce, particularly at leadership levels, and organisational performance is now very well established. Increasingly even those within the majority groups want to see their organisation committed to creating diversity in the workforce and establishing an inclusive culture that allows all to flourish. These attitudes are even more prevalent in entry level recruits – school leavers, apprentices and graduate trainees.
To enable this culture of talent mobility, organisations need to invest in developing manager skills. Managers need to be able to deliver high-quality feedback in the moment, real-time performance coaching and thoughtful and well-informed career advice. A preoccupation with leadership development has resulted in too many managers lacking these critical skills. We know that it is the day-to-day experience of employees that determine their engagement and commitment to the organisation. That day-to-day experience is shaped predominantly by their manager. Therefore, investment in manager development is a critical response to talent retention.