Even amid fears of a recession, many companies are continuing to ramp up talent acquisition as the countries within which they operate emerge from the pandemic.
The Great Resignation, the Great Reshuffle, and skills and manpower shortages in several sectors have converged to drive home the importance of being an employer of choice, whether in an employers’ market or employees’ market.
At PeopleSearch’s recent event in Singapore, Re-engaging Talent in a Post-Covid Reality, three experts offered their opinions and strategies.
There is a clear consensus on one thing: To get top talent to take notice, companies must shape their value proposition carefully.
Studies have shown that talented professionals today are looking for purposeful and exciting work. Covid-19 has also caused many to re-examine their priorities and realise that work should be more than just making a buck. The more important question is how the work they are hired to do impacts communities.
As such, space for career discovery and choice is vital. According to VP of People and Culture at NCS, a multinational information technology company headquartered in Singapore, Gerard Koh, in order to facilitate this, companies need to invest in coaching and even career counselling for all levels and types of employees.
In addition, he said internal mobility policies should be aligned with external mobility. Transfers between departments should be not take three to six months as is common in many organisations today.
“HR’s job is to lubricate the flow of talent. I think this is a great challenge, and also a great opportunity,” he said.
“In the past, when we talked about career development, people tended to fixate on career ladders. But today, people want breadth. They want to try new things. Companies have to provide these opportunities and experiences whether though departmental transfers or project work,” added Gerard.
There is a clear business case for this too.
“Today, we realise that our solution architects and the people who design systems can’t design something that will wow the client unless he/she has very varied experiences that they can bring into the project. And this could come in various forms. For example, someone who is doing cybersecurity may move into solution architecture, because we need to design things that require optimal security,” said Gerard.
“BEYOND BASIC” STRATEGIES TO RETAIN TOP TALENT
CEO and Founder of biotech firm, Veredus Laboratories, Rosemary Tan believes tailoring policies to retain the best and so far, her methods seem to have worked. Among the members of her management team, about 15 have stayed with her for at least 10 years.
She believes in hiring individuals who can complement her strengths and weaknesses and for that, companies must go above and beyond.
“Things such as flexibility, high pay, benefits etc. should be a given. These things are “basic”. If you want “beyond basic” talent, you have to give them what they want,” said Rosemary.
This would mean getting more specific.
“In my businesses, people who have a love for adventure tend to thrive and if you hire such people, you’ll have to make sure you offer them stimulating opportunities,” said Rosemary.
“At different stages of their career, ask them what their ambitions are and how you can help them achieve their goals by providing them with the opportunities they deserve,” she added.
Companies must also be intentional about helping employees become well-rounded individuals.
“It’s about personal mastery and growth. It’s not about work anymore. It’s about how I grow as a person. We run a lot of programmes, to allow self-examination and reflection,” said Gerard Koh of NCS.
The post-Covid era also requires a recalibration of how teams are structured.
“During Covid, we realised that while working from home, teams became hyper-collaborative on virtual platforms. We realised that you don’t need a leader there all the time and teams can collaborate very fluidly. In light of this, the responsibility for us in HR is to help leaders build such teams,” he said.
The aim is to allow teams to flourish at all times even during the absence of leaders, so that micro-managing becomes unnecessary.
Ultimately, organisations must be hyper-flexible and human-centric.
“We grow not for the organisation, but you grow for the people inside and you hope these people will create value for the organisation,” said Gerard.
Many organisations are concerned that in spite of their best efforts, top talent will leave for greener pastures.
Instead of seeing this as a loss, experts recommend seeing it as an opportunity.
“Allow them to experience new things elsewhere, but always ensure you leave the door open for them to return and that you’ve done enough to make them want to return,” said Gerard.
In this spirit, NCS has embarked on Project Boomerang.
“There are many things like alumni circles, engagement events, etc. so that you remain connected, and so that they will be encouraged to come back some day.”
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
Rosemary Tan of Veredus Labs also believes in being deliberate when it comes to succession planning.
“Scenario-planning is a substantial part of the process grooming successors and a key question I always ask is: What do you think I would do in such a scenario and how can you do better?” she said.
As companies plan for the future, they must also realise that everything they do today will influence their reputation in the medium to long-term.
According to a survey of 10,000 PMEs (Professionals, Managers and Executives) by the NTUC-Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) PME Taskforce, fairness at the workplace is a major concern for PMEs and one of the dimensions of fairness, no doubt, is how older workers are treated. Ageism must be addressed head-on.
“Fairness at the workplace came up quite a bit, particularly for those above 50. But we must remember that the younger ones are observing what companies are doing vis-a-vis older workers as well. In countries with a shrinking workforce, companies must harness every talent to his/her maximum capacity. How can you make full use of every single talent. It’s a business imperative,” said Member of Parliament and National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Assistant Secretary-General, Patrick Tay.
“Whatever you do, do it in a fair and responsible manner. Your behaviour can really affect employee morale. These days, especially with a greater focus on stakeholder capitalism, it’s good to always be progressive. If you have constraints, justify it. Communication is very important. Be transparent and open. Workers can take it much better. Trust-building, being open and transparent and over-communicating,” he added.
Ultimately, while individuals must take responsibility for their growth and careers, companies too must be deeply involved in ensuring that their employees are happy at work, ready with new and relevant skills, and resilient in the face of uncertainties.
Companies that do this well are the ones that will attract the best and thrive, whatever the circumstances.