How to retain top talent in a fiercely competitive job market
Ceridian’s Jason Gurgal, Global Head of Solution Advisory, led a discussion with Ceridian customers on how they’re leveraging technology to increase employee engagement and career development in light of the Great Resignation.
Now more than ever, attracting and retaining top talent is critical. Some of the highest resignation rates ever recorded show workers leaving their jobs each month, with 4.2 million Americans in October 2021 alone. In one of the most competitive job markets in recent history, more than half (55%) are expected to look for a new job over the next 12 months.
There are a variety of complex factors driving the Great Resignation that have been widely covered. What’s less well understood, however, is what organizations can do to prevent their own talent from leaving. There’s no silver bullet when it comes to solving your turnover and retention rates. But there are steps that HR leaders can take to help minimize its impact, provided they have the right tools to support their efforts.
To find out more, we recently hosted a panel discussion during our Ceridian World Tour. Below we highlight some of the insights we gleaned from our panelists: Brett Knowles, CEO of Hirebook; Steven DelVeccio, Director, People, Technology & Analytics at Gannett; and our own VP Talent Advisors, Tricia Waibel. As part of the discussion, they examined the signals companies should look for to identify turnover issues and strategies to help prevent them.
People are leaving their jobs in record numbers. Often that’s because of issues pertaining to company culture, career development opportunities, and compensation. What’s your take on this and what are some of the early warning signs that you have a disengaged workforce?
Brad: All of those factors certainly matter, but in my view, culture is the most important one. Any time something is wrong with an organization, it’s ultimately seen as a cultural issue. Companies need to remember that people are fluid and are constantly weighing their options. If you don’t take the steps necessary to help keep them in place, they can easily slip away.
If you want to understand culture at your organization, you have to measure it. One way to do so is by looking at how good of a job you’re doing at upholding your company’s value statements and cultural attributes. For example, do you tend to hire external candidates rather than promote from within? Do you manage bad behavior when it happens or just ignore it? Do you say training is important to your business, only to cut it the moment times get tough? How you handle issues like these all contribute a great deal to how your culture is perceived.
There are, of course, more tangible ways to measure culture, too. You can use pulse surveys, exit interviews, and 360 reviews, or you can monitor how many of your top performers are leaving. On a day-to-day basis, you can also look at how many hours your people are working. If someone used to arrive early and leave late, but doesn’t anymore, or calls in sick more often than they used to, it could be an indication that they’re no longer engaged. Likewise, if you see a sudden boost in someone’s healthcare spending, it could be a sign that they’re trying to use up the benefit before leaving.
To be clear, none of these measures are diagnostic, but they are early signals that staff could be ready to make a move. If you’re proactively monitoring all of these types of issues, you can take steps to intervene well before a big chunk of your workforce turns over.
What can companies do to improve their culture if they detect early signals like these?
Steve: Let me tell you about some of the stuff we did at Gannett by first providing some context. In late 2019, we got acquired by GateHouse Media. Suddenly our combined business included over 300 publications across the United States and 20,000 employees globally. As you can imagine, a big change like that had a major impact on culture and we thought it was important to understand where the newly combined organization was from a cultural standpoint. So, we decided to run some pulse surveys to try to find out what we could do to improve, while also making it clear that our leaders were interested in hearing what our employees have to say.
What we were reminded of through that work is how much employee engagement is tied to linking what each person does to the mission of the company. Everyone wants to know what their purpose is and how they’re part of the big picture. For our employees, feeling like they’re a part of the communities where they work is also really important. With that in mind, we started a recognition program during the integration, giving employees gift cards from local businesses that support our publications. It was a small gesture, but one that really made our staff feel appreciated and connected.
That’s a great example of how a company helped to create a better culture. Where can technology help with all of this?
Tricia: It’s all about understanding what’s happening across your business and what actions you can take. Brad mentioned quite a few ways to measure culture, but unless you have a single dashboard that brings them all together, it can be hard to see the forest through the trees. And, not only do you want a holistic view of what’s happening, you also need a way to understand what the intent behind all of those data points is. When you do, it’s much easier to find ways to extend your culture, create personalized experiences for your team based on what matters to them, and ultimately galvanize your workforce.
In addition to culture, career development is another hot button issue that drives people to look for new opportunities. What are some of the early warning signs here?
Brad: Career development is a major issue. The bottom line is if your organization isn’t providing sufficient opportunities for development and promotion, your staff will seek it out elsewhere. There are a number of metrics to watch here and actions that you can take. One is to look at how often people typically change jobs. Among millennials, it’s usually every 18 months. That means that if a strong employee is approaching the 18-month mark in a role, it’s a good idea to present them with new opportunities so that they can see that they have options to advance within your organization.
There are also progression metrics to be aware of. If someone is used to quickly ascending the ranks in your organization and hasn’t been promoted in a while, it’s going to be on their radar and definitely needs to be on yours. Think of it like a “check engine” light that’s telling you there’s a problem in the system.
And what should companies do if the “check engine” light is on?
Steve: It’s all about understanding your employees and what their aspirations are and making sure they match the company’s needs. Then you need to create a plan for career progression that includes the mentoring, training, and growth opportunities necessary to help them reach their destination. But it can’t just be a set-it-and-forget-it approach. You’ve got to create a feedback loop to ensure that each employee is making progress on their own individual career path.
And does technology fit in here?
Tricia: Companies have access to all kinds of data from their talent pool. It’s important to use that data to understand where people have been and where they want to go. And you’ve got to give employees the opportunity to keep that information up to date by giving them access to their individual talent profile. That way, you can have a consolidated view of all of their skills and experience, which you can then use to match them to future roles that align with their career aspirations.
You can also use technology to help guide employees who are unsure about what to do next in their career by showing them the pathways that other similar staff members have taken in the past. Ultimately, with the help of the right platform, you can put employees in the driver’s seat when it comes to determining their career progression.
The last big issue that can lead employees to look for new opportunities is compensation. What are some of the issues that come up on that front?
Brad: The big problem here is failing to recognize that motivation comes from leaders, not from compensation. What you pay your people should augment what you’re doing as a leader to keep your team engaged, not make up for it. Another issue is having too few monetary events or too many. When you have too few, it may seem like too much time has elapsed since the employee last was recognized financially for their contributions, while if you have too many you can end up with a compensation plan that’s too complex for anyone to really understand.
I think it’s also important that you build compensation plans for the future, not for the current situation. That means paying people for their long-term potential rather than what they’re currently delivering. Ultimately, you want to create a fair deal that’s equitable to both the employee and the employer.
And how can the right platform help with compensation and retaining talent?
Tricia: It’s all about benefits intelligence, and using that intelligence to help attract and retain talent. Specifically, the right technology will allow you to give employees benefits options that are tailored for them, whether that’s hazard pay, the option to enroll in a specific medical plan, or what have you. It can also help you optimize your plan design to drive adoption, better understand who you need to pay attention to from a pay perspective, and drive equitable compensation decisions.