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Strategies organizations should look for in modern-day hiring

A recent trend, “The Great Resignation”, has left employers desperate to hire.

May 9, 2022   by Janelle Abela

Photo; Prostock-Studio / iStock / Getty Images

New and existing talent, aged 20-45, are leaving or abstaining from jobs, despite the historical and aspirational narrative of finding a secure career and holding strong until retirement.

The workplace is transitioning significantly because of the influx of technology and innovation. Organizational growth is surging in certain sectors, while others are nose-diving because they have not adapted quickly enough to these changes. However, it’s not just technology that influences whether an organization will exponentially grow; it’s culture.

Most organizations are strongly comprised of Generation Y (age 30 to 40), who grew up confident and entered the workforce with ambition and desire. As we see Generation Z (age 15 to 30) start to emerge into the workforce, we experience their competitiveness and demand for more from work and their experiences from it. We also must prepare for Generation Alpha (age less than 15) because they are coming in as decision-makers and will determine the course of success for many organizations and how they interact with society.

As organizations continue to experience the new generations in the workforce, problems will start to become more apparent, and recruitment and retention will become more difficult.

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Getting ahead of the problems is the most effective way to keep your organization as a front runner. Innovation and preventative change allow for maintenance of a strong reputation and heightened attraction for incoming candidates. In the past few years, we have seen how organizations can easily make headlines for quite the opposite: performative action, toxic environments, and inequitable treatment, are reputation markers that can’t easily be scrubbed.

Identifying the problem
The past few years have brought significant uncertainty to entry and mid-level workers: layoffs, businesses closing, lock downs, mental and physical health risks associated with the pandemic, rising cost of living, and the skyrocketing housing market. Therefore, why are people risking it all to find a new position?

Lack of care: The transition to virtual, coverage of sick leaves, and inconsistency within organizations and society has left people in a situation where there is an increase in demand, but a lack of attention to well-being or potential for burnout.

The attention has been off of the individual, and on large-scale organizational success or business sustainability during these turbulent times. However, people are struggling, hurting, and desperate for support and assistance. Not with an extra vacation day or paid sick leave, but with genuine interest in them. When people aren’t given this, they leave and find one of the many innovative start-ups or transformational organizations that are taking remote and people-first approaches.

The numbers don’t add up: Metrics play an important role in a lot of organizations because they support attention to top-line growth and sustainability of the organization. However, metrics can also allow for a clearer picture of what employees are experiencing. Analysis of compensation, pay increases, performance indicators, training, location, and identity demographics play a role in the work experience of the individual.

Assessment allows patterns to present themselves, and quantitative association between experiences and employee demographics, which may prove to be different for different populations, highlighting areas of distress.

Structure & Hierarchy: The relationships that develop (or don’t) within an organization play a role in how an employee or a future candidate see themselves. Workplaces are not families, but employees still deserve to be treated with love, respect, and care. There is a generational and social demand for better treatment of employees, and it is important for organizations to understand this, alongside growth aspirations, to better prepare for long-term retention.

However, current environments present the opposite through authoritarian leadership styles, micromanagement, lack of cultural competence or awareness, and unrealistic expectations. The workplace has changed significantly in the past few years and so has the worker population. What hasn’t changed (for many organizations) is the organization itself, as they remain unresponsive, which deters qualified talent.

Researching your ecosystem
If your organization has faced decreased retention in the last few years, or perhaps is struggling with recruitment, ask: Why? The only people who can tell you what you are doing wrong are those who leave and those who say no to job postings, interviews or job offers. By asking those people, you are actively researching the market to determine what the best changes are for current employees and future candidates. Organizations can no longer assume they are in a position of power when hiring or with existing employees.

Reflecting on why the individual has chosen to leave ensures that any fault of the organization can be given the appropriate attention. The same can be said for investigation into who is not applying. If there are a handful of resumes submitted for one position, taking the time to see who is not applying is just as important as seeing who is leaving. It shows which populations are actively avoiding employment with your organization and can draw attention to problematic areas.

However, it’s not just the individual that you want to examine. Let’s not forget those that stay, as those people can also provide incredible insight into the value your organization has that might not be highlighted or create awareness of a homogeneity that is pushing people away.

Also, where are your employees and candidates going if they don’t choose your organization? What does company X offer that is better than yours? How are they drawing in candidates and pulling people away from their current roles so quickly? From experience, it is usually because company X has worked to decrease or solve the problems that people are facing in the workplace, sometimes even before they know it’s a problem.

Strategies for change
The reality is, not all the problems people are facing can be solved by your organization. Sometimes you just can’t offer remote work for that type of position, or you can’t reduce the travel to other facilities. Despite not being able to be the perfect workplace, your organization can work to alleviate the constraints and pressures that are visible to employees and candidates.

Every organization needs internal awareness of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Internal awareness can shine light on the external reputation that candidates and employees might already be aware of. Utilizing an equity lens, organizations can create a comprehensive workplace cultural revitalization plan. When paired with professional support, this can allow for sustainability of change and not just short-term effects when money is ‘thrown at the problem’.

Candidates and employees of marginalized populations, including BIPOC, female and 2SLGBTQIA+ people defer applications and offers, and resign at a higher rate than their normalized, dominant, status quo counter parts. Change is about reflecting on organization values, messaging, and action to ensure that everyone is a part of the group that is accepted, welcomed, and nurtured, and no, an offer letter or a paycheck does not equate to that.

Benefiting everyone
Making these changes through immediate, intermediate, and long-term actions benefit the organization, employees, and candidates. The extensive and on-going costs of resignations and hiring will be subsided, with only a fraction of those costs needed to implement effective strategies for change. This can be daunting for organizations, but flexibility to try something new goes a long way. The flexibility to try new things and implement new practices can offer the equity that employees and new candidates want to see, flexibility that will draw them in and keep them within the organization.

What it comes down to is voice, and not always in a literal way. If employees are not being heard, why would they stay? If a candidate sees they will not have the opportunity to speak, why would they come?
Voice is value, voice is worth, and voice is respect. When working for an organization, if someone is not valued, if they do not feel worthy, and are not respected, then no amount of money, perks, benefits, or potential for promotion will keep them around, not in today’s employee-first society.
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Janelle Abela founded Diverse Solutions Strategy Firm with the goal of increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in corporate settings, while comprehensively benefiting the organization, employees, and clientele. Reach her at janelle@diversesolutions.ca.