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The War For Talent Is Over. Talent Has Won!

Posted 5 months ago by James Taylor



For months now, we have been talking about two major headline topics in the world of recruitment.

The first is “The War For Talent”.

The second is “The Great Resignation”.

This week we hosted a very popular event entitled “The War For Talent Is Over.  Talent Has Won.”

We were very lucky to be supported by a very talented and hugely experienced panel of experts:

1) Louise Hadland - COO of Shoosmiths
2) Keith Cox - MD of bloc digital
3) Rekha Dhokia - FD of Hammonds Furniture
4) Andy Gallimore - #Culture expert and MD of Culturev8te Limited
5) John O'Sullivan - Chairman of Elite Leaders

The questions posed to the panel covered three main topics:

  • Recruitment
  • Retention
  • Employee Value Proposition (EVP) & Employer Brand

If you would like to watch the video recording of the event please click here.

The questions asked around these three topics are listed below (in order) with a bullet point summary of the answers given by the panel. 

Firstly though, some context for the answers:

What is currently happening in the market place?

  • Businesses are thinking more about Retention than ever as good quality people leaving.
  • Businesses are finding it hard to attract “the right people”.
  • Executive Leaders are unable to articulate what makes them/their business different.
  • Traditional Recruitment and attraction processes don’t work any more.
  • Professional Service Companies are experiencing a “Wage war”.
  • Staff Wellbeing is rising up the Board priority list.
  • There is a distinct shortage of talent with Demand out-stripping supply by 3:1.
  • There is a change in recruitment model - contingent recruitment is taking a back seat to RPO and MSP and investment in high calibre internal recruitment teams.

For those readers who like to jump straight to the BIG answers, I asked the panel the following question 

“What one thing is your biggest piece of advice on how others can best position their business to win in this war for talent?”

Here are their golden nuggets:

  • Ask, listen and involve your people in any EVP project.
  • Invest in your people strategy & seek professional help if you don’t have the internal resource.  Invest in upskilling 2nd tier management.
  • No matter how successful you were pre-covid, challenge everything NOW.
  • Salary isn’t the be all and end all.  You must make your company appealing so invest in culture and environment
  • Get better at hiring for potential – not on past experience!  If you can’t do it, find a way!  At Macildowie we call this WILDCARD recruitment.
  • Design the organisation of tomorrow, today.
  • We need to step up and offer work experience to school kids to help them to be “work ready”.

If you are keen to pick up further tips from the expert panel then answers to the Recruitment, EVP and Retention Questions are summarised below, If you would like to watch the video recording please click here.  

RECRUITMENT QUESTIONS – we asked the audience to score out of 10… how worried are you about not being able to fill your budgeted head this year.  The average score was 7. 

Why has January not seen the jump in active candidate numbers that it normally does?

  • The Great Resignation may have begun, but the number of buy-backs has increased.  This means candidates who resign and then decide to stay and accept a counter offer from their current company.
  • I also believe that the “furlough gap” has been a fear to many as the Omicron variant spread across the country and worry of a potential 4th lockdown increased.  This meant candidates weren’t prepared to risk moving jobs.

What are the main skills shortages you have experienced?

  • All jobs across the board.
  • In particular tech / digital has been impacted with coders and back and front end developers & graphic designers.

Are candidates making short or long term decisions when accepting jobs?

  • Pre covid people were moving around way more than in history.
  • GEN Z are now seeking longevity.
  • People trying to get onto the property ladder will chase the money – there is a potential opportunity here if you can help your staff to get onto the ladder?

What do we have to do to ensure we pipeline effectively to get the right candidate when the need comes up?

  • Stand out – invest in your culture but it takes time.  It’s a process.  Involve your people, invest in Recruitment and Retention processes, invest in EVP… outsource and build a partner relationship with one or two recruiters only.
  • Be slick, professional and engaging with candidates.
  • Don’t do what you have always done.
  • Tackle the process like it’s a campaign.
  • Build your brand.
  • Recognise that there is “No silver bullet”.
  • HR need to work closer with Marketing then ever before

What can businesses (or line managers) do to counter the war?

  • Get your own house in order, make your business appealing.  Your current staff – would they give great anonymous feedback, are they advocates… if not you have the wrong culture.
  • Train up tier 2 management

What are the current trends RE talent acquisition – what should CEOs consider?

  • CEOs need to get involved personally and set it high up the agenda
  • Some Talent Attraction needs to be with the CEO. It’s all well and good discussing at Board but CEO’s need to do some hiring themselves. 
  • Current trends are to invest in RPO and MSP.  Only bigger companies used to do this but now smaller companies are outsourcing recruitment and retention too.  e.g if you only have 12 jobs outsource it. 

EVP / EMPLOYER BRAND QUESTIONS - we asked the audience to score “yes or no” oto the question “ do you feel you are effectively communicating your EVP and/or investing in your employer brand?”.  82% said No. 

This series of questions was framed as follows - Because there will always be someone out there willing to pay more, your EVP and Employer Brand is more important than ever:

Offering flexible working used to be one of our greatest selling points but now hybrid working has been adopted by the vast majority and is almost the norm in terms of expectations, what do you feel are candidate’s greatest requirements when selecting a new role.

  • Employer Brand marketing is becoming more common place in order to promote the entire EVP.
  • Salary is in sharp focus due to cost of living increases.
  • Unlimited holiday is being offered more frequently.
  • 4 day week trial – was viewed as a great idea as long as output doesn’t decrease.

How important is a Work From Home policy to candidates currently? 

  • Varies by department – production / manufacturing know that they can’t.
  • Office based roles – support functions = VERY high expectation that hybrid is offered.
  • Work life balance is more important than ever.
  • Time millionaires is a phrase that has become more popular as people realise that they don’t need to be in the office.

What are the key factors for candidates in their choice of which job offer to take if they have more than one?

  • Salary and benefits.
  • Culture – how does it feel to work there – hence why EVP is so important.  An EVP that is explained by messages from the ground up, not the Exec Team.
  • L&D and development opportunities – candidates ask the question “will you train me and help me to learn”.
  • You need to be able to demonstrate how you help people to develop.
  • There is more and more investigation into the team and the manager being done by candidates who are interviewing at a business. 
    • N.B – Macildowie can help you for free here by inviting you to support the UNPRECEDENTED LEADERSHIP PROJECT – click here to take a look at how you can promote your personal leadership brand and the employer brand of your business.
  • GEN Z are now looking for heritage, not bean bags or pool tables and beer fridges.  Ask the question of yourself - do you have a story to tell, has leadership weathered storms before, have you captured this anywhere for the candidate to find and research?

What can we do to ensure we get our first choice candidate? 

  • This is the killer question!
  • What is the lived experience of being in your firm - you can’t afford to promise something that isn’t you.
  • Senior people need to spend the time with candidates and be honest.  Authentic Leadership will pay dividends in the long term.
  • Make sure jobs are appealing, ensure you cut down the admin element/s.
  • Are you prepared to challenge what the job needs to deliver, have you looked at the Organisational Design and made sure it is fit for purpose?
  • Question yourself – are you trying to slap a post covid world on a pre covid structure and organisation.  

RETENTION QUESTIONS - we asked the audience to score out of 10… how worried are you about not being able to retain your top people in 2022.  The average score was 7.6

What are the main drivers of employee disengagement that you are seeing?

  • Existential epiphany – is it what I want to do for the rest of my life
  • Career development or a lack of.
  • Wanting a total change of career.
  • Too much work and burnout – wellbeing and stress.
  • The facebook effect – other people’slives are soooo golden and I am missing out!

What can business leaders do to mitigate the risk of a mass exodus?

  • You as a leader don’t have your house in order if there is a mass exodus – get it sorted now.
  • Get culture right
  • Inspire people
  • If you haven’t acknowledged that things have changed you are in trouble – don’t be an ostrich!

What does “best in class” look like from a retention perspective?

  • Huge question
  • 3 words = a business that asks, listens, involves.
  • Don’t second guess… involve your people in the solution.
  • The way your managers manage on a day to day basis is the biggest impact on your culture = adopt a coaching culture.
  • Invest time & money into training.
  • Inspire your managers to coach, not dictate.
  • Create a Psychologically safe environment.
  • The purpose of work is purpose… leaders need to think about how they can make the business new world ready – have you re-envisioned your vision and values?

The old adage is that people leave line managers, not jobs.  With this in mind, what do line managers need to be doing in a hybrid environment to retain their best people?

  • 1-2-1’s – ensure you do them!
  • Internal comms is critical.
  • Get the basics right – little things make the difference
  • PEOPLE REMEMBER THE WAY THAT YOU MAKE THEM FEEL – how do you answer the question – what did you do with your staff in April 2020?

It's fair to say that everyone who attended went home with a list of invaluable tips to share with their colleagues.

We look forward to seeing you at one of our events soon.