Retention when employee expectations have changed

HR leaders talk about how to attract and retain top talent despite a shifting job market.

Retaining talent is essential for any organisation committed to staying ahead in the marketplace and a recent CHRO webinar took a closer look at emerging trends and how leading employers are responding.

Hosted in partnership with Workday, the webinar featured Workday solutions consultant Bandile Jwili, Dark Fibre Africa group CHRO Portia Thokoane and Maersk regional head of HR Africa for Ocean & Logistics Mechell Chetty, who shared insight into how organisations can attract and retain top talent.

Bandile said that it was time to change the dynamic from human resources to human relations when sharing results of Workday’s recent Future Forum survey. The study showed some major economic and social, environmental and also technological changes, and acceleration of some trends including remote working, shifting employee expectations, learning and development, purpose and belonging at work and even employee wellbeing.

The research revealed that 78 percent of employees want location flexibility, while 95 percent want schedule flexibility. Employee turnover has increased by around 16 percent in all sectors.

With organisations battling to win and retain existing talent, the needs of employees are incredibly important. Bandile said organisations are asking themselves if it’s possible to attract talent while in a disruptive employment environment and some key questions to consider when trying to retain the top talent is how can we be more proactive in our approach to keeping that talent?

Active listening

Bandile pointed out that traditionally, a lot of organisations do their engagement surveys periodically, but says, “now you don't just need to listen to employees, you also actually need to act on time using tools such as Workday Peakon employee voice, which is a continuous listening platform that captures real time employee sentiments, facilitates ongoing feedback and provides a personalised perspective or recommendations for action.”

Portia agreed that listening was important and said businesses need to just slow down, be more aware of the environment and be more open to listening to the people and take a step back to realise and act on what really matters in business.

Mechell switched jobs during the pandemic, after 23 years and it happened to be around the same time that the conversation on the great resignation was going on. “Covid-19 was really traumatic. It’s important to acknowledge and understand when big life changes like that happen, it’s normal to sit back and evaluate everything that’s going on. As HR practitioners, we need to become comfortable with our employees constantly re-evaluating their propositions.”

Reinvention retention

Mechell said she had been blown away by the way Maersk has used the crisis to completely reinvent itself from traditionally being known as a shipping business to becoming a logistics and services business which is going to be powered by digitisation, automation and artificial intelligence.

She said the repositioning is an exciting proposition and that, “leaders should ask themselves what their organisation is doing to reinvent itself using the pandemic as a catalyst for change. One of the key factors that speaks to retention is actually being able to look at the current system and ask if there is an opportunity to change or alter it.”

Create meaning, vision and a safe space

Traditionally, retention strategies are often quite short-term focus, she added, which is obviously not an ideal situation in the current uncertain times.

According to Mechell, employers need to consider what will give employees a reason to want to come back. “The pull has to be around team engagement, collaboration, coming together on a common problem to solve a common purpose,” she said. “So, the motivation to come back must be your primary goal, not the act of coming back.”

She added that purpose is crucially important, saying that, “People need to know the organisation’s purpose, who the leaders are and what motivates them, as well as knowing if you’re leading with a heart to change the communities in which they work in.”

Portia and Mechell agreed that in conjunction with purpose, engagement and culture are huge factors because they know that when employees are engaged, they will speak up and solve big problems collaboratively.

Portia said it is important to engage with key talent and have discussions about where people want to see their career, what their interests and passions are, and what they want the company to expose them to.

One of her top realisations, she said, is that there is a need to bring the“human” back into leadership.

“People are looking for great leaders: that’s quite critical. Leadership is not about rank, it’s about the responsibility to see those around us rise. And as leaders, we are responsible for the people who we depend on to deliver results.”

Bandile emphasised the importance of active listening while employees are still in their position, rather than when a person is resigning because usually at that point it’s too late to try to retain them.

He said, “I don’t think exit interviews add much value, but active listening continuously allows you to understand key themes and pick up on issues that may seem small, but are significant. Continuous listening allows you to act early, before having to incur the expense of recruiting and onboarding new talent.”