Living in the age of the Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting and VUCA, discussions on what are the best practices to attract and retain talent have dominated the subject matter of numerous conferences and forums post-pandemic. After two years of all this, the question arises, is it an inexhaustible discussion or is it time to think of the next step?
This became a prime focus of discussion at the World Economic Forum's 2023 meeting in Davos 2023. Leaders took the leap to debate what actually constitutes best practices for attracting talent.
Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice at London Business School, stated, “The topic is not about what best practices are but how can we make them work.” However, she pointed out that before delving into the ‘how’ of it, it is pivotal to look at the challenges that need to be dealt with. Factors like age, gender, lack of transparency, and engagement become massive stumbling blocks for talent attraction policies.
Changing times and the need for a new model
Looking back to the pandemic, in a mere two weeks, almost ten million people in the US and two million people in the EU lost their jobs. This gave them the opportunity to think and reconsider whether or not their work life is serving them. As they returned to work, this in turn sparked off a global discussion around work, the workplace culture, and whether salaries were justifiable in terms of the labour levied by the organisation. With this new consciousness, quit rates peaked and retention rates plunged.
With the changing economy, the time an employee spends working at the same place has also been drastically reduced. This transition requires organisations to step up. The inclusion of a hybrid model of working, paid sick leaves, paid off time, better wages, flexibility and transparency are some of the facets that Martin J. Walsh, the United States Secretary of Labour, mentioned to not only improve productivity but also retain talent.
As employees become more conscious of their choice of work, an expectation of a certain level of transparency on the employer’s part is demanded. Hisayuki Idekoba, President, CEO and Representative Director of the Board of Recruit Holdings, added to Walsh’s suggestion as he said, “Transparency is becoming a very important thing. If you are running a bad company, a bad atmosphere, bad management, you cannot hide it now.”
Focusing on the role of government, Walsh said, “I don’t think it's the role of the government to tell the companies how to run the companies, but I do think it's the role of the government to look at best practices and share them with the companies that might want them.”
Claudia Azevedo, Chief Executive Officer of SONAE SGPS SA, highlighted that the values of the organisation are the baseline. She said, “The values have to be there and be authentic. It is like a minimum standard to work in a company, to be decent…it also helps me as a CEO, during the lockdown, to say I’m not going to layoff anybody because those are the values that have been there for fifty years and will be there for the next fifty years.”
The issue of ageism
The leaders pointed out how the emphasis on recruiting the younger generation has far-reaching implications for people above fifty years of age. In the US, 78% say that they have experienced age discrimination. It does not just affect the mental health of older people but also leads to casual unfair treatment against them. Specifically, in the last four to five years, an upswing has been witnessed in the number of claims with respect to age discrimination faced by people in the workplace.
The feeling of isolation and neglect is especially common amongst those above fifty years of age. Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, commented that in her organisation, around four generations come together and work, ranging from eighteen years to eighty and above. She said, “It is important to not judge people by how old they are. We judge people by the talent, wisdom and skillsets they bring to the workforce.”
The leaders further added that among older generations, an increasing amount of participation and willingness to participate in the workforce has been observed in recent times. The reasons vary from financial aspects, to the perception that work is the purpose of their lives.
Feminisation of work
A massive problem with inclusiveness is that as professions become feminised, or associated with women, the salary goes down. In a system where discrimination against genders concerning salary, promotions and recognition is pervasive, Jenkins proposed that equity studies in every organisation are essential to make sure there are no disparities.
There is also the challenge that across countries, in many households, women are not only the caretakers but also the primary earners. Lack of childcare and equitable representation on the board and women of colour not being paid well are some of the issues that the industry needs to deal with. Walsh said that these challenges are easier to regulate in the government sector whereas, in the private sector, it becomes a bigger one.