To Solve Your Talent Issues, You Need All Hands On Deck

Denise Graziano

With the lowest jobless rate since December 1969, companies have no choice but to shed outdated HR strategies and find new ways to attract and keep their most valuable asset. In a September poll of 261 U.S. CEOs, we inquired about the strategies and programs they had put in place to build the teams they need today and tomorrow.

60% of respondents said their company has adopted flexible hours, 50% have implemented a remote office policy, and 45% have offered professional development, entrepreneurship or mentorship programs. Surveyed CEOs say these policies have helped them increase their operational efficiency.

“It’s the most effective and efficient way to operate,” said Lenny Lemer, president and CEO of NY-based security company Strategic Group International.

Nearly a quarter of surveyed CEOs say they’ve also implemented a corporate social responsibility program to make employees feel better about the company. “You must adapt to the needs of all today,” said the CEO, president and owner of a small professional services firm. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Denise Graziano, principal of Graziano Associates, a well-established Connecticut marketing communications firm, and bestselling author of Talent Is a Team Sport: The C-Suite Action Guide for Collaboration and Communication. Find, Attract and Keep the Talent You Need to be Future-Ready, helps employers bring their key players to the table to act together in finding strategies to attract and keep their most valuable assets.

Chief Executive recently sat down with this seasoned advisor to the C-Suite to discuss the inner struggles of corporations as they attempt to resolve the talent issue.

Why has talent acquisition and retention become so difficult for employers?

It really is a full set of conditions that have never converged before. You’ve got record low unemployment, high customer demands and increasing expectations from the younger workforce, which just says, “Why not? Why can’t I do it this way? I want what I want, when I want it.” Much like what they do in a customer setting; their expectations are extremely high in the employee realm as well. And then you have this added external factor of internal company struggles being on display, like dirty laundry, through employee review sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed. So, it’s a set of circumstances that are affecting companies of all types, whether you’re dealing with hourly wage workers or corporate.

With the lowest jobless rate since December 1969, companies have no choice but to find new ways to attract and keep their employees.Do you believe that under different conditions, the landscape could shift back “in favor” of employers?

I don’t think it’s going to go back to the way it was. It never will. Just like the voice of the customer has completely transformed what customer expectations have become. We don’t buy anything without going to a review these days; employees’ expectations have changed as well. They’re not going to put up with #MeToo situations or poor culture where it becomes a toxic environment. Will employees have to be more flexible with whatever the conditions are in an economy where the unemployment rate is higher? To a degree, yes, but employers are never going to be able to get away with outdated practices. A key factor is that millennials and younger generations have grown up sharing their lives in real time. Whenever they don’t like something, they tell everybody they know, and it can becomes a viral issue in a matter of seconds. For that reason, companies cannot delude themselves into thinking that we can just go back to the way it was in the 80’s, 90s and even 2000s; it’s just not going to happen. Employers have to respect the fact that they must modernize their retention and recruiting practices to attract people that are not just adequate but those they really need for an ideal fit.

Regarding this real-time social commentary, how should employers handle bad reviews from employees when done publicly, whether on Glassdoor or through social media channels?

It really comes down to the pattern and the number of poor comments that really commands the attention of a company to say, “Okay, maybe we need to look at why the Milwaukee office has so many complaints.” There has to be reason for the comments. By the same token, I think that it’s ridiculous for employees to just vent at every turn. If reviews are putting a spotlight on problems areas, the company should act on that insight.

Similarly, when companies conduct their employee surveys and notice a pattern about trust and communication issues for example, the worst thing they can do is not take action. Then, if they wait another year to survey again, likely the conditions will have deteriorated because nothing has been addressed. Companies have to, of course, achieve balance—you can’t respond to everything, but you should respond to things that are hurting productivity, revenue and investor relations because in the end, those are the metrics that matter.

Part of the problem of annual reviews is that by the time you hear anything, it’s almost too late. So that’s why more real-time questions, more real-time interactions and feedback from employees is really important because two things happen: 1) if any problem areas exist, they don’t get a chance to fester. And if it warrants action by the company, they can take it; and 2) when these evaluations are more casual or interactive, people get a little bit more comfortable and don’t feel as suspicious because you can ask questions in such a way that you’re not trying to be interrogating, but instead trying to get a gauge for what’s going on in the company. And I think that by using engagement tools that allow for more real time or quarterly communication, you’re able to get a more realistic view of what’s going on.