Should I stay or should I go?

10 Sep 2018

Should I stay or should I go?

As a new generation arrives in the workplace and employer/employee relations change, Nick Claridge, Partner in the Consumer Practice at Odgers Berndtson, explores how best to hold onto all that hard-won talent.

Previously, in this series on innovative talent management, I emphasised how important it was to start early in order to compete effectively for the best apprentices and graduates.

Now that all that fantastic talent is in the business, how well are we doing at making learning and assessment relevant, and keeping a new generation engaged for the long term?

Reviewing the appraisal

The first thing to say is that old practices and beliefs are being challenged. Take the annual appraisal, for instance.

Lucy Adam, former BBC HR Director, has heralded its death, fundamentally questioning the effectiveness of this annual process. She describes a ritual where the official appraisal document, in the worst cases, is dusted off for the review and only sees the light of day in eleven months’ time.

Instead, modern appraisals are happening more often and less formally, during conversations whilst walking, on car journeys, in the factory and store.

Amazingly, people seem to like spending time with their boss. And it certainly avoids any end-of-year surprises.

Learning about learning

When it comes to learning, commentators suggest that you can only absorb so much in a short time. Learning is best done in context. This challenges the validity of traditional (and highly expensive) MBA leadership development programmes at international universities.

Initiatives and advances such as context-specific learning and real-time coaching, and even reverse mentoring where the least senior becomes the leader, are all delivering results.

From working to gigging

It is clear that the relationship between employee and employer is undergoing profound and dynamic change. The rise of the gig economy and portfolio careers are just two aspects of this.

So, how are employers responding?

James Ryding, Head of Talent Acquisition at EasyJet has watched how the impact of the growing gig economy is influencing employees to think differently.

Young people are increasingly selecting a job on the basis of ‘how does it increase my portfolio of skills and make me more marketable?’

So, they are taking roles for shorter periods, with less focus on building a career with one organisation. The result is that companies are losing trained talent at just the time they are starting to add real value.

His response has been to direct the power of Talent Acquisition inwards. Increasingly, James and team targeted filling roles with internal talent, being open about career growth and new opportunities, and internally ‘headhunting’ top talent for key roles. It has to be handled carefully with key stakeholders who can be defensive over talent, but once the cycle begins, they find themselves gaining as well as losing top people.  

Now the EasyJet business reflects the external market, with its own internal gig economy attuned to employees’ aspirations, driven by the talent acquisition team.

The result? A more positive and engaged workforce, more than 30% of roles are filled with internal talent, and the talent pool becoming broader and deeper.

Frequent flyers

For Alan Frewer (Director of Talent, Amazon), retaining talent is a huge consideration. Fittingly, for such a data-driven company, he used the power (and insights) of big data to address that pressing issue.

He did the initial work, building predictive models on ‘flight risk’, the likelihood of an employee leaving.

This took in measurable factors:

  • time spent in a role
  • length of commute
  • the frequency of previous moves
  • progression of salary and benefits
  • performance management
  • personal circumstances

Building a model that helped Amazon understand those ‘flight risks’ boosted the effectiveness of their retention initiatives.

Examples like Easyjet and Amazon are great illustrations of developing and retaining talent at a time when the employee/employer relationship is changing like never before.

In the next article in this series, Nick Claridge will explore how FMCG companies can look beyond the obvious in talent development and why a welcoming environment can pay real dividends. You can read Nick’s previous article on new, millennial-friendly recruitment strategies here.

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