Beyond remote work: How to attract and retain talent in a worker's market

Can employers join 'The Great Re-Evaluation?'

Beyond remote work: How to attract and retain talent in a worker's market

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At this moment in the Canadian labour market, almost every employer has the attraction and retention of talent as a top priority.

While “The Great Resignation” and “The Great Re-Evaluation” certainly are drivers of this phenomenon, the 2022 labour market also has pre-existing conditions: a workforce increasingly made up of millennials and gen Zs who are redefining the role of work in their lives, the massive retirement of baby boomers, and a growing population of aging workers in Canada.

In his forward to The Demographic Drought, noted global industry analyst Josh Bersin calls it “one of the most important issues in our lives: living in a world where there are simply not enough workers to manage and grow our companies.”

Current attrition rates and trends

In the 2021 McKinsey report ‘Great Attrition' or 'Great Attraction?’ The Choice Is Yours, the consultancy notes that 40 per cent of employees across most industries and five countries (Australia, Canada, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S.) are “likely to quit '' by the end of the first business quarter in 2022.

The industries at the most risk of losing employees are those whose revenues were most impacted by the pandemic, including the leisure and hospitality sectors. But even among industries least likely to see attrition — such as educational services, health care and social assistance — almost one-third of the employees also expressed intent to leave.

And there’s more: 53 per cent of employers across these countries are experiencing higher voluntary turnover — and 64 per cent expect the problem to continue.

Even more striking is the fact that 36 per cent of employees who quit in the past six months did so without another job in hand. And two-thirds of employees expressing a likelihood to quit will do so without another job lined up.

Employers understand that the employees they seek to hire and retain are in the driver’s seat. But do they understand what motivates their talent to join and remain at their company now? And, more importantly, what steps can they take to do this?

Flexibility goes beyond remote work

Remote work is often cited as a perk that can help attract and retain great talent by offering more flexibility. In several sectors, remote work isn’t new to employers or employees. According to economists at Indeed, at the height of the pandemic’s first wave, the Canadian workforce saw a spike in remote workers similar to that of the U.S. workforce, where as many as 40 to 45 per cent of employees worked remotely.

Many companies have made dramatic shifts in their workforce and workforce planning, prompting reports that highlight these emerging trends, such as Glassdoor’s “10 of the best companies for working from home.”

For those in jobs that offer the option, remote work is the next new normal and employers need to be agile and creative in adapting culture, infrastructure and ways of working for their remote employees and office-based employees who work with them. This is particularly relevant for the Canadian labour market, which is experiencing an increase in fill rate roles likely to be a good fit for remote work.

However, remote work isn’t an option for many organizations — particularly the in-person industries slowest to recover — which means the solutions are far from universal.

Talent and recruitment teams are in unprecedented times: Not only is it a job seeker’s market in most industries, but providing a desired workplace experience will look very different for an Uber driver than a dental hygienist or truck driver.

The good news is that there are many options outside of remote work to attract skilled workers, such as on-site childcare, flexible shifts, paid parking and upskilling, to name just a few. These and other levers can be pulled to sustain the workforce while remaining true to the company’s brand and mission.

The wider adoption of remote work also has its hazards. Proximity bias — the tendency to give preference to those who are physically close to us — is alive and well and affects women, in particular women of colour. Remote work provides more flexibility but also more responsibility depending on the makeup of the household, and these typically fall upon women as the “fallback catchers of the household,” says Jessica Jensen, Indeed’s chief marketing officer.

Employers need to ask: ‘How can we make work work for you?’

At first contact, employers can adopt practices and technology that ease the candidate's job search process. For instance, hiring automation makes applying for a job easier and faster for a candidate. It also cuts back on many of the manual, repetitive and time-consuming tasks that consume 80 to 90 per cent of their time.

Automating these tasks frees up organizations to spend more time on high-impact talent strategies such as ensuring fairness and skill-based hiring, looking to their current talent pool for transferable skills, boomerang campaigns to bring back former employees and early retirees, and investing in their employer brand to attract talent.

“With automation like skills-based matching and virtual interviewing, you can get to great candidates in first interviews much faster than you could before, and automation allows employers to devote more time and attention to human connection and the candidate experience,” says Maggie Hulce, Executive Vice President and GM of Enterprise at Indeed.

Employees today have more choice and control than ever before over how and where they work. Employers that don’t appreciate this power shift, and fail to adapt to these new workplace realities, could miss out on the best talent and the opportunity to engage their workforce and sustainably grow the business for the long term.

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