Talent Wars

By Melinda Collins


The war for talent refers to an increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining talented employees – quite simply, a job seekers market. But with an economy slowly but surely improving, is this game, set and match for the war for talent?

Logically, it makes sense; part and parcel of a recession are cutbacks, redundancies and a glut of people on the job market – an employers market, right?

Unfortunately not, recruitment specialist Hays managing director Jason Walker says. In today’s competitive, knowledge-based world, the calibre of a company’s talent increasingly determines success in the marketplace. At the same time, attracting quality talent is becoming more difficult as demand for skilled people outstrips supply.

So, the war for talent isn’t over, it is merely the nature of the battle that has changed.

But how can New Zealand businesses expect to battle for talent, and win? “A company needs a coherent, consistent and sustained programme to make sure they enjoy successful attraction and retention, particularly for key individuals who add the greatest amount of value to your organisation,” Walker says.

And retention starts with great recruitment, he says. “Clearly identify, by benchmarking great performers, what makes someone successful in your organisation. Make sure the individual fits this criteria and in the recruitment process include an assessment of the individual’s values and motivators to ensure they align with the company or team’s goals.”

Then train them well. “Do you ensure that the people in your business have everything they need to do their jobs well?”

Part of this is clearly communicating your expectations. “Ensure employees know what your company stands for – in other words, its culture and values – as well as what is expected of them in terms of technical output and behaviour.”

Walker says employers of choice have solid performance management methodology, such as a robust, regular appraisal system that is user friendly and which managers are committed to. “Formal performance feedback is critical and an excellent opportunity to ensure talent is engaged.”

Also ensure the availability of career development. “Not everyone is interested in career development, but top talent always is. It can be difficult for small organisations to offer opportunities, but career development is not restricted to promotion. Can you offer additional responsibility? Supervising other employees? Coaching and training others? Managing projects? Chairing meetings?”

Front line managers are the key to retention, he says; they are at the coalface. “How good are your managers at motivating and inspiring their team members? At managing performance, good and bad? At setting useful goals? Providing useful performance feedback? What does your organisation do to develop its managers?”

Ensure employees have a feeling of inclusion and are empowered to make decisions. “Allowing people to be part of the decision making process, particularly in relation to decisions that affect their jobs and the overall direction of the company when possible, engages them with your business.”

Well developed reward and recognition programs can be used as part of a successful retention program, as long as there is a fair and equal system of processes for rewards.

“In a recent survey we found that employees prefer financial or a combination of financial and non-financial rewards over straight non-cash benefits. The way in which staff are rewarded for hard work or successful results, or even as part of a salary package, is at the heart of the employment relationship.”

There are other ways to offer an attractive package than salary. “Not all organisations can offer a competitive salary. If you can’t, you should try to offer an attractive benefits package, which could include flexible hours, weekly or monthly office lunches, life or health insurance, sports events and a work/life balance.”

And lastly, recognise and praise individuality. “Everyone is unique. Recognise and utilise the unique talents of each staff member.”


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