Emphasizing Retention: Finding and Developing the Right Employees

Last year human resources professionals were consumed with back-to-work strategies, but today the primary focus is on hiring the right talent the first time.

“There’s a lot of turnover happening with this work from home,” said Bravium Partner Nicole Bianchi. “There’s a concerted effort to help managers hire the right help the first time so they can develop them.”

Bravium is intentionally moving away from “customized” programming, building training around topics like making small brave moves, building credibility in the workplace, and having tough conversations.

Last year, HR was still heavily involved in coordinating and communicating work location and environments, taking the pulse and temperature of the emotional state of the workforce while trying to make everyone happy, and managing the departing workers who were seeking “something better,” according to Andrea C. Fredrickson, owner of Revela Group.

“This is starting to settle a bit,” she said. “HR is still leading these areas but [is] now working on proactive retention strategies to keep the best employees, develop new employees and leaders, and put in new and fresh processes that support the changes employees demand and deserve.”

A year ago, many companies were still determining what their organizations were going to look like in a post-COVID world, but now most firms have settled into those new policies, according to Lynn Owen, president of the Human Resource Association of the Midlands (HRAM).

“What kind of flexibility were we going to offer our employees?” she said. “We’ve recognized that people have always had remote workers, people on different floors, in different buildings, cities, states or countries.”

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Changing Landscape

Revela Group has worked to help leaders challenge their thinking habits.

“[HR managers are] spending less time proving themselves as leaders and allowing employees and team members to prove themselves,” Fredrickson said. “There was a lot of call for virtual classes, now there are very few who want them.”

Owen said that after the pandemic employees began to reconsider what was important to them. 

“Work-life balance is now more important than ever,” she said. 

There has been more conversation surrounding retention strategy than ever before, as a reported 78% of managers are concerned top talent will leave, according to Michala Anderson, Omaha-based branch manager for Robert Half. 

Eighty-three percent of HR managers say they’ve added new perks in response to the hiring market.

“Locally that’s been reflected through flexibility — not only where employees work, but when,” Anderson said. “Along with flextime, we’ve seen compensation adjustments. When [you] look at compensation trends for our accounting operations contract talent, from January to October there was a $2 per hour average increase in pay rate, and [for] higher-level accounting positions we’re seeing up to $7 per hour wage increases.”

One of the factors affecting the changing HR landscape is whether an organization will have a hybrid, remote, or in-office workforce. A remote workforce has limited in-person attendance, and hybrid workforce location and schedules are based on business needs.

“I think the two biggest things affecting the changing landscape are remote work models and unemployment rates,” Anderson said. “Employees who previously were only able to consider local jobs, now have the capability of taking a position where they are fully remote.”

With businesses restructuring, HR departments are learning how agile they can be.

“Whether your business has increased or decreased, many organizations and HR departments are restructuring how they operate to meet current demands,” Leadership Resources President Greg Gaggini said.

Adapting to and managing continuous and ongoing change has been a major hurdle for many. HR departments are focusing on retaining talent, or even cutting talent back, and asking remaining team members to take on more responsibility. 

HR departments are also learning to be flexible with how work is done and how information is delivered, such as how to communicate and get engagement virtually.

Things to Come

With things settling down, Fredrickson expects to see more balance for those in the HR world, which has been missing for the past couple of years.

“I see HR environments improving tools and resources for employees and managers, allowing more responsibility for developing and coaching employees back on the managers rather than sending them to HR for coaching,” Fredrickson said. “Those who manage or lead others are going to have to get better at true leadership.”

Fredrickson also expects that HR leaders will have to listen more to the individual needs of employees.

“Companies who [once] believed their best employees wouldn’t leave now realize the fact that people will change companies to a place that will meet their needs,” Fredrickson said. “And many companies have paid attention and get it. Those that don’t pay attention [will] lose.”

Leaders have also acknowledged that their employees are driven by different desires. 

“Strategic HR leaders realize a blanket approach to developing their leaders doesn’t work,” Bianchi said. “They are investing in those who want to grow and develop. Growth doesn’t always mean promotions and [money]. Growth means ‘I want to be a better leader; how do I get there?’ I think they’re looking for those people inside their organization.”

Organization budgets are being trimmed, Bianchi said, and HR departments are looking for the best ways to spend those limited dollars.

Many of the current trends will continue into 2023, forcing HR departments and organizations to take a deeper look at their company culture. What are they doing to keep a lean operation while maintaining their top talent and not driving burnout?

“Soft skills are also becoming just as important as technical skills,” Gaggini said. “The need for skills like empathy, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, adaptability, and resilience are essential in today’s workforce, especially when that workforce is remote or hybrid. Leaders need to be able to recognize and understand the struggles their teams are facing, from an internal and external perspective.”

Evolving HR Training

Gaggini said Leadership Resources is continually updating its programs to meet industry trends and needs. For example, leaders at all levels are struggling to bring EQ (emotional intelligence) to life and utilize the skills on a day-to-day basis.

“Seeing this struggle with so many of our clients, led us to rewrite our ‘EQ‘ series this past year,” Gaggini said. “We moved away from a more traditional, theoretical approach to an application-based program. Our unique ‘EQ‘ series now teaches leaders how to make emotional intelligence a part of their daily life.”

The firm has also made programs and content more accessible, offering virtual sessions and providing learning management software to its clients. This has allowed the firm to expand outside of the Midwest.

“As stress in the overall atmosphere has increased and turnover and retention have escalated, it’s essential to position your HR department as a catalyst for creating high-performing leaders,” Gaggini said. “Not only will this improve your bottom line, but it will also transform your culture into a sustainable and thriving place to work.”