Jeff Hough

Jeff Hough

At a recent conference session, Cultivating Top Talent: Innovation and Collaboration, presented by senior level executives from 3M, GE, ADP and Phillips, I learned how some of America’s largest companies deal with the talent issues facing their organizations.

One of the first things discussed was the need to define who you are and what you seek. It is easy for everyone to say we are a great place to work and that we have a great culture, but everyone else is saying that as well. You need a unique definition of who you are and who/what you are looking for. Defining the skill set you need is the easy part, it is defining the individual that is important in recruiting today’s talent. By defining the type of individual you need, you refine your job descriptions and market them in unique places that will attract those types of individuals.

Another important point covered by each panelist was the need to develop a new cultural mindset regarding retention. The old concern about training new people and worrying about them leaving is as true today as ever. Most young people entering the workforce today are looking for an “experience” from which to grow. The average length of stay in a position for many new workers is two to three years. The panelists stressed that growth opportunities — both professional and personal—are a necessary part of retaining and recruiting today’s workers. In short, you need to invest in them, with the understanding that they will leave.

A major workplace evolution with which all companies struggle is the desire for more employee control over the schedule. Because technology enables knowledge workers to work anytime or anyplace, young professionals question the need to keep the traditional 8 to 5 hours.

One new idea for dealing with this comes from GE which has experimented successfully with a concept they call “Permissive Time Off.” The concept is relatively simple, no more set number of Vacation, Sick or Personal days for those in Senior Professional positions. GE assumes that they have empowered their employees to do a job, so as long as the work is getting done and they have a manager’s approval, they are free to take time off as needed.

Employers are having to discard many old norms of workplace behavior to attract and retain talent. One example of the norms being replaced is the traditional concept of workplace attire.

In many places, casual dress Friday is being extended to every day of the week. Another is more companies giving employees “20% Time” to work on projects that interest them, but are outside of their normal workload.

The final concept for retaining quality employees on which the panelists agreed was having a good on-boarding program. By on-boarding they were referring to reaching out to the people you have hired before they begin working to make them feel like they are a part of the company.

Having team members or leadership connect with the new employees before they start makes them feel wanted and begins building important relationship bridges.

Although there seems to be a current talent shortage, each of the panelists felt confident that there is sufficient talent available. The issue is that competition for that talent now occurs on a global level and employers must be creative to attract the new workforce.

If you are struggling to find the talent you need, it is time to examine many of your traditional practices—from HR policies and recruiting practices to company culture—and question their relevance to today’s workplace. Businesses are questioning traditional workplace norms and the companies which come up with creative answers to those questions will be the ones that have all of the talent they need.

Jeff Hough is a business author, blogger and speaker in Pocatello.