Recruitment and Retention: Playing the generation game

All of our clients ask us for our help on the same issue – how do we attract, recruit and retain the very best people?

And our clients are not alone. With unemployment in Northamptonshire running at record lows most businesses are facing the challenge of hiring and keeping skilled employees.

So what’s the secret? Pay more? Give more perks? Allow more holiday? With margins tight these are not always affordable options. Even if you can afford them there is a danger they become the norm once the initial enthusiasm runs out. Anyway, once everyone offers these types of incentives what’s the difference between you and your competitors?

Paying people a fair wage and offering perks needs to be part of any decent company’s strategy. But in our experience at Beyond Theory pay and benefits do not work on their own. What does work is creating a reputation as being an excellent employer. You probably spend lots of time and energy (not to mention money) on building a successful brand for your customers but how much attention do you give to how you treat and look after your people?

Developing your brand as being an employer of choice is a worthwhile investment.

Here’s why:

- Today’s employers are fiercely competing for skilled workers. There are more jobs than ever before. Northamptonshire’s unemployment rate is just 3.3%

- People now have longer working lives. A recent study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development showed that 50% of people in their 50’s expect to work until they are 70.

- Longer working lives can frustrate others from moving up. I refer to this as the ‘Prince Charles dilemma’. He has been waiting many years for his job. No vacancy as yet.

- Young technology savvy employees are joining the workforce. Expectations are high and they’re used to constant, quick-fire communication and instant gratification. Very often the world of work doesn’t respond in this way and this leads to further frustration and disappointment (if not disillusionment) for both employer and employee.

- Our world is smaller. Communication enables people to be recruited from the global market place. The converse is that other countries may attract our talented people away from us.

- The psychological contract between employer and employee isn’t what it used to be. A ‘job for life’ has become a ‘life of jobs’. Younger employees in particular tend to follow their passion rather than follow their pension.

To build your brand as an employer these days you need to have broad appeal. You have to play the generation game and understand the needs, wants and aspirations of Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and now the Millennials. Here are some top tips based on research that was recently published in the Harvard Business Review:

- Make sure your company values are visible and clear. Use your website to tell stories of how your company lives the values to create an appetite for people to come and work with you.

- Offer creative opportunities that will enable your employees to grow and develop for the future. Show how your company offers and supports a career path – remember that careers are as much about breadth and depth as well as vertical progression.

- Offer a range of flexible perks and benefits that enable employees to choose what suits them. For example health care may be important for some, whereas discounted cinema tickets may appeal to someone else.

- Review your physical work environment. Does it promote collaborative working where employees are encouraged to contribute ideas and offer solutions? Meeting spaces are proven to increase levels of engagement and productivity.

- Pay attention to work-life balance. Technology offers many ways of working more flexibly. People are now beginning to refer to this as work-life integration.

But it may not just be your company that needs to re-think their approach. Ask yourself how your leadership style and how your managers behave may influence why people should (or should not) invest their careers with you. Today’s employees are looking for more empowerment and involvement. Their manager’s behaviour determines how they view their job, their prospects, your company and their wellbeing. Here’s what the research says about what people now look for from their boss:

- Help to navigate a career path – perceptions of what a career means may be different to your own.

- Straight feedback – forget the myth of the feedback sandwich. Tell it like it is but with sensitivity.

- Coaching and mentoring to support – most learning happens on the job but additional support will increase confidence as well as build skills.

- Sponsorship for formal development programmes – people are looking for knowledge and skills to future proof their prospects.

- Flexibility over work schedules – working 9 to 5 is now very much a thing of the past.

We know that reputation is critical. Just like any other brand, trust builds loyalty. Your brand as an employer goes way beyond your marketing and recruitment materials. Social media and word of mouth travels fast. Use these channels to proactively promote your employer brand in a positive way.

Today’s world of work requires employees of all ages to problem solve, take initiative and provide great service. To perform at their best employees need to feel good about themselves and feel great about your company. Show that yours is a company that looks after its people. Your future and existing employees will feel the difference. So will your customers.

To discuss how we can work with your business email or visit