RTT – Positioning yourself as an Employer of Choice

Resourcing Think Tank logoThese are the thoughts and takeaways from the latest Singapore Resourcing Think Tank (RTT) held on Wednesday 14th August 2013 kindly hosted by Eric Wong, Head – Talent Acquisition and Development – APJ and China at Polycom, on “Positioning Yourself as an Employer of Choice”.

The following summary has been prepared to reflect a segment of the discussion held amongst senior HR and Resourcing professionals from leading international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under the Chatham House Rule.

It’s clear that organisations are successfully embracing a more holistic approach to their identification and selection of talent. There does however still seem to be a very narrow minded approach when it comes to attraction, with many organisations still resorting to the standard “we pay above the market rate” type of sales pitch to candidates. So what is the best way to position your business as an employer of choice and stay one step ahead of the competition?

Is Cash King?

Work Life Harmony – is this the missing piece of the puzzle? Is your employer brand reflected in the message your recruitment function is taking to market? Can you attract candidates looking for a more balanced career or is cash still the main driver for the majority of your hires with work life harmony being considered the icing on the cake?

Are your competitors proactively promoting work balance and can you therefore risk being left behind should you choose not to capitalise on it? A recent government survey of Singaporeans in their 20s showed that 65% are looking for a sense of purpose and meaning in their careers. But is cash ultimately the deciding factor for the majority of the working population? This seems to be largely dependent on the level of individual you are hiring. Compensation is undoubtedly important, but for mid to senior level employees there are many more complex considerations. Whilst salary is tangible and easy to quantify and compare; an increasing number of ‘Gen Y’ are proactively looking at culture and work life harmony. However, it does depend on where you are in your career. For Gen X, corporate social responsibility was ranked as a greater driver when engaging with potential employers.

Is the business onside?

Who drives and promotes employer branding schemes throughout the business? You need to get the hiring mangers onside and believing in the benefits. Expectation vs. reality. How can you achieve this cultural ‘revolution’?

A member of the Resourcing Think Tank shared their experiences of enhancing their work life harmony…

“Two years ago we enhanced and changed our working policies, redesigned offices, introduced hot desks, invested in the technology and tools to allow employees to work in a fashion that suited them. We experienced some resistance from traditional managers who feared a drop in productivity so made sure we invested in training managers on how to manage remotely. For example how you can effectively communicate with people who are working flexible hours?”

We created a number of charters and ways of working. Productivity levels increased, diversity especially around gender has increased with a significant upswing in the number of working parents. It was a big journey and a huge investment is required, but it has certainly paid off.”

There is more to flexi working

Flexi working is not the be all and end all for creating work life balance, fact. It has to take into account the wider picture. You need to gain cultural acceptance. Some companies are now trying to reduce flexible working, having let it go too far. Don’t forget the population who like coming into work from a social perspective. You need that social interaction and fabric to create teams that can work together. People are social creatures after all! No matter how great technology is, it cannot replace face to face engagement – physical interaction is more authentic and an emotional attachment will always be stronger if you are physically together – technology is purely an enabler. When utilising a virtual working environment, commit to certain days for face to face contact time. Why not combine this with a social activity to enable people to relax, have fun and unwind together?

Work flexibly without feeling guilty…

How far can you push the boundaries? Understand your employee populations’ preferred way of working – quite often you need to let people explore the options and let them figure it out for themselves. Depending on the task and activity, you need to let people choose the right zone and area for the particular job at hand. Let people realise when and where they can be most productive. For example why not introduce quiet no phone zones?

Who exactly are your employees?

We mustn’t lose focus of what our employee mix looks like as they all have different needs and degrees of technology “savviness”. We need to understand who we have, what they want and need, before we come up with wide blanketing schemes.

A simple 5 level matrix was identified as:

  1. Veterans 50y +
  2. Baby Boomers
  3. Generation X
  4. Generation Y (2 to 3 years commercial experience)
  5. Generation z (Still at school / collage)

The Veterans may prefer a more traditional structured working day based in the office. Baby Boomers may wish to finish work at 3pm to pick up their kids from school and then work in the evening for a couple of hours to catch up. Gen Y are typically systems and technology savvy, however a lot of this generation want more contact as they enjoy the social aspects of work. All are very different but can often be forgotten…

We now live in a social world

You need to live the values you preach as everything you do as an organisation will be broadcasted over social platforms, for example http://www.glassdoors.com. You can no longer talk about it and not deliver it, you will be found out!

You have to hire the right people for the business. Within some industries, offering a varied work life balance is not possible – for example when you have big operation teams onsite during set hours. Here you need a new proposition. In these environments you need to hand pick people who will live and breathe the culture. Their buy-in needs to be secured during the recruitment process. In these environments you can not necessarily band everyone into categories – it is about culture and career paths. You need to find the angle that suits you, for example a bank that has not made any redundancies is very unique.

How do companies recognise achievements?

The key is being creative; organisations are looking to change their structures to accommodate employees such as returning mothers and people who have been on long term sick. Often a touch of reverse psychology can be effective. For example, a shared service centre that works night shifts in Manila, supporting the US market, now achieve the highest engagement scores for any shared centre globally. They actually celebrate work life imbalance and the success this has created. Consequently, the team has a strong sense of pride and reports a high sense of fulfilment at work.

The Elephant in the Room!

One of the biggest hurdles faced when promoting work life harmony is the perception it can create during an interview when a candidate raises the subject. Frustratingly, a lot of line managers will translate this into being a veiled question asking ‘how hard are you willing to work’!

Does your recruitment process reflect the brand and culture of the organisation? Is it an honest reflection or an alien process a candidate goes through? Are you integrating work life harmony into the process? It is easy to get the recruitment function to deliver a message, the question is how do you get line mangers to actually live and breath it? During the recruitment process, if a candidate voices that they are looking for better work life harmony does this negatively impact their chances of getting a job, based on the perception previously outlined?

  • 1st stage interview – is the candidate suitable for a role?
  • 2nd stage interview – if yes to the above, this is when you need to sell to the candidate (you cannot sell to them all)

How can you weave the topic of work life harmony into interview conversations to ensure candidates feel confident talking about it and line mangers confident about how they can deal with it? It’s all about delivery and phrasing, why not ask ‘how can we help you adapt to our working environment’? To achieve this you need to educate hiring managers, especially if you have a Veteran interviewing a Gen X or Baby Boomer. It is a long process to remove this bias and attitude. You need to give everyone interview training and make sure that they all offer a consistent truthful message to market.

Some of the younger generation don’t mind occasionally working 60 hours a week, that is not the problem. They want to feel valued, they want to feel engaged and feel that they are learning. Some flexibility practises mean that we work longer hours. We now have access to technology systems anywhere in the world and at any time; often resulting in elongated working days.

A quick sense check

As part of a candidate’s induction, carry out a quick 15 minute expectation interview. Find out what their expectations are of the role, the business and their manager. Then as part of the hand over process from recruitment to line manger carry out a similar interview with their line manager. Then three months later, potentially coinciding with the end of their probation period, re-interview the candidate and cross reference their responses with the line-manager to determine whether expectations have been met. You can then use this to have a conversation with the line manager to make sure they accurately reflected the role during the engagement process. If the candidate has not worked out it is a great way to present the recruitment function’s “defence”.

It is a Marathon, not a Sprint

How do you position development in the hiring process? Candidates will not just be thinking about the role they are taking now, but where they want to be in 3-5 years’ time. Focus on global career opportunities and offer a clear development plan. Train the hiring manager to look at the longer term; hire for the role, hire for the business and hire for their potential.

When driving development and succession, if someone leaves at a senior level, can you engineer it so that the business can only hire at a more junior level rather than looking externally for a replacement? This drives a domino effect internally. If a hiring manager can get a replacement requisition a lot faster and easier at a junior level, this can drive innovation and internal mobility. This is a great way to evidence that you are putting your internal individuals first rather than just go outside the organisation.

Internal Head Hunters

How do you get internal managers to promote and develop their talent and not hide them away creating development bottle necks within the business? Worryingly, in some organisations hiring managers would prefer to see talent leave the business rather than their top talent moving into other internal departments. So, is the answer to Head hunt internal talent? Why not utilise proactive attraction methodologies normally associated with external hiring, but focused on internal talent identification and selection? Don’t wait for internal applicants, go and network / headhunt internal talent. After all, if your top talent is approached by external head-hunters why can’t your acquisition team approach them?

Encourage internal mobility by having a rule in place stating that if the individual has been in post for more than a year, then an internal manager cannot block potential moves. They need to tell their internal manger before they apply for the role as the internal manger can play a key part in them getting the new position. If you can get the hiring manger to see the value in developing talent then this can only be a good thing. If your culture promotes internal mobility this creates kudos for managers. It says you’re either hiring right or training right. This can only place the hiring manager in a good light, surely?

Survey your rejections

Survey new hires and candidates who weren’t successful in the hiring process for satisfaction. Get a sense of if they will come back again and how did they find the experience? You can generally expect about a 10% uptake. Keep it to only 4 or 5 questions. About 20% click on the link and only 10% of the most disgruntled applicants will probably answer. A Resourcing Think Tank member has reported success with investing in iPads for hiring managers to instantly survey after an interview; increasing participation. Use the results to track the performance of the function. The real time aspect of the process will improve completion and give a more accurate result.

The key message to your internal population is that every candidate is a potential customer. Feedback is incredibly important; call every candidate to give them their strengths and development areas regardless of whether or not they have been successful. If an individual has taken time out of their day or job, you owe it to them to give them feedback – you might want to re-engage in 6 months time or indeed be interviewed by them. Ultimately you want candidates to view the process as a learning experience.

You need to value the process, but the sentiment behind the process is where the real value lies.
This also feeds through to people leaving – would you like to re-hire them? What importance are you placing on engaging alumni? These individuals should be your advocates and will hopefully share experiences with you that they have gained outside your organisation.

Creative Comp and Bens

Is it just the ‘big fat salary’, additional holiday or two weeks’ paid vacation before they start working? Offering ‘perks’ such as a paid family vacation on top of their standard salary is a great way to be introduced to a business! Within emerging markets the challenge is that people are still being stripped out by massive salary uplifts. In a more mature developed market it is about educating the staff about how they are remunerated. But, how do we educate people that they are still well remunerated even though they don’t get some of the perks they historically got?

Phantom Stock Options

For non-listed companies, employees are given a certain amount of ‘stock’ and depending on the performance of the company employers benchmark the value against listed companies to see what their share price has done and award it appropriately. It gives senior managers the benefits experienced in a listed company in a non-listed company environment.

Locking in key talent

Retention programme that pays 6 months salary upfront – a programme for top performers. However, if employees leave before 5 years they have to pay it back. It is topped up after every 2 or 3 years and can build up to 1.5 years’ salary. It is designed to be too great for a competitor to pay back. It acts as a barrier of entry and is intended to keep the ‘flies away’ from top talent.

Key Takeaways:

  • Expectation Interviews: re-calibrate hiring manages and new starters’ expectations after 3 – 6 months.
  • Hire for the role, the company and for potential
  • Greater emphasis on alumni affiliation and engagement: ex-employees speaking at events and conferences
  • Gamification: make yourself stand out from the crowd, great for volume recruitment
  • Marketing approach: harness the internal capability or hire marketers into your function
  • ‘Work life Harmony’ comparison to ‘work life balance’
  • Make sure you are doing the basics well and this can deliver a huge amount of value
  • Ask the question ‘When we are hiring, what are we hiring for? Eligibility, capability, potential or suitability?
  • How do we define talent within our organisation? This is so different between organisations. If this is not right the whole hiring process will be skewed
  • Educate the decision makers and the hiring managers. They may not be following the organisation’s philosophy – is anyone out there developing this?
  • Figure out and investigate what is important to people to make sure you give the right message
  • Train hiring managers how to manage remotely
  • Which elements of flexible working are important to employees? We need to make sure we give the right message to the audience we are approaching
  • Survey candidates before they leave the interview room
  • How are we actually supporting the business? Do we need a reality check to make sure we are offering the right support?
  • Phantom Stock options
  • Can employees see and measure the success and impact they are having on their employing business?
  • Are we too driven by KPIs and have we lost focus of the marketing piece involved?
  • Work Life Balance: how can this be communicated and culturally managed so that as soon as hiring managers hear someone is looking for the right work life balance they are not rejected
  • Does the recruitment process reflect your business and its values – if the recruitment process does not how can you expect to attract the right people?
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