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  • How CHROs are Handling Employee Retention & Workplace Agility

“Not recruiting is the best recruiting.” That memorable quote helped kick off the fall meeting of Orion Talent’s CHRO Roundtable—a group of senior HR leaders and friends of Orion who gather every few months to share HR, talent acquisition, and workforce management best practices. The statement was meant to emphasize the persistent and critical need to retain good talent in order to keep business moving forward.

While the theme for the discussion was agility and how HR can help promote agile mindsets and work, the HR leaders began by emphasizing their current commitment to retention. The high demand for talent and sharply limited supply of candidates has made recruitment extremely hard and turnover something to avoid at all costs. If a business can retain strong talent, momentum and agility can follow. If churn is high, however, agility is not even an option.

So how are HR leaders attacking the twin problem of talent retention and workforce agility? Here are the best practices CHROs say are working for them as they focus on boosting retention and fueling workplace agility.

Retention via Attention

HR leaders are paying more attention than ever to existing talent, watching and listening for signs of attrition. They are conducting stay interviews and employee surveys to gather real-time data on why employees are committed to the organization and where any turnover issues might arise. They are also training managers to proactively support retention efforts and outreach by connecting with their teams and watching for signs of dissatisfaction.

Another important strategy is to bring in leadership. HR experts are getting their senior business leaders involved in talent retention by asking CEOs and other executives to engage with the workforce to share gratitude for jobs well done, celebrate success, and give awards and rewards for loyalty and hard work. Making retention part of everyone’s job and a pillar of leadership engagement also promotes connection, which is something many people have missed since the pandemic began.

What’s Working to Retain Talent

Solid Compensation

Good pay is always a solid start in talent retention, especially today with wages rising across the board. Underpaying talent will drive up turnover.

Thoughtful Bonuses

One leader mentioned how a hero bonus of a few hundred dollars for team members who worked through COVID was especially moving to employees. Retention bonuses and strategic promotions are also powerful tools when employees are being wooed away by new job offers.

Food Fun

Several CHROs mentioned how small yet meaningful efforts deliver strong retention results. For example, they shared how bringing fun snacks and good food to cover meals from time-to-time can have a big morale boost.

Flexible & Remote Work

Several roundtable members discussed how flexible and remote work remained highly attractive to employees. Even allowing for greater schedule control or creative work patterns, such as a 4 day/10 hour work week, has been a big talent magnet. It’s hard to walk away from three-day weekends.

Tech Improvements

Improving technology to optimize remote work and employment life cycle administration also increases retention. The more accessible, connected, and transparent the business, the better-connected employees feel. Strong connection and engagement are important to talent retention.

The Power of Autonomy: An Agility & Retention Booster

Greater workplace autonomy was also offered up as both a way to foster workplace agility and promote retention. More autonomy means less red tape and hoops for employees to get through in their day-to-day work. This makes them faster and more agile on the job.

More autonomy also means they can make decisions and take ownership in making processes, products, and the overall business better. Giving employees more responsibility is an act of trust, and employees tend to pay back trust with loyalty and higher retention.

Creating an Agile Culture

Elevating agility to a company value is one way to help it become a common, companywide behavior. Promoting agility as a value can be done with the support of business leadership. For example, managers and executives can encourage and recognize agile work and mindsets across the organization. One CHRO shared how her leadership team made it a point to regularly recognize employees who had created new efficiencies for the business with announcements and awards. This positive and public feedback encouraged others to become more agile in their work.

Upskilling Is an Uphill Battle in 2021

While skill development and training remains a priority for every business, the CHRO panel agreed that it has never been harder to make time for upskilling employees. “Our teams are so busy and often understaffed. We can’t pull them off the job or we would lose ground,” was a common message explaining why it was extremely hard to take an employee off the job for training in the current marketplace.

To counterbalance the lack of time for upskilling employees, many HR leaders are leveraging learning apps and knowledge platforms that allow self-driven training and skill development. While the panel loves these tools, they also agreed online training is only one part of the solution for reskilling talent. As workplaces and the economy regain their pre-pandemic rhythms, HR leaders say that robust training and reskilling programs will be essential to maintaining business agility and retaining talent.

More to Come

Watch for more CHRO insights and advice in the months ahead. In the meantime, if you are interested in joining the CHRO roundtable to share ideas and network with peers, let us know. And, if you would like help addressing any of the themes to come out of this roundtable, you can contact us here.

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