3 minute read 26 Apr 2018
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Three ways to attract and retain talent in the age of disruption

3 minute read 26 Apr 2018
Related topics Purpose Workforce

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Companies can adapt to a changing workforce by embracing flexibility, encouraging ‘intrapreneurship’ and fostering a sense of purpose.

The age of digital disruption and innovation is very much here – and it’s here to stay. The world has been disrupted by globalization, the rapid pace of technology and shifts in workforce demographics.

While these developments have created innovative solutions to the way we work, the changes have also brought on new risks and challenges for the business community. This has led to uncertainty about the future of organizations and their ability to drive growth. In particular, talent attraction and retention is often identified as a competitive risk, even among large, well-established tech companies in Silicon Valley.

The search for top talent has been especially disrupted by the “gig economy,” in which employees work on a flexible, project or freelance basis. This trend toward contingent workers has jolted a number of sectors, as more professionals of varying and often highly sought after skills are shifting to freelance opportunities.

According to a 2015 survey by Upwork and Freelancers Union, an advocacy group in the US, 34% of the country’s workforce is now freelancing. In the UK, the Independent Professionals Association estimates there are currently about 4.64 million people who are self-employed.

More professionals of varying and often highly sought after skills are shifting to freelance opportunities.

This shift in employment and the way we work over the last 10 years is in part due to the newer entrants into the labor market, with Millennials expected to constitute 72% of the workforce by 2025. It’s also been driven by undeniably accelerated disruption and technological innovation, which is fundamentally changing the way we operate in the working world and even how we perceive a working day.

As we see university graduates each year trade in their graduation caps and gowns for business attire and laptop cases, we must ask ourselves important questions. How can organizations find and attract the best talent in a shifting labor market? How do we find the people with the right skills to meet not only today’s business needs but tomorrow’s? What will the workplace of the future look like, and how we can prepare?

Although these are all very complex questions without simple solutions, there are three areas that companies – from start-ups to long-established enterprises – can consider in aligning talent priorities with corporate growth.

1. Embrace flexibility

A key attraction of the gig economy is the flexibility it affords contingent workers. If greater work flexibility is preferred over traditional work schemes, then we too have to embrace flexibility and agility. We have to think about how our colleagues can be afforded the same choice and independence that enables them to meet both their work and personal commitments.

At EY, we are longtime proponents of flexible work environments that vary from working remotely or outside typical business hours to formal flexible work arrangements involving reduced or seasonal schedules. As the gig economy grows, it will be even more important to examine what flexibility means for your staff and organization.

Employees in a flexible work environment

2. Foster the ‘intrapreneurial’ spirit

We recently introduced a simple system called “predictable time off.” The idea is that every member of a team posts to a shared calendar the evenings or weekends they’re busy with plans outside of work so that people know who best to contact in times of high volume. Originally introduced by our Assurance practice, this was so well received that it’s now been rolled out across other business lines as well.

“Predictable time off” is a good example of how to encourage colleagues to think differently and innovatively. By empowering employees to develop creative solutions, they’re able to find new ways to support all members of the team. It’s about fostering “intrapreneurship” or encouraging employees to act, think and behave like entrepreneurs within a large organization.

A company that embeds an “intrapreneurial” spirit is able to encourage innovation and therefore raise productivity and efficiency. The approach also lowers employee turnover and helps attract new talent. Perhaps the inclusion of contingent workers is a solution that would also invite untapped talent and a spirit of “intrepreneurship” into an organization.

3. Recognize the importance of purpose

Embracing flexibility and “intrapreneurship” internally are good solutions for attracting new talent. More importantly, they help companies retain skilled individuals, but they cannot achieve this on their own.

A clear sense of purpose can help companies navigate the challenges that come from disruption. It should underpin every new workplace initiative and every shift in strategy.

According to recent EY research done in collaboration with Harvard Business Review, the majority of executives surveyed believe that purpose-minded organizations are more successful delivering high-quality products and services, executing business transformations and retaining employees and customers. Yet, nearly half admit they don’t have a strategy that reflects their purpose.

It’s important to encourage transparent and regular two-way communication with your employees about the direction in which the company is headed and the role they play in achieving these goals. After all, your people are your most important asset, your strongest advocates and the best at recruiting new individuals into the firm.

Each year in Monaco at World Entrepreneur Of The Year, we recognize the accomplishments of entrepreneurs and their efforts in job creation and economic growth around the world. As part of the 2016 event, we released our 2016 Job Creation Survey, which surveys entrepreneurs’ views on how disruption and innovation are impacting global job creation, workforce levels and strategies for growth.

As technology and disruption overhaul the workforce across sectors, in some cases eliminating roles, in others changing the nature of existing roles and creating new ones, it’s clear that this is an exciting time for companies to seize opportunities that align their talent management strategies with future growth.

Summary

As technology and other disruptions redefine the workforce, companies must adapt or risk losing top talent.

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Related topics Purpose Workforce