It’s a Talent Market

The future of talent is here. Between the great resignation, COVID, BLM, and many other factors, the talent supply chain is upended. Employers are rethinking ways to retain and attract talent. Talent is going through an existential reconfiguration as well. Salary alone is no longer a key driver. Trends indicate that work-life balance, purpose-driven work in purpose-driven organizations, a sense of belonging, and overall mental health are some of the new key drivers in attracting and retaining talent. 

The challenge is shifting towards the employer’s ability to create a destination appealing enough for a workforce looking for more than a livelihood in an area of expertise. Each month in this column, “The Future of Talent,” I’ll be exploring the drivers that influence the talent market and offer suggestions on how to address them.

This trend is particularly prevalent in the United States. Yet, just like the pandemic, it has no borders, and EMEA and Asia are catching on fast. For instance, a sign of this global trend can be observed by the titles that Human Resources executives across the globe are adopting, including “VP of People and Culture,” “Chief People Officer,” and “Head of Employee Experience” — all indicating a shift toward a more human-centric approach. 

For the time being, let’s explore why this is happening and why it is happening now.

COVID has been an accelerator of this existential quandary. Nearly two years ago, across the globe, people were confined to their homes. Technically, they brought work into their personal spaces, and the lines between work and home blurred or disappeared. The sounds of dogs barking, children crying, lawn mowers or door bells ringing are now normal. People have stopped apologizing for the intrusion of their personal realities into their work life because, in fact, it’s the other way around. Work invaded our personal space and, in many cases — particularly in the language industry — we’ve had no other alternative. Our kitchens, living rooms, or spare rooms were turned overnight into makeshift offices or classrooms, often shared with our roommates and even children. We can call this phenomenon “forced adaptation.”

The silver lining is that we have accepted and embraced the human in us and invited it into the workspace; the concept of bringing your whole self to work or embracing the whole person has taken a new meaning. Progressively, individuals let their guards down, just as much by necessity as by choice, and we are learning more about each other’s personal circumstances. So has the employer. The human is out of the bottle, and there is no putting it back! We are learning that being authentic, either by choice or necessity, is easier than covering. We are also learning that once we feel free to be authentic, we are more courageous, we may take more risks, and we may unleash more creativity. This is an existential professional identity crisis where talent is looking at work from a different lens, one where culture, empathy, flexibility, growth, and purpose matter just as much as salary, benefits, titles, and skills. On the other hand, employers are learning to appreciate and benefit from this burst of newfound creativity in their workforce.

What COVID has ignited for knowledge professionals in particular is a reframing of the essentials of the work environment. Let’s take for instance the 9-5 concept. Unless your role specifically calls for a presence (whether virtual or physical) during specific hours, why mandate when to work, if objectives are achieved and deadlines met regardless of an individual’s working hours? Who says that a brief is best written between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. rather than 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.? A study in Forbes magazine explores the impact and outcomes of pandemic-driven working from home and its impact on people’s productivity. The commute time has been eliminated, working tools are only a few clicks away, digital accessibility is just too easy. Extended working hours, by unconscious choice, is simple today. The results are conclusive; 54% of the workforce report that productivity during lockdown increased. This alone opens a door for new possibilities in the reframing of working models where physical presence and flexible hours may become the new normal. Employers are learning to adapt.

These are only a few things that we are observing in the new normal. The Great Resignation is shifting the relationship between employer and talent across the board, for Knowledge Workers and beyond. Employers are taking a fresh look at why talent is resigning and how to address the root cause of resignation. They are considering new ways to not only retain their existing talent but create appealing employment destinations for new talent. Beyond the most traditional incentives such as salary, titles, and professional growth, they are creating programs and ecosystems that tap into the human needs and creating a human-centric environment where the personal circumstances of talent take center stage. Hybrid working models are being promoted, mental health is discussed openly in employee resource groups and supported by programs that ensure the mental well-being of all employees.

A couple trends we are witnessing are the quality of leadership and management moving towards an empathetic approach, putting the human experience at the center of the engagement. DEI ( Diversity Equity and Inclusion) is increasingly permeating of the cultural DNA of companies, supported by strong legislation in the United States that outlaws discrimination of all kinds. 

With the current talent shortage, employees now have the upper hand. Talent is in a stronger position to choose where they want to work. They are looking for purpose-driven workplaces and are less willing to compromise their work-life balance. Employers need to adapt.

This reality is also strongly influenced by demographics and culture. Although these trends are most noticeable in the United States, they are shedding a light on what is to come globally and cannot be ignored. They set the model for courageous and innovative companies around the globe to take the lead in introducing and actualizing work ecosystems that are truly future-ready.

In future columns we will double click on the concepts that we surfaced. We will explore the role of purpose in the workplace, empathetic leadership and why it matters. We will also venture into the complex world of DEI + Belonging and what role it plays in the growth and survival of corporations. 

The Future of Work is already here, and the changes that the current pandemic have accelerated are giving employers and talent alike the opportunity to innovate in company culture, talent management, and leadership.