As much as we may wish otherwise, the labor market is never static. Changing economic conditions, new technologies, and other market volatility mean that HR professionals are constantly adjusting their recruitment and retention strategies. More so than almost any other facet of business, it’s incumbent on HR to keep up with the times. Doing so often means being able to see into the future, and while it can be nearly impossible to know what tomorrow’s workforce will want, the best HR strategists are adaptive.
When possible, it also helps to be able to monitor for and recognize emerging talent trends. These trends can touch on all areas of the employee value proposition, from employment benefits, to career development tracking, to life style accommodations, and they frequently change. For instance, one group of employees may prize a flexible work environment that allows them to work when and where they wish, while others would rather have regular feedback and interaction with their managers. Keeping up with these shifting perspectives allows organizations to offer a better experience to their employees and retain top performers.
Learning to Read the Tea Leaves
Understanding that these factors are important is only the first step. In order to put proactive HR policies into practice, organizations need to get to know their workforce. What’s the demographic make-up of your employee base? What career track do they expect? How does employment at your company compare with others in your industry sector? To answer these questions, companies need to go straight to the source: their employees.
Whether through regular employee surveys, new-hire questionnaires , exit interviews, or employee-manager discussions, it’s important that employers keep a finger on the pulse of their direct reports’ likes and dislikes. This basic awareness can often be the difference between stable growth and watching your top performers walk out the door.
Searching for Patterns
Individual outreach is great, but you need to be able to look at the big picture. Just like any pollster, you can learn more by looking for groups of employees and predicting behavior. When preparing for Millennials to make up the primary base of the workforce, consider lessons from the transition from Baby Boomers to Gen-Xers. As a given sector of your workforce approaches retirement, look to the behavior of older industries or companies as a model for how you should handle the graying of your office.
At the end of the day, HR is a social science. That means that problems are inherently complicated by the fickle nature of people. However, it also means that a little bit of social engineering can go a long way towards easing your problems. As you approach your next HR challenge, remember one thing: what trend is at play here, and where have I seen it before?