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How Businesses In Europe Are Tackling The Biggest Talent Challenges

The pandemic, the subsequent ‘Great Resignation’, the ongoing skills gap crisis and continued economic tumult, means that good talent leadership has never been more critical. To this end, we’ve been gathering talent leaders from Europe’s largest and most forward-thinking companies at a series of roundtables over the past couple of weeks. This is what we heard…

(As the conversation was conducted under Chatham House rules, the details of the attendees have been held back.)

Upskilling practices can be the differentiator in terms of talent acquisition

We heard from leaders at some of the top tech and manufacturing firms about their practices when it comes to upskilling employees. This is not just critical to tackle the skills gap – 83% of leaders surveyed for The Talent Trap said that fierce competition for new hires is forcing them to compromise on quality – but is crucial for attracting the best and the brightest. This reinforces what we heard at another similar discussion: the worlds of internal mobility and external talent attraction cannot be considered in isolation.

An attendee mentioned that they offered a structured programme to enhance their newest graduate employees’ soft skills. Ambitious and promising candidates hired were to be sent to Barcelona to be part of the academy. This was expected to yield well rounded employees who would be more likely to become future leaders at the company. Significantly, it had already started to mean they could attract and hire more applicants amongst graduates than their fiercest rivals in the tech space. After all, when companies can spend so much time and money on customer success, shouldn’t they invest similarly in their own employees?

The debate on international travel 

Whether or not the cost of sending these junior employees to Barcelona was justified remains to be seen. Will international travel perks yield engaged and motivated employees in the long term? 

The attendee who had initiated the programme said that exposing junior employees to international travel had significant upsides for the business, including increasing diversity of thought. Another attendee agreed and said it was better to send junior employees on an international assignment than more senior ones, when the company had to bear the cost of not just one person’s but potentially their families travel and re-settlement.

Which side of this debate do you fall on?

Agility vs. stability when it comes to retaining employees

Everyone acknowledges the importance of reskilling and upskilling employees. In the past (until the 1970s), around 90% of roles in organizations were filled via promotions and lateral assignments. Today? One third are filled this way – and all the attendees agreed this needs to change.

However, a critical component to this is to customize the learning to the needs of the company’s employees. Indeed, one attendee said that for more senior employees, job security was more important to their applicants than the potential for more learning. But this was countered by the fact that we don’t even know the skills that will be needed 10-15 years from now! That implies a need for agility and to cultivate the desire to keep learning.

Another challenge was the responsiveness to new skills in various parts of Europe. One attendee mentioned that she had seen a distinct difference in the way that eastern European employees reacted to the prospect of training programmes versus western European employees. This ties to the importance of having clean and usable data to ensure learning pathways can be customized as far as possible.

Perhaps the key is for organizations to help employees learn how to learn. Everyone must be digitally literate, and mentorship, shadowing and collaborative learning approaches provide the framework that could enable any workforce to get there. An empowering manager is critical to this.

A slightly controversial point made was that some people benefited from being laid off early on in their careers, as it helped enshrine the need for constant change and improvement! Do you agree or disagree?

See more about what Forrester’s Katy Tynan, Principal Analyst Employee Experience & Future of Work had to say about the future of L&D here.

The need to look in non-traditional talent pools

Finally, in this frothy market, one needs to think outside the box when it comes to hiring, especially in order to deliver on a diversity agenda. One attendee told us about the inspiring story of hiring mothers who were ready to return to work. She said she’d used Beamery to pool such potential applicants – where Linkedin suggested the candidates had stopped working for a while. The trick was to then encourage them to apply to relevant roles. It has been a rewarding programme already, yielding successful hires in the double digits, amongst this sought after category of employees: loyal and experienced mothers with life experiences beyond comparison. 

Another example is companies training students well before they might become eligible candidates. Financial services firms in particular need to do this as the UK’s Financial Services Skills Commission has said on various occasions.

Beamery left the event with the distinct impression that talent management’s role has never been more important and integral to the outcomes of an organization. To continue the conversation and to hear how Beamery believes talent managers can empower their talent, get in touch here.