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How Do You Engage And Retain Your Workforce?

Retaining talent is a major challenge for businesses today. Our Talent Index reveals that 51% of employees are planning to quit their jobs in the coming year – despite the uncertain economy.

We recently surveyed 713 business leaders and held roundtable discussions with senior HR professionals in a study called Navigating The Changing Talent Landscape – 71% said they are concerned about talent leakage in the next 12 months. And just 51% think leaders in their company understand why people leave the organization “to a great extent”.

Why do our respondents think people will leave? Unsurprisingly, 56% cited better pay elsewhere, and 47% said better work/life balance. Opportunities for learning, development, mobility and progression were next on the list.

With that knowledge in mind, it’s likely that many of your employees are disengaged (regardless if they plan to leave or not). Our Talent Index found that 37% of people are concerned about being laid off, and 28% of these people said this fear made them more likely to search for another job… while 23% said their motivation and quality of their work had decreased.

78% of the leaders we spoke to have seen evidence of “quiet quitting” – doing what a job requires and nothing more – in the last year. 66% of our respondents (71% in the US) said that an increase in quiet quitting is a sign that leaders must change their approach to talent management.

So what can business leaders do to engage and retain today’s talent?

Reskill employees and redeploy talent

The retention and engagement challenge is a difficult one to tackle during a tough economy, because offering pay raises probably isn’t an option for most companies. The leaders we spoke to think they can effectively address morale and productivity issues through other avenues (that cost much less).

38% said they could address these problems through optimizing internal mobility and another 37% said through providing personalized career paths. Giving talent the personalized opportunities they desire – to learn and develop – is an ideal strategy for retention.

Mark Elliott, CFO of Mercer, spoke to Fortune, and said, “what was a war for talent is increasingly becoming a war for skills”. For a lot of companies, 2023 has been a year of adapting and restructuring – and while budgets are tight, demand for many businesses is changing. The skills your organization needs to meet demand today will likely not be the same skills that are needed in the future.

Organizations who have built successful reskilling programs, will be a step ahead of the competition and will be able to adapt much more quickly to changing needs. And when employees are reskilled, it positions them well to take on new and exciting opportunities internally.

Talent mobility as a retention strategy

Our survey respondents estimated that 31% of talent loss (on average) could be prevented with internal mobility initiatives that allow talent to move more freely within their organization.

By giving employees the freedom to try something new (even if it's just a short-term project), they are able to strengthen their skills – and even pick up new ones. With ‘on the job’ training, you can give your talent exposure to different teams. This helps the company build a more agile workforce with a deep knowledge of the business and industry. On-the-job training is a cost-effective way to engage and retain talent, because it gives employees the confidence and the permission to try new things and learn new skills – empowering them to take ownership of their career progression, with support from their employer.

Look to internal talent to fill skills gaps

Talent mobility isn’t just a way to motivate individuals to try something new. It’s also a way to close skills gaps. This may mean redeploying talent to critical roles that need to be filled today, or identifying opportunities to upskill employees in order to meet the talent needs of tomorrow.

31% of business leaders we spoke to said they are using increased opportunities for internal mobility as a way to close skills gaps. And 89% of respondents agreed that the talent approaches used today must focus on getting talent to where it’s needed most.

A skills-first approach to talent management is an essential component of internal mobility. Without a strong foundation and understanding of skills, and a common skills language to match employees with opportunities within the business, it’s going to be difficult to even know what skills gaps you have, let alone know how to fill them.

This is the first big step launching a successful talent mobility program: but it’s easier said than done. What about the barriers to internal mobility?

The barriers to talent mobility and how to overcome them

80% of our survey respondents think that as of right now, employees would say it’s easier to land a new job outside their organization than within their organization. So what factors make talent mobility so difficult?

47% of leaders we spoke to said that managers were a big part of the problem. Some managers are resistant to change and others tend to “hoard” their best talent to avoid sharing with other teams.

Visibility is another issue: 42% of respondents felt that employees may not be able to easily find internal opportunities. Aptitude Research found that 37% of businesses have the same application process for both internal and external candidates, and even less personalize communications for their internal candidates (26%).

Managers must shift their mindset

People managers are often evaluated based on how well their team performs (rather than their individual contributions to the business). Companies must address this if they want their internal mobility program to be successful.

If managers are reluctant to share their talent with other teams, the hope for a sustainable talent mobility program is squashed. It’s up to business leaders to reframe the idea of internal mobility in managers’ minds – to position it as a way to benefit the organization as a whole, to help employees progress in their careers, and to keep them engaged.

Supportive managers should facilitate learning and development for their team members. Susan Tohyama, CHRO at Ceridian, told HDR, “If employees are interested in developing their skills, they need to feel they have the time to take those classes. HR teams can’t do this themselves – they must have buy-in from people leaders. We talk to senior leadership a lot about making sure we’re continuing to give employees opportunities to build their skills, allowing them the time to do that and ensuring that they’re still meeting deliverables and goals.”

Without the support from managers, the organization is at risk of losing more top talent, or at the very least – disengaged talent.

Empower employees to take charge of their career paths

When done right, talent mobility allows employees to see exactly what roles and development opportunities are available to them, and should be able to view personalized recommendations based on their skills and interests.

An AI-driven Talent Marketplace can enable this type of personalized internal mobility strategy, and gives individuals full visibility of internal opportunities at any given time – improving the overall employee experience.

With a Talent Marketplace, your employees don’t have to look outside of your company for opportunities to progress in their careers. And at the same time, these AI-powered tools give employers a way to unlock the full potential of their workforce, engage talent, and fill critical skills gaps.

Ultimately, talent engagement and retention starts at the top of the organization. Business leaders have a lot on their plate – the last thing they need is more attrition.

To keep your talent engaged, it’s critical that you have the right tools and HR technology in place to help you launch a sustainable, fruitful internal mobility strategy. When employees feel as though they are free to take part in training or mentorship opportunities, or apply for roles internally they are much more likely to stay engaged.

Read the report, Navigating The Changing Talent Landscape, to see the full data from the study and learn more about overcoming today’s talent challenges.