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5 policies that attract, engage, and retain top talent

Think back to 2020. Do you remember your last normal workday before the pandemic? Perhaps you went to the office one last time or interviewed a candidate in-person for what would become the last time in a very long time. One thing is for certain, since that day you’ve had to embrace new ways of working—we all have. 

If the pandemic were a song, clichés like “the new normal” or “changing work as we know it” would be in the chorus. We’ve heard those refrains over and over again for years now. Despite this, many companies are still carrying a torch for how things were done pre-pandemic, wishing for that return to normal that is unlikely to unfold in the ways that we might hope.

The question on every leader’s mind during the great reshuffling is how to attract, engage, and retain top talent in today’s competitive job market. 

Before you focus on attracting talent, work on retaining existing talent

It does no good to attract candidates to your company if your culture is a leaky bucket of engagement issues and high velocity attrition. So before focusing on new talent, engage the talent that you already have. Today’s job seekers have their pick of opportunities and they won’t stick around if their company doesn’t support its people

Hiring requires a massive investment of our time, energy, and resources so ideally the employees who we end up hiring will stick around for the long run. Otherwise, hiring and onboarding new employees, only to lose them within their first year becomes expensive and bad for the business rather quickly. So, is your company laying a strong enough foundation of people-first policies? If not, now is the time to update, unify, and showcase your commitment to your people.

5 policies for recruiting and retaining top talent

Organizations that are getting their talent strategy right are the ones that have been quick to shift from a caught-by-surprise reactive state to a forward-thinking people-first policy stance. The current constraints of the “new normal” have brought out their creativity, resourcefulness, and empathy. Most importantly, they’ve taken the time to fully define the specifics of concepts like flexibility, work life balance, and DEIB in meaningful ways that resonate with their candidates and employees. 

Below are 5 policy areas to focus on in 2022 to attract, engage, and retain top talent.

1. Pay transparency

Why it matters:

Research shows that negotiating compensation disadvantages certain groups (like women and people of color), but it persists as a standard part of most hiring processes. It’s clear that openness around compensation is incredibly important to today’s talent—nearly 80% of employees cite pay transparency as a policy that they care about and people leave when they can’t discuss pay.  

Pay transparency is a very effective mechanism to both attract and retain talent. Why? Because if a company is going to publish its compensation out in the open, chances are that it’s going to back it up with a structured methodology that justifies its pay decisions. If a company can’t effectively articulate why someone is paid what they’re paid, then it’s a clear sign that more rigor in the compensation model is needed.  

What you can do:

Start by setting clear pay ranges for every role and level at your company. Make sure that the compensation ranges are narrow enough to actually ensure equal pay for equal work. If two different candidates at the same role, level, and location can secure a 25% difference in their offer, the range is too wide. Document the specific criteria that lands a candidate at each particular part of the range. For more ideas on pay transparency, read Textio’s pay policy for inspiration

2. Flexibility

Why it matters:

Flexibility is a baseline promise in today’s market, not a cherry on top. It’s referenced anywhere and everywhere in 2022, but the exact meaning of flexibility depends on who you are asking. Flexibility for one company might be casual Fridays and for another it might be choosing your own schedule. There is no cookie cutter definition of flexibility and without specifics, it ends up being an over-inflated buzzword that appeals to candidates, but won’t retain employees once they join your company. 

What you can do:

Figure out your company’s flexibility flavor. Be specific about what “flexibility” or “work life balance” means for your company and how it relates to your values. Focus on the why behind the policy or norm. Give examples of what these concepts look like in practice at your company. Try out a few company-wide initiatives like shared days off or no meetings days.

Lastly, feel free to find the most precise and accurate words that describe your approach, maybe that’s “empowerment” or “trust.” Whatever it is for your company, customize the concept to your culture to better attract, engage, and retain top talent.  

3. DEIB Commitment 

Why it matters:

Since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, companies have rushed to get DEIB programs in place. But, as Culture Amp data from a recent report shows, we’ve lost collective momentum in the execution phase of DEIB initiatives. Top talent wants to see accountability, and your employees are that proof point for talent that’s screening your company

Many companies are fearful to say that their DEIB efforts might have stagnated, which can reinforce a cycle of empty words formed from good intentions without any impactful action. Naming missed opportunities and failures builds credibility and lands authentically with candidates, assuming you are taking action to continue to progress. Today’s job seekers can instantly tell when a company is selectively picking only their few wins to share externally. Authentic and long-term commitment to DEIB backed up by solid evidence is an expectation for candidates and employees today.  

What you can do:

Be honest about current DEIB shortcomings. Speak openly in your talent marketing materials about the current state of DEIB at your company, even if that means pointing out gaps. It can be scary, but it builds credibility with candidates. The important part is making sure that you can speak to the efforts you are taking to address those gaps. For example, if your company isn’t currently very diverse, name that openly and then speak about which efforts you’re undertaking to make progress in diversifying all parts of the company. 

Here’s the thing—whether or not you openly name DEIB shortcomings or stalled progress, candidates will be able to see it for themselves. Candidates and employees will appreciate the transparency and it may even convince candidates who would have moved on to other opportunities to hit that apply button for your role. 

4. Growth opportunities   

Why it matters:

It’s no secret that employees want to see a clear growth path in their role. And, this doesn’t only refer to advancing to the next level, but also how the company invests in learning and development opportunities, upskilling, and mentorship. Without those fundamental employee engagement building blocks, employees look elsewhere to find growth opportunities.

A big culprit here is the phenomenon of the overly busy manager. A busy manager has less time to conduct high-quality 1:1s (let alone have regular 1:1s), and less time to help carve out those growth paths for their team through quality feedback and mentorship. So, growth opportunities need to be addressed at both the company and the team level.       

What you can do:

Make sure you have a reasonable ratio of managers to direct reports to ensure that all managers at your company have the bandwidth to manage their team’s growth. At the individual level, consider offering a learning and development stipend as a benefit and empower employees to take learning into their own hands.

5. Connection

Why it matters:

Whether your team is remote, distributed, hybrid, or in-person, we can no longer rely on face-to-face interactions. Savviness on how to build strong relationships and deeper connections at work in a variety of different contexts is not a nice-to-have, but a requirement for an inclusive company culture

The importance of high-quality connections at work cannot be overstated and it’s also something that the every-so-often icebreaker won’t solve. To build high-quality connections at work, it takes time and knowledge of how to fully engage the whole team. 

What you can do:

Facilitate deeper connections between employees and encourage managers to have some sort of team bonding event at least once a quarter. Get creative and think beyond the tired company happy hour (which isn’t inclusive to all) or large Zoom rooms that are intimidating to speak up in. Make the most of your tools and use several methods of participation—breakout rooms, polls, etc. Implement a variety of approaches to prioritize that human connection and make sure you change it up and do it regularly.

If recruiting and retaining top talent is a priority, demonstrate to talent how your company culture is unique and engaging. Encourage your team to share their positive experiences on the company's social profiles. Nothing is more appealing to talent coming in the door than seeing a company that is genuinely invested in the humans behind the work, and connection is a core part of that story. 

This topic and much more was covered in our 2022 Recruiting and inclusion report, you can access the full report here for more insights.

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