As Irish companies battle it out for the best talent, flexible working – not cash – is winning the war

As Irish companies battle it out for the best talent, flexible working – not cash – is winning the war

 Finding and keeping talent are not new problems for HRDs but in Ireland in 2018 this issue is particularly relevant as unemployment has nearly halved since 2011 and is now at a 10-year low.

Barry Hughes, Senior HR Business Partner for online job site Indeed, considers some of the unexpected challenges this is posing in certain sectors and how flexibility – not cash – is now king.

Q: Near full employment should be a good thing, right? But how is it affecting the so called ‘war on talent’ in Ireland?

A: It’s excellent news for so many people who were affected by the recession with the loss of their job as they are now back in full time permanent employment.

The flip side of the coin for employers is that there is now a serious talent war within certain sectors of Ireland. Tech, finance, business intelligence/analyst and, indeed, within the HR world too.

Q: So, what does that mean in real terms?

A: Talent attraction and retention is at the forefront of HR practitioners and business leader’s minds in Ireland right now. The market has swung back in favour of the employee and this has seen salaries in Dublin continuously rising.

But, while the traditional reason for people leaving a job for career advancement and salary increases, we are also seeing a new reason for changing career, which is more flexible working arrangements. Working from home, remote working etc. This sits alongside the need for faster promotion process.

It is pretty clear this is tied in with rise in millennials and the influence of tech.

Q: How are you and your HR peers overcoming these issues?

A: In my experience, you must demonstrate clear career development opportunities, corporate social responsibility and flexible working. The focus is moving beyond just the base line figure.

 The culture and ethos of the company is a major part of attracting people – as is working from home and flexible working. Candidates will frequently ask me what type of paternal leave or annual leave are available.

 A major change over the past year also is many companies have had to re-examine their pay structures in Ireland to ensure they are retaining the competitive edge.

I am seeing more firms approaching target key talent with their counter offers, which has some success. In some cases, this would never have been done or even thought of previously.

Speaking with my network of HR practitioners in Ireland, key talent within the organisation is increasingly being identified through either talent mapping or the traditional appraisal process.

Once the key talent is identified, HR is working with the business to provide opportunities through executive coaching or external leadership management courses (at the Irish Management Institute).

Q: Where are things working and where is there still work to do?

A: Tech firms in Ireland are leading the way with coaching of their key talent and increased flexible working arrangements. From speaking with my fellow HR practitioners who work in the non-tech sector, these approaches are getting noticed and gaining traction in other areas too.

In the PwC NextGen report, it gives a clear indication to companies on the key difference on millennials and non-millennials. Which is that millennials are more likely to resign if their needs for support, appreciation and flexibility are not met.

Whereas, non-millennials are more likely to depart if they feel they are not being paid competitively, or due to a perceived lack of development opportunities within their workplace.

The challenge for organisations is to understand these differences in order for them to help target customised solutions that will promote retention and an engaged workforce across all generations and levels.

You’ve talked a lot about the generational shift here. Could you expand on the impact of millennials on the workforce further?

A: There’s no doubt one of the biggest challenges coming along for companies is the change in the make-up of the workforce.

By 2020, millennials will make up half of the global workforce. Over the years, I’ve often heard the view that millennials are lazy, but this couldn’t be further from the truth in my experience.

Millennials do work extremely hard. The key piece to learn and know is that they expect to work on their own terms, which takes into consideration how they also want to live.

It’s also true that this demographic is interested in their ‘journey’ at work. It can be frustrating for non-millennials to manage this age group, as they will want them to follow a process to complete a project.

On a few occasions, I have had to mediate such situations and a key learning from me about is that while millennials are interested in achieving the end goal like their manager, they want to be free of structures in order for them to be more creative in getting results, which allows them to stand out from the group, too.

So, they want to be part of a team but also be recognised as an individual contributor at the same time. It is important that manager lead with teachings and not with a hierarchical “I told you to do it this way” approach.

What are your top three tips to ensure Ireland stays competitive and an attractive choice for talented, hard-working candidates?

A: 1) Organisations need to invest in leadership courses and coaching for millennials. I believe this is critical for organisations in order to retain their talent. Over the years, I’ve heard this time and time again that they leave organisations if they are not receiving leadership training or their career is not progressing quickly enough.

2) Embrace the opportunity to change working hours and style. Organisations need to embrace the change in the workforce with more flexible working arrangements like working from home or open annual leave.  

3) Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a question which comes up during interviews more and more by candidates. CSR is a tool which can assist an organisation to attract and retain top talent. As I mentioned previously, millennials will increasingly become a large population within the workplace and there is a link between CSR and retaining your key talent.

Author: Barry Hughes

Posted on: Tuesday 8th May 2018