Two great opportunities for HR teams going into 2020

Maybe it’s the fact that Human Resource Professional Day is upon us. Perhaps it’s the ‘new school year’ feeling we still seem to get every September! Either way, that general sense of reflection about what’s been achieved and what lies ahead might explain why we find ourselves pausing to take stock of the HR world.

HR has never been more people-focussed, whether the demands of different generational attitudes and expectations, engagement, culture or employee wellbeing. We must acknowledge HR is faced with a landscape of interpreting new forms of data and adopting new strategies to try and meet the people needs of the organization.

In short, HRs challenges are not going away, nor are they going to get any easier in the short term. However, there are some key areas and supporting research that should really assist HR teams to direct their energies as we go into 2020.

The impact of shifting workforce demographics and expectations

It’s a given that the workforce always evolves but the speed we are currently experiencing means employers need to find ways to adapt to and satisfy those expectations quickly. As this research confirms, millennials and Generation Zers increasingly want to work for (and buy from) companies that align with their personal values. HR can really make an impact and support their organizations by making this shift right now. The report states that it’s the organizations that make the future brighter for millennials and Gen-Zers who stand to have the brightest futures themselves. This is big; this is not just a competition for the best – the elite new workers – it is for new workers in general.

And guess what? This is nothing new. There seems to be virtually no difference between generations when it comes to the importance of ethical behavior, as this research shows. It is just that the digital era has turned that on its head. Personal values have always been around and at the forefront of many employees’ minds, but they are now fuelled by the ability to share views and opinions and generate action online.

This isn’t an issue that’s a few years away. It’s already started happening. Take employee activism for example. HR is likely to find itself with a key role in deciding where the organization sits in its overall response. Look at what’s going on with the climate emergency. Can an organization truly feel it is going to be able to attract new workers if it is not doing everything within its reach to address waste and unethical practice?

Unfortunately, it is not going to be the environment that will be the reason for change for a few business leads – that is sad. The upside is a new generation of workers (and customers) won’t accept it. Their values will be that driver of change and highlight the growing importance for organizations to up their game and act so employees can see their personal and professional values are not conflicting.

The recruitment / retention paradox

With the average worker now only expected to stay in their role for five years in the UK and four in the US (and nearly half of millennials saying they plan to leave in under two years), there is surely something wrong with how many organizations recruit employees.

There is an interesting contradiction in play which the following research highlights. Of these 20 key reasons why employees quit their jobs, only four would ever be discussed during an interview process. Pay, benefits, flexible working and often career progression opportunities are typically the primary focus – the ‘hard’ benefits of working for a company.

However, many ‘soft’ factors are the reasons why employees ultimately stay with an organization. Elements such as working practices, company culture, empathetic management and both physical and mental wellbeing are pivotal to long-term engagement and, of course, higher retention rates. As such, there’s a strong case that the recruitment process needs to have much more visibility on these key loyalty and turnover factors.

It’s difficult to demonstrate within the recruitment process some of these great assets. Whilst tangibles such as pay and financial benefits are easy to negotiate and solve, promoting some of the organization’s softer assets is much more difficult to do as they’re not easily measurable and quantifiable – they often need to be experienced to be believed.

But today’s workforce is starting to consider these soft factors as highly important. Work-life balance, personal happiness, working for companies that align with their own values and being able to continuously learn and develop are just as, if not even more so, important for long-term loyalty and retention as cash and benefits. In fact, many of these reasons to stay at an organization are becoming more tangible in their nature. Flexibility and remote working opportunities, for example, now have considerable value to employees as the desire to achieve a greater work-life balance has become a more apparent consideration. It has moved over to the upfront recruitment conversation and far more of these ‘reasons to leave’ are surely going to follow.

Read more: The impact of recognition on job loyalty and employee turnover

In short, the reasons why people leave organizations are not the reasons they are joining. Putting too much focus on attraction as opposed to retention and failing to ensure a cultural fit from the start is causing headaches for businesses and is a missed opportunity when it comes to competitive advantage. HR and recruitment can really start to think about taking action to solve the recruitment/retention paradox in 2020 and beyond.