The workplace world has undergone a drastic transformation in recent years, propelling better work-life balance, flexibility and wellbeing for today’s workers. But that’s not to say it doesn’t come without its own set of challenges.

As we find our way in this new era of working, organisations need to think and act differently in a market that continues to be tough. The pandemic is in the rear-view mirror, but we’re grappling with economic uncertainty, the cost-of-living crisis, mental health challenges, a digital world that’s increasing at pace and tensions between employers calling workers back to the office, as employees fight for flexible work as they juggle day-to-day life.

Competition for talent is the number one priority for employers and three quarters of companies globally anticipate difficulties in attracting talent (WTW Benefit Trends Survey 2023) so it’s important that we find ways to attract, engage and develop talent without losing the positive benefits of a flexible culture.

Organisations need to invest in listening, learning and taking action. There needs to be focus on fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration, investing in digital communication and training tools, and providing opportunities for career growth and development through reskilling and upskilling programs – particularly to keep pace with automation and AI.

The employee experience is key: we know that a high performing EX drives financial performance, but how does it impact talent attraction and retention?

The best employers are taking a two-pronged approach, which we call talent offence and talent defence.

Going on the talent defensive – creating a great culture so that people won’t want to leave

Focus on what talent care about most: wellbeing, recognition and job security.

Organisations going on the talent offensive are making wellbeing their number one priority. Leading companies are making sure they recognise and applaud great work – and are thinking creatively, rather than purely in monetary terms. Ensuring fair and equitable pay is another top priority. And job security remains an important concern for people, so, wherever possible, organisations are seeking to reassure employees their jobs are safe.

Give people the empowerment they crave

Business growth starts with great people, which leading companies recognise. They are putting people in the driving seat of their careers and encouraging them to question how things are done. Employees are empowered to make their own decisions, within a culture where people are trusted and encouraged. All the while, they are recruiting top talent and fostering great people internally.

Communicate a clear vision of success

People need to feel inspired to give their best in the workplace. Companies winning in the talent war are giving employees a clear vision of success. To do so, they are constructing well-thought-out missions and strategies aligned with business outcomes.

Inspire them through the work you do

Finally, leading companies are driving their businesses forward and inspiring everyone to be part of this journey. They are shaping the market by anticipating new products and moving quickly from ideas to implementation. Being able to do this effectively comes back to fostering talent and being able to innovate.

Going on the talent offensive: your four-part strategy to attract the best:

When it comes to attracting talent in this intensely competitive environment, think about it like a marketeer.

Work out what you need

What is the critical talent that you need in your business today? Think less about roles, and more about skills.

Establish your talent competitors

Understand where the talent you need currently sits. Who are your talent competitors? Increasingly, the people you need may not work for your revenue competitors.

Be bold and authentic

Understand what people love about working for you. Formulate a compelling and authentic value proposition and articulate that clearly to prospective talent.

Embrace word of mouth

Despite advances in the field of AI, the best marketing channel remains word of mouth. Leverage your alumni network and use them as a talent pool. Review your leaving experience, taking on board lessons from leaving interviews, for instance. Ensure you part ways with talented leavers on good terms: make it clear that the door would be open if they want to walk back in.

We are all working in challenging times. For a workplace to thrive, you must take a step back and work out what makes your business unique. And in order to survive in the battle for attracting new talent and retaining existing employees, a great employee experience is no longer a “nice to have”.

Going on the talent offensive will put your workplace in the best possible position to not just survive, but grow and prosper, in uncertain times. Of course, there is also a need to know that where other organisations are going on the offensive, you need to play the defensive game too.

Sarah Gledhill
Sarah Gledhill
Employee Experience Director at WTW | + posts

Sarah Gledhill is a Director in WTW's Employee Experience practice. She is passionate about helping clients create empowering experiences that enable their people to feel and be their best, inside and outside of work. She supports clients directly with change efforts – whether that relates to career, reward, benefits or broader changes such as M&A – and works with them to develop and deliver change, communication and engagement strategies and content.