HR C-suite execs on the biggest challenges when it comes to talent retention

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Ladders recently spoke with Greg Morton, CEO of Next Concept Human Resources Association (NCHRA), and Alex Kinnebrew, Head of Strategy at employee voice platform Waggl, about the securing top talent, the challenges of talent retention, and why the war for talent has been “digitized.” Read on below. 

How important of a role does technology, like data science, for example, play in the field of HR and recruiting and specifically in your work? 

Alex Kinnebrew, WagglIn the age of digital transformation, technology plays a critical role in all aspects of a business, and HR is no exception.  HR leaders need to have a well-developed tech stack that enables them to accomplish their work as quickly and efficiently as possible, while simultaneously adjusting to shifting priorities and developments within the larger organization. The competitive business advantage lies in the ability to find the right signals and apply insights quickly. That said, in a data-intensive reality where everything seems to be changing faster all the time, fostering a sense of connection between people is more important than ever. At Waggl, we believe that activating Employee Voice is the key to making the workplace more human, and ultimately more successful.

Alex Kinnebrew
Alex Kinnebrew

What technology/innovation/platform has had the most profound effect on the field of HR/talent acquisition in the past year or two, and why (can tie into the question above)? 

Greg Morton, NCHRA:  The war for talent has been digitized. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is having a great impact on recruiting when it comes to sourcing candidates and reducing bias. It’s making the acquisition of talent more efficient, saving time and resources, and can improve the candidate experience as well. With ever-growing amounts of data to work with, AI-powered bots (from crawlers to chatbots) can work quickly and also offer long term commitment to educating and nurturing candidates over time.

Greg Morton
Greg Morton

What are the biggest challenges, from a technical and/or business standpoint, that those in recruiting and talent acquisition face nowadays?

Greg Morton:  Older employees are exiting, and younger employees don’t stay around as long as previous generations.  Unemployment is low, so it’s an employee market when it comes to hiring. Virtually all work norms are changing, including expectations around culture, work hours, working remotely, training and development, and more, making it difficult for employers to fill open positions as fast as they need to. Additionally, the toolset a company provides for its employees needs to be as mobile and flexible as they are.

What the key steps that businesses should take to secure top talent? What criteria should they focus on?

Alex Kinnebrew: If organizations want to hold on to their strongest employees and get the best out of everyone who works for them, they need to focus on creating a great employee experience.  Active listening is one of the most effective agents for organizational change and group development. When staff members don’t feel that they’ve been heard, the result is a general lack of commitment, engagement, and productivity – all of which contribute to employee turnover. But developing a listening culture within an organization leads to more inclusive and transparent communication, more authentic feedback, greater retention of top talent, and higher levels of engagement across the entire organization.

What are the biggest challenges when it comes to talent retention, and why? 

Alex Kinnebrew:  If you view employees as the “appreciating assets” of an organization, you can see why losing them is so disruptive.  It is also quite expensive when you consider the costs of recruiting, hiring, onboarding and training, in combination with lost productivity and engagement, and other factors such as the erosion of customer relationships and cultural impact.  Experts typically point to problematic leadership as one of the primary reasons talented workers leave their jobs. A 2015 Gallup study of 7,272 U.S. adults revealed that one in two employees had left their job to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career. According to Gallup, “Organizations need to understand what managers are doing in the workplace to create or destroy engagement.”

Where do you see the field of HR/recruiting/talent acquisition headed? Crystal ball view?

Greg Morton:  With the increased focus on data collection in the workplace, I see AI playing a large role in finding and interpreting the data collected. In the future, the workplace system will serve more than management reporting needs — it will also enable employees with the right tools and information at the right time, resulting in more engaged, effective and happier employees.

What has been the most satisfying moment of your career/proudest career achievement, and why?

Alex Kinnebrew:  One recent example stems from just nine months ago when I spearheaded an initiative to reposition and rebrand our company, Waggl. Five years ago, the founders had an important insight around the value of listening to Employee Voice. As we built a company around this insight, we also ventured away from this core messaging in order to appear relevant within the larger ‘engagement’ marketplace. In fact, our early authentic commitment to Employee Voice is exactly what makes us unique. Working quickly, I developed a creative vision to support this strategic shift, then led a cross-disciplinary team in a 90-day sprint to overhaul messaging, design, collateral, and most importantly our organizational narrative. It’s rare to experience “flow” in a senior role with lots of competing demands, but I’m incredibly proud of our creative and strategic leap forward. The results have been immediate and tangible – and I am confident the longer-term impact will be significant.