It’s time to renegotiate the employer-employee relationship

Organisations have traditionally viewed financial incentives as key to motivation and retention – but if the great resignation has taught us anything, it’s that in 2022, people are less motivated by money and compensation than they used to be.​

Instead, today’s top employees want to feel valued for their unique characteristics and are unwilling to be stereotyped according to their role or skill set. Often, they are looking for employers who use T-shaped or cone-shaped profiles rather than labelling people according to broad capability sets. People want to feel that their achievements at work are making an acknowledged difference – and recognition of contributions is another big motivating factor.

To satisfy these needs, employers need to transform the way they approach the employee experience. In particular how they think about retention. In our latest FoW by HSM masterclass, Talent Retention & Employer Attractiveness, we explored what this could mean for the future and identified some of the keys to retaining talent. Here’s what we learned:

It’s time to build adult-to-adult relationships – traditional employee-employer relationships were based on parent-child dynamics, but it’s time to start building healthier models. Adult-to-adult relationships are based on mutual respect, mutual good, shared outcomes and constant negotiation.

It’s important to learn how people feel – prior to the pandemic, work was a place most people kept free from emotions. But the past two years have taught us how profound an impact factors like stress, fatigue and anxiety can have in the workplace. Recognising isn’t just about rewards – it’s about acknowledging and empathising with people’s emotions and providing a human response.

Employees should be treated like clients – most organisations take great pains to curate meaningful and memorable experiences for their clients – and your people deserve no less. HR leaders should tap into their creativity to craft experiences that offer choice, opportunity and non-linear career moves that excite and engage.

Learning needs to be transformed – learning needs to be exciting, and accessible. Rather than day-long training courses, people benefit from access to a broad range of bitesize learning that can be consumed in a lunch hour, and which focuses on not only helping them develop their current role but prepare for the next and learn about adjacent capabilities.

It’s time to tap into alumni – organisations are slowly waking up to the idea that employees can act as ambassadors for the workplace even after they leave. People who’ve had a positive experience of working at an organisation can be a valuable source of talent referrals, saving on costly recruitment fees.

So, what comes next? In future, the most successful employers will be the ones that build and nurture long-term relationships with people: helping them develop their talent and then continuing to be part of their life – as partners, clients, alumni – long after they’ve left the organisation and moved to the next stage of their career.

This Harvard Business Review piece by Roger L. Martin looks to investigate talent retention further. Read ‘The Real Secret to Retaining Talent’ here.