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Best Companies, Attracting and Retaining Talent session at Best Companies Live Q2 2022 event
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Attracting and Retaining Talent: Innovative ideas for a fresh recruitment strategy

With unfilled vacancies, struggles to attract the right talent, and the average time to fill a role becoming ever longer, how can organisations combat the difficulties of both attracting and keeping hold of the right people?

Here, we share the highlights from the conversation with our guests at Best Companies Live, where they discussed their innovative approaches to recruitment and how they’ve come up with creative, outside-the-box thinking to appeal to a new audience, as well as to cut through the noise of a crowded market. If you would prefer to watch the full session, please click the video above.

When it comes to attracting and retaining talent, employers are fighting to cut through the noise of an increasingly crowded market.

With rising shortages across numerous sectors, the ONS reports that the latest number of UK job vacancies hit a record high of 1,295,000 from February to April 2022; an increase of 33,700 from the previous quarter and an increase of 499,300 from the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level in January to March 2020.

For employers, this means a two-pronged approach: firstly, a fresh look at recruitment strategies and how to do things differently to engage with a new talent pool and, secondly, consideration of the compensation packages available for both new and existing employees – such as flexible working and overall culture.

Best Companies’ latest round of survey data found that 74% of the respondents who were surveyed by us in January to March agreed ‘they love working for this organisation’. Of course, the employees that feel this way are most likely to not only stay with their employer – but become advocates for working there – a powerful tool when it comes to recruitment.

So, just how do you keep employees happy, engaged and wanting to stay with your organisation? And what do new and innovative recruitment strategies look like?

“We help them be the best they can be”

Chris Fenlon, Retail and People Director at Hobbycraft, believes that part of a successful retention strategy for the business is down to supporting colleagues in much more than just their day-to-day roles.

He explained how the company’s Artisan programme supports colleagues with their passions outside of their job and encourages them to live their dreams.

“The Artisan programme takes some of the most skilled individuals and helps them to take their own business, or their passions in crafting, to the next level,” he explained.

“For example, we have a colleague in our Falkirk store whose book is just about to be published. It’s about making sure whatever it is they are passionate about, that we are helping them be the best they can be.”

When it comes to attracting new talent, Fenlon explained that it is the shared love of crafting throughout not just its colleagues – but also its customers – that led it to exploring a new way of advertising its vacancies.

“We were struggling to get our voices heard above others when recruiting, and so part of our strategy was to email our database of six million customers to advertise our vacancies,” he explained. “Our customers are real advocates for our brand, and we realised that this could help us cut through the noise."

“Our people are our influencers”

Another organisation looking at turning its traditional recruitment strategy on its head is luxury hotel, Rudding Park. Natalie Husak, HR Manager at the Harrogate business explained that using social media has not only helped the team target a new audience of job seekers but has gained them great feedback from existing employees too.

“We wanted to do something different and use a new approach to attracting Generation-Z candidates in a challenging market,” she said.

“TikTok is the way that Gen-Z use social media, so we took a fresh look, and everyone got involved, even the MD. It makes you very proud that our people are our influencers, and they can demonstrate what a great place Rudding Park is to work. It’s all about having fun. We decided against traditional careers videos and open days and the like – that’s not what people want to see – they want to see people having fun at work. Candidates tell us they’ve seen the TikTok videos and colleagues want to be involved in making them.”

When it comes to making a career in hospitality attractive to people after the difficulties of the past couple of years, Husak and her team have re-written the offering. Firstly, they have reduced the working week from 42.5 to 40 hours; secondly, they have increased their base minimum wage to £10.50 per hour and thirdly, they have introduced an enhanced social pay structure. This, says Husak, has not only been appealing to new applicants, but also to those thinking about returning to the business.

“We call returners the ‘Boomerang Club’ - about 10% have come back. We share with our colleagues the reasons why people are coming back - our culture, our family values and that we care about people,” she added.

“You've really got to have an engaging story to sell”

For Claire Hickling, People and Culture Director at Modern Milkman, the way to win the war for talent comes down to flexibility, being agile, and having a story that people want to be a part of.

“As a tech-based business, the battle for top talent is immense,” she explained. “Whilst we’ve got lovely workspaces in Manchester, and we’ve just opened offices in London, we say to people that you can work from anywhere, any time."

“When it comes to attracting talent, you've really got to have an engaging story to sell them right at the start so that they are bought into the journey. We've got a really fabulous story to tell in terms of the business and how we came about, and we've also got a great culture and vibe, so it's about getting people engaged with that right at the start so when they join, they really want to join. It’s also important to work fast and have agile processes, because if you don’t – someone will snap them up in tech.”

And when it comes to creating that all-important culture, Hickling believes that regular employee surveys, combined with exit interviews, can really help.

“Exit interviews are critical,” she explained. “People are going to be really honest when they are leaving and so collating all of that data and understanding it can help you devise your future engagement plans.”

“Without our people we don't have a company”

Gavin Johnstone, CEO and Founder at Hunter Gatherer Group, believes that good recruitment and retention strategies are underpinned by the power of people.  

“To be a good business you have to hold onto great talent,” he explained. “We have a belief – it's pretty simple – and that's ‘people make companies.’ Without our people, we don't have a company.”

Despite seeing significant growth in headcount in the last year, Johnstone and his team are focusing their efforts on a new type of recruitment strategy.

“I think companies are being more innovative about how they look for talent,” he said. “We're doing things a bit differently by really starting to investigate – and really understand – who it is we’re looking for and the types of behaviours needed for a particular role. We want to know what drives them, what motivates them – this means we can be quite targeted in who we’re looking for.”

To enjoy this session in full, see the full recording here.

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