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Trust and stability: The hottest recruitment trend of 2023

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March 24, 2023
By Todd Humber


A help wanted sign. Photo: Adobe Stock

The battlefield rules in the war for talent are changing, according to Steve Knox, vice-president of talent acquisition at Ceridian.

The pandemic has “dramatically changed, in a very fundamental way” the relationship between employers and employees in many industries, he said during Talent Canada’s first HR Boot Camp session. HR Boot Camp is a 10-part series that looks at the employee lifecycle, from recruitment to retirement — and all points in-between.

“The impact on everyone’s mental health, in general wellness, has left a lot of workers questioning whether the traditional ways of working are still going to work for everyone,” said Knox. “This war for talent that we’ve been talking about for the past 20 years is not over. It’s just that the rules have changed.”

‘Chaos, confusion and constant change’

Employers have had to learn to pivot quickly in a world of “chaos, confusion and constant change.”

There have been mass layoffs in the technology sector impacting hundreds of thousands of workers around the world, he said.

“On the other hand, we have all this economic data across Canada and the U.S. that shows a hot, resilient labour market with more open vacancies than have ever been posted,” said Knox.

Beyond the disparate hiring numbers, the experience gets even more interesting when we look at what’s happening from a total rewards and compensation perspective, he said.

Six months ago, professionals like software engineers were demanding “outrageous compensation” that were beyond salary ranges. But those numbers have now “normalized” back to more historical norms, said Knox.

Agile approach to recruitment

Boil it all down and it means one key thing for HR: The need for an agile approach to recruitment.

Recruiters need to be flexible and pivot on a “very individualized” basis to attract the talent they need, he said. And hiring managers will continue to be busy, with Ceridian’s Pulse of Talent survey showing that 70 per cent of workers are a flight risk, said Knox.

With all the turmoil in the market, and mass layoffs and challenges coming out of the pandemic, organizations that can provide stability and trust are going to have an advantage, he said — both in attracting and retaining talent.

“This is all causing candidates to be very thoughtful about the types of organizations they are going to join,” he said.

Perks like ping-pong tables, on-site dry cleaning or free lunches and snacks are not resonating in the same way, he said.

“Employees have started to figure out that these are all means to get them to work longer hours and stay longer in the office working,” said Knox. “So really, it’s trust and safety that are the new hot perks candidates are looking for.”

What does trust look like?

Knox called trust a two-way street. Employees want to be treated with respect, and see their employer live up to its mission and values.

“But employees also want to be trusted by their employer, and that means things like flexibility in how, when and where they do their jobs,” he said. “Coming out of the pandemic, many candidates are seeking psychological safety — and that includes working for an organization that’s in a steady state, and really does offer them job security.”

It also means offering work-life balance and providing an environment where employees can be honest about the struggles that they’re dealing with and having a manager who cares for them not just as an employee, but a person, said Knox.

Preparing managers

Organizations need to be really diligent in preparing their front-line managers because they are the glue that holds everything together, said Knox.

“Don’t underestimate them. When it comes to attracting talent to your organizations, it is the experience candidates have with your hiring middle managers that will make all the difference in the ability to lock that talent in,” he said.

“We’re not far from the day of a situation where we’re going to using AI tools to kind of rank managers on social media, so that candidates will know who are the good managers to work for — not unlike what you’re seeing right now in the medical profession where people are kind of ranking their doctors.”

Providing flexibility at Ceridian

Knox walked attendees at the HR Boot Camp through the approach Ceridian is taking with its employees.

It has decided to become a remote-first organization. It has also implemented a no-meeting Friday, that applies to internal meetings only.

“We had been getting a lot of feedback from our employees (that) their days were consumed by endless meetings, and some of them did not always add value,” he said. That flexibility has given them more control over their calendars.

It also offers unlimited paid vacation.

“We want them to take time off work where they need to — to not only manage their professional lives, but also their personal lives,” he said. “For some of our employees, it’s allowed them to maybe take extended holidays that they might not have felt they’ve been able to do with other organizations.”

But, more often than not, it allows them to take that extra day off whenever needed — whether it’s to attend a school event with their children or just take a much-need break. It also addresses, head on, the issue of trust.

“Employees feel that the organization trusts them to get the job done,” said Knox. “And that we’re not going to abuse this perk that the organization provides to us.”

Lastly, and Knox said perhaps most interestingly, the company is piloting a compressed work week. Staff get every second Friday off by working an extra hour. The pilot showed there was no impact on productivity or efficiency, he said.

“In fact, employees felt they were more productive and more efficient and felt more recharged having taken this time off,” he said.

Half the team takes one Friday; the other half takes the following Friday. That allows Ceridian to provide both internal and external customers the service they need, he said. And it has made a direct impact on recruitment.

Knox told the story of a recruiter he recently hired on his team.

“This concept of the compressed work week was what actually drew him to the organization,” he said. “He’s a single father and this compressed work week gave him the time to spend more time with his family. And it was a direct correlating factor as to why he accepted our offer, when his daughter found out that he was going to have every second Friday off to spend with her.”

Other popular perks

Other programs Knox is watching at other organizations include work from anywhere; paid and unpaid sabbaticals; a step-down program to ease people into semi-retirement or retirement; and summer hours.

“There are many examples of the kind of flexibility that you can provide your employees that also get to this concept of trust across the organization as well.”


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