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The secret to attract and retain top talent

May 19, 2022


By Rachael Sullivan
Vice President Human Resources, CWT

As business activity continues to recover worldwide, talent attraction and retention are at the top of the agenda for companies. Rachael Sullivan, VP Human Resources at CWT, talks about the future of work, agency culture and how to attract and retain top talent.

What are the biggest challenges for HR departments at the moment?

The global pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for the world of business. More than ever before, people are the crux of an organisation’s makeup, and because of that, the role of the HR department has become - in terms corporate post-pandemic bounce-back – foundational for moving the business forward, ensuring resilience for both the short and long-term.

With this elevated remit, comes three big challenges:

1.    Attracting and retaining top talent – HR departments have had to navigate hiring freezes and furloughs at the peak of the pandemic and conversely are now flexing their recruitment muscle and doubling-down on top talent retention measures, as the world opens up, and business travel and in-person meetings and event demand steadily rises. HR departments both in and outside of the events and travel world are having to reevaluate and reconfigure their organisation’s post-pandemic culture, policies, benefits and programs to help attain top talent stickiness, engagement and professional satisfaction post-pandemic

2.    Defining the future of work – it’s no longer about where work gets done, but how, why and even what work gets done. Offices or specific locations are no longer key to retaining knowledge workers. Leaders alongside HR departments who are successfully navigating in this space are looking at the picture in total, not just in small slices. Because notions of tracking productivity, like the number of hours an employee is in the office, is now fundamentally obsolete.

3.    Building a strong HR culture - ensuring employees and talent see their HR departments as the bastions of a motivated, engaged, diverse, inclusive and healthy workforce.

How can you keep your current staff engaged and motivated?

It all starts with being transparent. The leadership should be at the helm of that – providing regular formal and informal company updates on performances and strategy direction. Also think about staff recognition awards. Employees will be more strongly engaged and motivated when they are recognized, rewarded and promoted.

If you build a company culture that is centered around trust and respect and foster open communication at all levels it triggers a strong degree of loyalty which is reciprocated between employees and leaders.

How can companies stand out to attract new talent?

That is definitely culture. This can be hard to discern fully during an interview, but as a fairly new employee to CWT myself, I quickly understood the culture simply by interacting with its employees and leaders throughout the recruitment process. There was such an ease, comfort, enthusiasm, trust and belief in the future from everyone I spoke to. Then, the icing on the cake was the genuine friendliness I experienced from everyone I met. It is both refreshing and notable – as very few companies exude this both up and down the entire organisation.

What are your predictions for the future of recruitment and retention?

I believe we will continue to see across all companies/industries a higher level of employees searching for another job for quite a while. The millions of people who voluntarily quit their jobs since last year to seek for other opportunities even got labeled: ‘The Great Resignation’ - will temporarily disrupt the recruitment and retention process.

It is vital that the immediate manager, in partnership with HR, must dial in the conversation of retention to the individual employee level. Together they should build an understanding of the employee’s mindset through interactive dialogue; to find out who is satisfied, who could be happier, who may be a retention risk. It’s not a complicated equation. In many cases, it simply takes asking an employee the honest questions. For instance: “What could I do to help you experience more happiness/job satisfaction in your role” or “What is one thing I could do to improve your satisfaction and therefore your retention”. Managers would be surprised to learn how willing the employee is to answer those questions. Then, once a leader hears the answer, of course they need to act. These are all activities we strive for at CWT.


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