How to recruit and retain the best people at a time when talented employees change jobs like they change clothes? “The approach needs to be more personal”, says Ilze Lamers, Talent Director Northern Europe and Germany with PageGroup.

Would there still be employees who receive a golden watch as a tribute to their 25 years of service to the company? If they exist, they are few. The time that most people would spend a lifetime with one employer only lives on in black and white photos.

Especially young talented employees who seem to change jobs like they change clothes. A worldwide study by Millennial Branding showed that 60 percent of the millennials leave their company in less than three years.

These turnover rates have a huge effect on companies. Recruiting and training talent is a costly and time consuming enterprise. And it will become more difficult in the future. The World Economic Forum calculated that Europe needs 24 million employees extra by 2030 to sustain economic growth. How to make sure your company comes out on top in this battle for the best people?

“It’s essential to have a good talent management policy”, says Ilze Lamers, Talent Director at PageGroup. “It’s not enough anymore to offer a good position and salary. The new generation also wants to know what an employer can offer in terms of personal and professional development.”

What is the reason that employees change company easier than they used to?

“In one word: globalisation. People are less bound to one place than they used to be. In the past you would look for a job near to your house. If everything went well, that’s where you would stay. My grandfather, for example, worked for Philips for 41 years.”

“Nowadays people have a more possibilities. Thanks to new communication technologies, they can basically work anywhere in world. You can Skype with your family and friends from wherever you are. You can be in different countries, enjoying a football game together, while talking about it through your iPads. Talented employees with a good education and the right experience have the world at their feet.”

What should companies do to stand out in a globalised labour market?

“The approach has to be more personal. For example: I recently attended a presentation of Twitter, where they showed that 25 percent of the CEOs of the top 250 listed companies are posting about their personal experiences. If I ask candidates, it turns out they are actually following these companies on Twitter. That’s how it works: people don’t look up to job titles anymore, they look up to a person. Therefore a less formal way of communicating works better. Candidates like to read about the human side of a company: if a CEO crashes his car or spilled his coffee, for example”

A power point presentation of Netflix, in which the company talks about its values and culture was downloaded 5 million times. How important is company culture to attract talents?

“Extremely important. It’s not for nothing that Netflix decided to put that presentation online. It’s the perfect way to attract the people that fit well in your company. Those who identify themselves with your values will apply.”

What’s the HR strategy of PageGroup in this respect?

“We also acknowledged the importance of strong corporate identity and culture. In our employer value proposition we stated our values, like be passionate, never give up, take pride, teamwork and make it fun. These are not empty slogans: all our HR policies are based on these values.”

“When we say ‘never give up’, we mean for instance that we keep on investing in our employees. We have all kind of coaching and training programs to help them to develop their career. It’s no wonder that over 90 percent of our managers and board members come from within our own company.”

What advice would you give companies that have problems in retaining their best employees?

Finding a good replacement can be expensive. The CEO of internet retailer Zappos, Tony Hsieh, estimated that his own bad hires cost his company well over $100 million.

“The relationship between companies and employees has changed: it’s less hierarchical. Instead it became a two way street. Your HR policies have to reflect these cultural changes.”

“Look for instance at the yearly performance reviews. They belong to a different era, when employers would tell their employees once a year what they should improve. At PageGroup we use a different system that’s more collaborative. Together with their managers, employees set goals for themselves. Twice per year they sit together to talk about how it’s going. For the most part they talk about the future. What will be the next steps in their career with us, which skills are important and need to be further developed?

Which support do they need to reach their goals?

”Which companies set the trend in talent management? “Google is one of them. Especially because of the transparent communication with their employees. Every Friday, during lunch time, the CEOs make time to answer questions by the employees. People can join by video conference. This relates to what I’ve said before about the less hierarchical relationship between the employer and employee.”

“They were also one of the first to use gamification as a way to assess people competences. When you apply with Google, they will send you a link to a program called KnackUp, which is basically a number of games - like Angry Birds - to test your different skills like strategic thinking, and personality trades. This is a great example of digital learning, something that’s also is high on the agenda of PageGroup.”

Are companies more aware of the importance of a good talent management policy?

“They have to be. The market is changing much faster than in past, so they need to make sure they have the best people with the right competences to face these challenges.” What is the one thing companies need to be aware of when it comes to managing talent? “There are many aspects, but one of the most important ones is to treat your employees as your most important asset. If they are happy, the business will benefit in every way. For instance, we use our employees for recruiting new talent. Many people become interested in working with us, just by word of mouth. There’s no better advertisement for your company than your own employees.”

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