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The True Secret to Attracting Top Talent

It may not be what you think.

Salary used to be the primary driving force for attracting the best talent. Then, tech start-ups came along and entirely reimagined the workplace with jaw-dropping amenities (think microkitchens, video arcades, and massage therapists), smart benefits, and resort-like campuses.

Today, the paradigm is shifting again as more and more professionals move toward remote work and maintain the upper hand in a tight labor market. As the lines blur between employees’ professional and personal lives, the best hiring managers understand that executive-level talent are seeking work policies that make it easier for them to live, and life policies that make it easier for them to work—both in and out of the office. Essentially, professionals at all levels are seeking employers that understand what we are now calling “work-life integration”, and the best talent can expect it.

In fact, more than two-thirds of people around the world work away from the office at least once every week, according to a 2018 study by workspace parent group IWG, while 53% work remotely for at least half the week. And a 2016 survey by FlexJobs found that working parents ranked workplace flexibility (real flexibility meaning without having to ask for permission) ahead of compensation, with work-life balance coming in a close second.

Changing needs

Sure, ping pong tables and breakfast buffets can be part of the equation when employees are on site. They’ve made employees happy and encourage bonding, which tends to increase job contentment. Sometimes, they also make the difference between hiring someone good and someone great.

But who needs office snacks when they’re working steps from their own kitchen? Who has time to bond with colleagues over video games when kids need picking up from school at 3:30 p.m.—on the dot? When frankly, everyone needs a break from work, not just a break at work?

When it comes to effectively recruiting top talent, far more important is the balance a company strikes with employees to ensure productivity while granting flexibility and acknowledging individual needs. And they don’t have much time to make a winning impression. According to one study, the average recruitment process takes about 52 days. Top candidates? They’re on the market about 10 days.

High-level performers are increasingly attracted to organizations that value transparency and trust that key players will meet goals without being attached to a cubicle or even a corner office. Even at the top of their game, working mothers and fathers understand that their children’s emotional health is higher when they have the professional and personal leeway to demonstrate that family comes first and work is a source of “challenge, creativity, and enjoyment.”

Meeting the challenge

Strong managers and attractive benefits are key to making a successful shift, along with opportunities for professional growth and feedback. Top employees want to be treated as valuable team members, regardless of when and where they log in for the day. A commitment to health and well-being and working with a purpose (helping others) also rank high on top talent’s list of priorities today.

“Go beyond amazing benefits,” Vivian Maza, Chief People Officer at Ultimate Software told Forbes. “Foster a workplace that thrives on trust and respect for all individuals—and protect that culture every day. Word will get out. Your people will talk, and they’ll refer like-minded, talented people who believe in your culture and your mission.”

Attracting the best people requires an agile and proactive mindset that is willing to authentically adapt to diverse needs. Experienced recruiters can work with hiring managers to design a concise and cohesive process to target qualified candidates (including thinking creatively about those that check all the boxes and those that don’t) and to come up with customized packages that meet work-life priorities.

And, though we talk a lot about working parents, they’re not the only ones who seek out work-life integration and balance. There are four generations currently in the workforce all with different needs from student loan repayment to flexibility to international work and beyond. The companies who get it right have fully evolved their thinking from in-office benefits to work in the context of life in 2019.

By recognizing the changing landscape and taking action to cater to workers as people, companies can build strong foundations for the future without leaving top talent behind.

Are you able to practice work-life integration? As a leader, are you able to start shaping your organization’s culture to make the shift towards this new way of working and living? I’d love to hear from you!