The DNA of Work

Being irresistible

April 19, 2022 Season 1 Episode 25
Being irresistible
The DNA of Work
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The DNA of Work
Being irresistible
Apr 19, 2022 Season 1 Episode 25

As we are emerging from the pandemic, we are faced with the next challenges – a shortage of good candidates to recruit, and more demands from existing people who know more about what they want, and how to get it.

Although these may be challenges, they are also opportunities to be seized and it’s time to be planning and executing strategies to be irresistible to current and future ‘talent’, offering options and choices and embracing more #hybrid ways of working.

Here we take a look at what’s going on, how organisations are responding to the challenges and share the experience of the EMEAR region of Epson, where the focus is on providing the best experiences for employees and the range of needs and expectations they are now articulating.

We also consider some ideas around recruiting for ‘potential’ and whether there is a future for outcomes based employment contracts.

AWA Host: Karen Plum

Featured guests: 

AWA Guest details:  



AWA contact: Andrew Mawson  

Advanced Workplace Associates:     


AWI contact: Brad Taylor 

Advanced Workplace Institute

Music: courtesy of  

Want to know more about AWA?

Thanks for listening to the DNA of work podcast

Show Notes Transcript

As we are emerging from the pandemic, we are faced with the next challenges – a shortage of good candidates to recruit, and more demands from existing people who know more about what they want, and how to get it.

Although these may be challenges, they are also opportunities to be seized and it’s time to be planning and executing strategies to be irresistible to current and future ‘talent’, offering options and choices and embracing more #hybrid ways of working.

Here we take a look at what’s going on, how organisations are responding to the challenges and share the experience of the EMEAR region of Epson, where the focus is on providing the best experiences for employees and the range of needs and expectations they are now articulating.

We also consider some ideas around recruiting for ‘potential’ and whether there is a future for outcomes based employment contracts.

AWA Host: Karen Plum

Featured guests: 

AWA Guest details:  



AWA contact: Andrew Mawson  

Advanced Workplace Associates:     


AWI contact: Brad Taylor 

Advanced Workplace Institute

Music: courtesy of  

Want to know more about AWA?

Thanks for listening to the DNA of work podcast

00:00:00 Karen Plum

Hello everyone. Are you worried about the great resignation? The great re-evaluation? The war for talent and the challenges of retaining talent? Are you thinking of making changes to your approach to safeguard the skills and expertise in your organization or to be irresistible to new hires? If so, you're in the right place because I'm putting these questions to some experts to see what approaches are being adopted and what they'd recommend. Let's hear what they had to say. 

INTRO: Welcome to the Changing the World of Work Podcast where we provide insightful, practical content to untangle and demystify workplace change. I'm Karen Plum, director at Advanced Workplace Associates, where we combine science with nearly 30 years’ experience, helping organizations change the way they work, for the better. 

00:00:58 Karen Plum

So, in terms of recruitment and retention, what's changed and how is it affecting organisations and the talent - you know, people like you and me - who are seeing the world differently post pandemic? 

I'm joined by two of my AWA colleagues, Lisa Sarjeant and Brad Taylor, both expert HR practitioners with over 60 years’ experience between them and Ethan Kelly-Wilson, another highly experienced HR professional who currently leads the Northern, Central and Eastern Europe HR operations for computer hardware manufacturer Epson

I started by asking Lisa and Brad what trends they're seeing around talent attraction and retention. 

00:01:41 Lisa Sarjeant

Well, I guess during the pandemic we either laid some people off or furloughed staff or buttoned down on recruitment so there weren't many vacancies. It was a very sort of slow time, and now you know we've got that confidence back, the vacancies are ratcheting up - got so many vacancies out there in the market. But we have a real shortage of people and candidates. 

People have either decided to become inactive and stop working because people have decided to reflect on what they want to do, as a result of this awful last two years. So there are less people. We've got the aftermath of Brexit causing a labor shortage, particularly in hospitality and the leisure sectors. So the result of that is that you know we have a candidates’ market out there. They are demanding more flexibility and possibly more pay. 

And so we're seeing another war for talent, which is often the case post recession and things like that, and so it's very challenging for both retaining staff and attracting people into our vacancies. 

So what am I seeing? A lot of organisations are rethinking their talent strategies and those who have embraced hybrid working or home working or completely removing the need to come to the office are able to widen their talent pool which gives them greater scope. 

Others are just saying we’ll be flexible, we'd like you to come to the office certain days of the week some are still saying and others are a little bit more flexible than that because of the demand and candidates expect the flexibility now. And we see it at all levels, I know that the older workforce have particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to work more flexibly and work from home, whereas typically younger workers have missed social connections with their colleagues, but they're still looking for flexibility in other ways. 

So it's yeah, a combination of things that employers are having to grapple with. 

00:03:56 Brad Taylor

The challenge that organisations have is that they're trying to read what perhaps their people are thinking and how they're responding as a result of the whole way employment has changed as a result of the pandemic, and people know that organizations are now thinking much more about hybrid working and different ways of working. 

So on the side of individuals, there's awareness that hey, perhaps there's organizations out there that would be more suited to my lifestyle and the way that I want to work, and therefore I feel like I've got more choice now because I know that these organisations are grappling with it and I can therefore look. 

And I think on the side of the employer they're trying to read the minds of their people., you know how are people thinking about this and therefore what we need to do in order to be able to retain talent? So you know I was speaking with an organization earlier on who are grappling with just this issue, that there's a sense that we feel that we're an organization where we need to bring people back into the office specifically for some roles as well where face to face communication and engagement is really important to the type of work that we do. 

But we're worried that if we try and force that, we're going to lose talent because people will react adversely to that. So how do we go about tackling that so that we get the skills that we need in the places where we need them, but also we bring people along the journey with us? 

00:05:21 Karen Plum

Ethan, given that there's a shortage of candidates available generally, and that the best candidates are getting multiple offers and can afford to be choosy, are you recruiting more for potential rather than trying to get all the skills you need in one person? 

00:05:36 Ethan Kelly-Wilson

I think traditionally we have been an organization that focuses on competencies to deliver stuff. There's a real risk though, if we do that actually, you're not going to find those really kind of high potential performers, you know, because you're looking for somebody who ticks all the boxes on a competency level. 

I think I've had a few people that I've recruited over the last five years and they haven't ticked the boxes on all of their competencies and actually our model is we can be quite a bit fluid and we might hire people, that actually we recognize we can get them to the competence level within 12 months or whatever.

But I think it's recruiting for team fit, recruiting people’s behaviors are more important than ever and I just really believe that if you recruit in that way, I think we're going to get people that are really passionate, who want to work with you, who almost they will unlock themselves to work in a way that benefits the business. You know they're not gonna be clockwatching, they're gonna make sure that stuff is delivered. 

I just think that you will keep people for longer where they feel really valued. Really the skill is actually being really open and honest with them - the reasons that you have made that decision and for people to feel that they are growing on that journey with you. 

00:07:14 Karen Plum

I sense that having the opportunity to grow and develop, having that mapped out at the start would be quite attractive to someone looking to further their career. 

Brad and Lisa, are you seeing organisations needing to adjust their recruitment practices in this way? 

00:07:30 Brad Taylor

I think there's an acknowledgement that there's an opportunity to recruit further afield, because of the ability to work in a more hybrid way and that brings along with it then the opportunity to increase your diversity. Which is great for organizations that want to do something about inclusion, belonging and diversity as well, because we can reach further afield into areas that perhaps we wouldn't be able to recruit from previously. 

I don't know the degree to which I'm seeing organizations say therefore, we're going to recruit for potential, rather than actual capability, but it would make sense because skills and abilities can be trained and developed, potential you know, all those sort of things and attitude are things that really do I think point to indicators for potential success in a role. 

So it's important therefore that organisations are getting their brand and their identity across very, very clearly, if they want to be able to tap into the type of people that they're looking for. 

00:08:36 Lisa Sarjeant

In my experience, people are still looking to make sure they get the right cultural fit and that people do truly share their organizational values. I'm seeing more recruiters have values-based type questions as well as strengths-based questions and that helps to you know, play to people strengths, and perhaps be less prescriptive about the job description. 

If you can bring in somebody with potential who's got the strengths that you're looking to fill, and also shares your values, that could be a real win win and job descriptions need to be more fluid and in some ways fit the job around the person, rather than the person around the job though, as a way to really get the best out of people and to help them to reach their potential. 

00:09:32 Karen Plum

I really get the sense that the balance has shifted. I don't want to say the balance of power, but it feels like we used to adopt a very kind of lowest common denominator approach. We set the rules and provided a workplace, and people had to adapt to what was provided. Now we need to devote a lot more energy to get things right for each individual. Is that the way you see it, Brad? 

00:09:55 Brad Taylor

Yes, I think there's more consideration now that is being given and needs to be given to what is the lived experience of individual employees in an organization. So whereas historically it was about well, do you fit? It's not that anymore and it can't afford to be that - there's you know there's so much… organizations stand to do so much better if they embrace diversity and allow people to be their true individual selves in the organization. 

There's so much to be gained from that, and that tide is just getting momentum as well in terms of organizations who don't do that, risk coming under the microscope really, as to well, why you not? Why are you not doing that? 

And those are the ones that would stand to lose, as opposed to organizations that are thinking a lot more about how can I be an organization where people do feel they can bring more of their whole selves to work? There isn't a certain type that's the right sort of type for this organization. The world is moving on, and it's a good thing. 

00:11:04 Karen Plum

Yes indeed. The pandemic has certainly accelerated a lot of changes in organisations and many look like being quite positive. The other thing that occurs to me is that when you're hiring, social media and sites like Glassdoor provide a lot of information to potential recruits than was available years ago, so the feedback posted by current staff can have a real impact. Is that something that you're focused on, Ethan? 

00:11:30 Ethan Kelly-Wilson

Yeah, I think that we live in a world where we review everything now, don't we? And you know I know that before I go anywhere I'm on Trip Adviser and I get to travel a bit and I'm going OK, what's the best restaurant on Trip Adviser and we also have review sites for employers. 

And you know more than ever, if we get things wrong, very often the employees will not speak to us directly, but they'll go straight to one of these review sites and say so, you know, I think that that is encouraging us as organisations to go, how do we stop it from getting on to one of these review sites? In the end, how do we actually create the environment where employees feel confident that we will listen to them, that we are interested in change.

We're a technology business. Our whole business is about adapting to what our customers want - our biggest spend is actually on how we listen to customers and for instance in our print segments we heard that our customers don't really like buying ink cartridges because they're really expensive. But actually, they don't realize that they're getting a printer very cheap, and then they pay their contribution in the ink. 

So in the UK, we've gone to the market now where we offer a subscription model and people can print as much as they like and just pay and amount just like they do for Netflix. And so we are taking that - what we have been doing, listening to the customer - and actually we're doing that with our employees as - we need to adapt to what  our employees want. 

And it is a journey. It's very easy for me to say but, you know, we're always listening and we're kind of always changing, actually just like the organization, there is a degree of persuasion we have to have as HR professionals to say, I think we should really do this. 

And now there are some things that take more persuading than others about putting a business case together and for our leadership teams to kind of really understand what changes there are, and sometimes those changes need to be in baby steps and it may seem that we've really gone from one thing to something completely across the different spectrum, but actually, we've got there in baby steps and having a program of small things that have changed over a couple of years. 

00:14:09 Karen Plum

And thinking about the recruitment process, I guess that was digital only during the pandemic. But what's happening now, Lisa? 

00:14:17 Lisa Sarjeant

They’re definitely keeping an element of it - it is a much more efficient way of hiring, we haven't got to wait for people to travel anywhere. But I am seeing people making a preference to meet people face to face at final stages. And candidates wanting to see where their place of work will be even if they're only there some of the time. 

Organizations who have got more technology at their fingertips, have, you know, put together, perhaps virtual tours of their office, and that's all great, and that gives you a sort of sense of the type of organization that you're joining. Because really every touchpoint you have with a candidate is telling you something about what they’re like to work with, what their culture is, and so you don't necessarily have to be physically present in the office to get a sense of that, but I think the employers are making that choice to actually see people and just be able to have those I guess less formal interactions. 

Because I think that a lot of the online interviews are very structured and quite formal in the way they feel, whereas when they get together with somebody and it might just be that you're meeting the team and not being interviewed and that might be better done in person. So I think we've got a nice hybrid approach now to recruitment. 

00:15:44 Karen Plum

People buy people, don't they? So starting to get a sense of who the manager is and who the team are is pretty important. 

We're going to take a quick break now, but I'll be back with more from Ethan, Lisa, and Brad after this message. 

00:16:05 ADVERT  As a senior leader, making changes in the world of work in your organization can be tough. Sometimes you feel like a lone voice. At other times, you feel like you're knocking on an open door.

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Designed for leaders from the disciplines of Human Resources, Corporate Real Estate, IT, Operations and Facilities Management, we share the insights and research, facilitate peer to peer forums on a wide range of topics and support our Members in their personal and organizational development. 

Our experts have been helping organizations transition to new models of work and organization for over 30 years. I'm Brad Taylor, I'd be delighted to invite you to one of our events as my guest. If you're interested, there are details in our show notes. I look forward to hearing from you. 

00:17:08 Karen Plum

Welcome back. When I was doing some research for this episode, I found some discussion about the fact that we're introducing a lot more flexibility into people's working arrangements now, but we still have time-based employment contracts - so the typical 9-5, five days a week type of thing. And yet everything we know says that measuring people by time and attendance isn't the right thing to do, and it isn't helpful in terms of performance and outcomes. 

So I wondered if any of you are either seeing or I guess in Ethan’s case, contemplating a shift to a more outcomes-based contract?

00:17:45 Ethan Kelly-Wilson

I think that we're always looking at package and we want to create reasons for people to want to come and work for us. If I'm honest no, we're not looking at making that change at the moment, and I think that probably the reason for that is probably legislation. I don't think that it's supported very much by legislation that at the moment and also we work in an organization where we have a European Works Council, we've got individual works councils in other countries and the works councils have co-determination rights and so I don't know if we're organizationally ready to make that change.

But what I think is recognized a lot in our organization already is a focus on output rather than inputs and so who knows what the future will hold and you know, I look at some organisations and see how far they've come in the last two years, and it feels to me that the workplace is changing more, on a far quicker basis, than we've ever had.

Two years ago, I don't think any of us would have been sitting there predicting that we would literally have a wholesale swing to kind of hybrid working or even people working at home permanently. And companies, I believe Dixon Carphone said that they are getting rid of their office and they will provide WeWork facilities for those that want them. Equally they're happy for people to be at home and who would have predicted that two years ago? 

00:19:32 Lisa Sarjeant

I'm not seeing it at the moment. It's great that employers have really changed their approach dramatically over the last couple of years, and embracing flexibility in a much broader way. 

And are moving to, you know, much more results driven organisations and outputs based, and it's great to see many organisations moving to much more continuous feedback culture and moving away from the annual appraisal. So I think it's, you know, contractual or employment law issue I think that gets in the way of removing the need to have a set number of hours in a contract of employment and the ramifications on your entitlement therefore to pro-rata holiday and so on and so forth. So I think it just gets a little bit of a headache to manage, but I'm sure that there are many employers who want to embrace the essence of it, the spirit of it. And aren't worrying about staff clocking on and clocking off and counting the minutes and the hours that they're working - even if there is a contract of employment that says that you may have to do  37 1/2 hours a week. 

So that's where I'm at the moment. Nobody looks at the contract after it's signed, typically, its about how we work together and what's that level of trust, and then how we're measuring performance that really matters. 

00:21:06 Brad Taylor

I agree with the views that Lisa and Ethan expressed really. I think there's a number of factors that make it problematic. I'm not seeing it. I think there is often this case of employment law and that's the way we do things - is not up to speed with that, that's just simply not the way it works. 

Which you know can be problematic. But at the same time, I think people can get excited when they see an employer who's willing to try new things and you know, experiment with the way things work. 

So I think ultimately my advice to employers would be, again, it comes down to culture and just take a look at your culture. If you've got a good strong culture, then you have more room to experiment because you've got people on your side and they're willing to approach these things with the intent that hopefully you're coming to it with. 

It's where the culture isn't so good, or where things take a turn and the culture drops that these things then become problems and we've seen lots of organizations that have experimented with different employment models that started out very, very well and then the company kind of changes its position or sees an opportunity to get a little bit more out of people. 

The culture then takes a hit and because of that there's a whole lot of ripple effects, and companies find themselves, you know, at a tribunal or in a court somewhere having to justify their model in the first place. 

So we're entering a world where we can try these things, but employment law’s gotta catch up and don't take your eye off the culture, you know that psychological contract, 'cause it'll bite you!

00:22:46 Karen Plum

Yes, it absolutely will, and we know from an earlier episode of the podcast that employment law is a tricky area, particularly if you have people working in different countries. 

 Another area I was thinking about was the amount of resilience that's been demonstrated over the last couple of years. It's good to see what we can do when we're in a crisis, how people adapt and cope. 

But clearly that also came at great personal cost for many people. I wanted to ask you, particularly, Brad, are you seeing organisations trying to build more resilience so they're better placed for future shocks? 

00:23:27 Brad Taylor

Yes, I think there is, and I think that's been something that organisations have been reflecting on, probably for two or three years now - about how do we help people with resilience? 

I think that there's a backdrop to that, though, which is probably that we're living in a more anxious society than we ever have done previously, enabled by things such as social media and the ability for groups to be able to communicate so much more widely as to what's right and what's wrong. So there's that that's going on. 

There's faster changing world and organisations therefore becoming places of great change all the time, and that can be unsettling for people. Line managers grappling to cope with all the skills that they need to be able to lead people effectively. 

So there's a whole melting pot of things that are going in that I think calls for organizations just to pause and reflect and think how do we help people just become a little bit more resilient. And what does that actually mean as well? It's not necessarily a set of skills that you can give someone - do these, and you become more resilient. But I think more about helping people to understand how their own thinking works and how they process events and circumstances that are going on so that they're just able to sort of step back from something

And that's where resilience perhaps is able to come through, so it's a complicated topic, but I think it is one that organizations are trying to face into. 

00:25:01 Karen Plum

Absolutely. Thanks for those thoughts Brad. To wrap up, I wonder if you and Lisa could share an example of something you've seen organisations doing that you think is inspiring. Lisa, would you like to go first? 

00:25:13 Lisa Sarjeant

Yeah I think it's really great when you get the senior team, the CEO in particular to be involved, be videoed talking about the organization’s purpose. It's really good in terms of welcoming people into your fold, that you can really reach out. And not many people get to meet the CEO, if it's a large organization, in the recruitment stages. So to see what they have to say, to see they how they talk about the organization, how they talk about themselves as an employer, I think that's a really good thing to do if you're really trying to attract people. 

00:25:51 Brad Taylor

I think the whole relationship is so much more on an equal footing now than it ever was. So if you're an employer and you're thinking that you hold all the cards, that's not a good approach to a recruitment strategy. People do feel they have so much more choice and there are an increasingly wide range of different types of employers out there. 

I think it's looking at how do you differentiate yourself? What is your employee value proposition? And then what are you doing to really bring that to life will be important. Just as brand differentiation is important. I think that's the thing that employers need to crack. 

Because, now I've always thought that the way you're treated through a recruitment process pretty much is a good indicator as to what your employment relationship will be like. So if there's anything about that that's not up to scratch, it's going to play out in the actual employment relationship itself, so that's a good place to start. 

00:26:53 Karen Plum

Yes, if they seem dodgy during the recruitment process that's a big warning sign, isn't it? 

00:26:59 Lisa Sarjeant

It’s worth bearing in mind that these candidates are probably being propositioned by a number of organisations, so you do need to make sure that your organization stands out because what I'm hearing from people is that they're making job offers and they're being turned down because they've got several offers and you know you've got to be able to compete. And then it comes back to the values, it comes back to flexibility, what kind of organization are you going to be and do I want to belong with that? 

So you've really got to take a good look at yourself in the mirror and say you know why would somebody want to work with us? And if you can't find those answers, do something about it!

00:27:39 Karen Plum

I love that. So put yourself metaphorically across the table and ask yourself why would I want to work with this company? It might be a harder question to answer than you think. And don't fall for your own hype!

And that's it for this episode. My thanks to Ethan, Lisa, and Brad for sharing their thoughts and expertise on talent attraction and retention. It seems it's far more of a challenge now than before the pandemic and only time will tell if organisations are successful in providing the sorts of experiences that people are looking for. 

And whether they'll need to adjust to employees staying with them perhaps for shorter periods of time, something that was already changing pre pandemic. The whole nature of the employee proposition is changing, with employees seeming to have the upper hand, particularly while the shortage of candidates continues. 

If that causes employers to think more carefully, listen more intently and communicate authentically, then that feels like a good outcome for now, as we all strive to be more irresistible. 

CLOSE: Thank you for listening to this episode of the Changing the World of Work podcast. Please follow or like the show so you don't miss any of our content. You can find more information on this episode in our show notes, including a link to the AWA website, if you'd like to know more about us. Hope to see you next time. Goodbye.