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How Startups Can Win the War for Talent

“Is the Great Resignation the most challenging time for employers in history?” asked Forbes amidst the mass exodus of workers that has accelerated during the pandemic.

Even as the world lapses into a state of global inflation today, the Great Resignation is still going strong, with even managers choosing to resign from their jobs. Faced with this double whammy of economic uncertainty and workers quitting their jobs in droves, what can you do to win and retain talent?

This question is important, especially if your startup is undergoing its growth stage – this is when rapid expansion is demanded from the founder team. But with hiring becoming an increasingly pressing challenge, there’s much work to be done.

In this article, we explore what you can do to respond to today’s complex job landscape. Here’s what will be covered:

  • Listen to your employees
  • Adopt flexible work arrangements
  • Create value and meaning in your employees’ work
  • Provide fair compensation

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1. Listen to your employees

The first – and probably the most crucial – step is listening to what your employees say. More often than not, you’ll find some of the answers you seek in what they tell you.  

Listening drives motivation. This simple act is key to showing your employees that you care about their needs and what they think. Listening to your employees is also an excellent way to learn about what’s happening on the ground. In turn, you open the floor to address key pain points and make any necessary organisational shifts.

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2. Adopt flexible work arrangements

If there’s one thing COVID-19 taught us, working from home (WFH) is a feasible arrangement that encourages productivity. Lengthy lockdowns reduced the stigma around WFH, which was once perceived as a career killer, as people were less likely to be promoted.

Little surprise, then, that around 64% of employees surveyed for Topia’s 2022 Adapt survey report said they are far more likely to quit and search for a new job if forced to work from the office (WFO) full time.

As pandemic restrictions ease, adopting a full-blown WFH model is not the wisest course of action. Instead, it would be best to consider a hybrid working arrangement, where the typical work week is a mix of WFH and WFO days. 

At least 6 in 10 Singaporeans expressed their preference for this flexible approach, as have nearly 60% of workers surveyed by Gallup for a study on the future of hybrid work. According to Ben Wigert, Gallup’s workplace management director of research and strategy,

“We’re clearly seeing that employees and employers both agree hybrid work is a pretty good compromise. It’s just a really good negotiation—a best of both worlds.”

The desire for remote work is especially true for Gen Z, with many of these younger folk not sharing the same views on the ways of working as older generations. Just 26% of Gen Z workers want a complete return to the office, while 36% of ages 45-54 and 45% of ages over 55 years choose this option.

Given that people generally prefer to have the flexibility to return to the office or work from home, it is only in your best interest to provide this arrangement for your employees.

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3. Create value and purpose in your employees’ work

Work is no longer just a means for employees to draw a salary and pay the bills. Increasingly, people are seeking value in the work that they do. Just as you forged a vision and mission for your startup, employees today need to feel like what they do is infused with meaning. 

As Jackie Wiles very aptly puts it in a Gartner article, the Great Resignation should be reframed as the Great Reflection. Researchers found that due to COVID-19, more employees have changed their approach to work and life. The general sentiment points towards a desire to lead a meaningful life filled with purpose.

This effect has even trickled to Asia Pacific, where people tend to be more conservative. According to PWC, workers in this region want work that provides a sense of fulfilment and meaning. They also want to present the most authentic versions of themselves at work.

While it’s relatively easy to offer better salary packages to employees, it’s far more critical to make your employees feel like their work has value and significantly impacts the world around them. 

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4. Provide fair compensation

With all that is said and done about purposeful work, you mustn’t forget to pay your employees a salary commensurate with their skills and experience. According to Pew Research Center, low pay is one of the top reasons that pushed workers in the US to quit their jobs. 

In the same survey, the absence of opportunities for career advancement and subsequent pay raises was also a push factor. Women in the US are also using the Great Resignation to negotiate pay raises, which they usually would have problems securing due to the gender wage gap.

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Winning the war for talent starts from ground zero

While the Great Resignation is a cause for concern, you should not see it as a portentous sign that everything has gone wrong. This phenomenon should serve as the catalyst for you to look inward and reevaluate the workings of your startup.

As Alexander Dick, founder of Alexander Lyons Recruitment, told Euronews,

“It’s just that people aren’t happy to sit there and take nonsense from bosses in their ivory tower anymore. They now want to be treated properly. And if they’re not, they will happily find somewhere that does”.

And the first step begins with you. Talk to your employees and learn what you can do to make things better for them. You can spark the change you want to see and emerge unscathed by the Great Resignation.

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