Standing out as employer of choice in a competitive market

These really are exceptional times. We’ve emerged from the pandemic to see the jobs market in a state of flux, with the ‘Great Resignation’ creating a highly competitive jobs market. So much so, 45% of employees in UK SMEs are planning to look for a new job in the next 12 months.

The challenge for employers right now is that it’s very much a candidate-led market where people are picking and choosing where and how they want to work. They can choose the type of flexibility they want, not to mention command the salary they want. But, and here’s the rub, not everybody has the big bucks to compete. And even if they did, from a financial perspective, this is just not a sustainable approach in the long term.

So, what do you do if your budget doesn’t stretch to a bidding war? How do you compete to ensure your business is a candidate’s first choice?

The good news is that there are a range of things you can do to be a standout employer that won’t significantly impact finances. Of course, salary is always a consideration but we look at other ways you can compete and standout in this current market.

Go to the root of the problem

Amidst all the panic to attract candidates, many businesses haven’t stopped to think about why the market is the way it is right now. Why are so many people moving jobs? Why do candidates have the ring seat?

Flexible working is one element, but let’s be clear here, it’s not the whole picture. Extensive research from Personio has shown that the top three reasons for employees leaving their current employer are due to:

  • A stressful working environment
  • A lack of appreciation in they work they do
  • A lack of career progression opportunities

This is the heart of the matter and a key point when it comes to talent attraction. Sometimes a simple well done or a thank you is all that’s needed, not grand gestures or big salary hikes.

It’s not about weekly fruit deliveries, fresh cut flowers on a Wednesday or table tennis, it’s about meaningful rewards that recognise employee performance.

People like to feel rewarded, respected and know they have opportunities to progress in their role and it’s an approach that can catch a candidate’s eye.

Be a great place to work

Unfortunately, we’re not all mind readers and although your organisation may be inclusive with strong employee values, candidates aren’t going to know this if you don’t show it. That’s why it’s important to ensure your employer brand is strong and clear in its purpose.

Candidates shop around, they like to get a ‘feel’ for an organisation and do a lot of research online and through social media. It’s important to think about where they’ll look to learn more about your organisation. Will they use Instagram or LinkedIn? Is it worth using TikTok to attract younger candidates? Think about the platform that works best for your business and ensure it’s in great shape.

When that’s in place, it’s key to communicate your values and purpose. Showcasing how much you value your people can go a long way to catching that candidate’s eye. It’s also important to highlight how you reward your employees.

We don’t mean weekly fruit deliveries, fresh cut flowers on a Wednesday or table tennis, it’s about meaningful rewards that recognise employee performance.

It’s not just about employees either, it’s also important to ensure your leadership team are visible too. Ultimately, you really want candidates to say; ‘this looks like a great place to work.’

Another thing to note – it’s a small point but could have a big impact – is that it’s really important to ensure your branding, links and contacts are all on point. A joined-up organisation shows clear thinking and purpose. A broken link could be the difference between capturing a great candidate or losing them out of frustration.

Invest in your people

Going back to the core of the issue, career development is a key driver for today’s candidates. However, Personio’s research also found that, of the 500 HR decision-makers surveyed, only 28% were offering more learning and development opportunities. Improving benefits and salaries were top of the list.

The dichotomy here is that 61% of 2,000 candidates that were surveyed stated lack of appreciation and progression were reasons for moving jobs. So why are decision-makers focusing on salary and benefits?

It’s this ‘disconnect’ that could be the difference as to whether a candidate accepts your offer over financial gain. By showing how great you are as a business, as well as opportunities for progression, has the potential to mean a lot more than an inflated salary.

Candidates shop around, they like to get a ‘feel’ for an organisation and do a lot of research through social media.

Of course, there will always be candidates whose main driver is salary, but they may not share the same values as your business and might not be a great fit, which is ok. On the flipside, the risk with competing on salary is that there will be a need for ROI, therefore putting candidates under more pressure to deliver…the one thing they wanted to escape from their previous role.

When we’re getting under the bonnet of an organisation, we support and advise on a range of areas, but when it comes to retention and attraction, we focus on getting the best, growing the best and being the best.

And we think that this approach has never been more important. Organisations that focus on learning and development see far higher retention rates, not only that, but candidates and employees see development as a key priority. 

Do what’s right for your business

Essentially, it’s crucial to do what’s right for your business. Yes, it may take longer if you’re not competing on salary, but we’re all here to play the long game and getting the best candidate for your business.

At Cajun, we support organisations across all aspects of the HR function. From employer branding, learning and development to recruitment, we can help you stand out from the crowd.

Why not drop us a line to find out more? We’re always happy to chat over a cuppa.

Addressing the performance management elephant.

Managing difficult conversations

We’ve all done it.

Complained about a challenging employee but then put off having ‘that’ difficult conversation. When, eventually, a meeting is arranged, you dance around the issue but nevertheless believe you’ve made it perfectly clear the employee is underperforming. However, you’re then surprised to see that nothing changes.

The situation is then escalated but the employee is shocked and reveals they had no idea people were unhappy with their work.

At this point, working relationships have been damaged and confidence may be lost between all parties. Potentially permanently, which may lead to losing that person over a problem that could have been easily solved.

Sounds familiar?

We’ve all been in this scenario. It is an uncomfortable situation that, unsurprisingly, find us doing everything we can to avoid that performance management elephant in the room.

The potential knock-on effect of not addressing the issue is the creation of a toxic and gossip-focused culture that gives colleagues license to say what they like about that employee’s performance. It’s also fair to say that they will also make the not unreasonable assumption, that as nothing has been done about the issue, that it is ok to perform like that – making you, the employer, look as if you have sanctioned that approach

But what if you were to do things differently? What would effective performance management look like?

Feedback and spinach

These two things have a lot in common. For a start they’re both good for everybody, but they also require you to take a leap. If somebody has spinach in their teeth, you want to tell them. It can be awkward but nonetheless, you need to say something.

The same with feedback. It’s only fair to be open and honest. Putting it plainly, if we tell that person they have spinach in their teeth they can actually do something about it.

And this is the crux of the matter, if we tell that employee honestly and openly where the problem lies, they can proactively start making changes. If they don’t know or understand what you’re trying to tell them, how can you expect them to change?

How to have ‘that’ conversation

A performance management conversation is one to prepare for, have everything you need to hand, which includes:

  • An up-to-date job description and person specification that clearly lays out the role and what is required of them
  • Recent examples of what has gone wrong.  These should focus on the behaviours they are demonstrating
  • A crystal-clear outline of any change in behaviour that you expect to see.
  • An open mind and open ears. There are two sides to every story

Always hear the other person’s point of view

It’s very easy to get caught in the blame culture trap. Noticing what an employee is doing wrong, but not hearing their side of things. This is not effective performance management.

Instead, start the conversation compassionately by asking questions, such as: How do you think you’re doing? What is going well for you currently and what is going less well. You may be surprised by what you hear and the problem could be the result of a very minor issue.

Getting the employee’s perspective could also show:

  • That the issue could be down to a simple misunderstanding or miscommunication and therefore easily resolved.
  •  A clash of workstyles, which can be aligned by understanding each other better and taking steps to address these differences.
  • That the parameters of their role have changed and that their job description needs to be updated accordingly

Let’s talk turkey, managing teams is not easy, but as a manager or leader it’s vital that your job is to regularly feedback, to sometimes tell, to coax and guide to get the best out of people.

Active performance management

This approach removes the need for difficult conversations. Updating, encouraging and openly feeding back as you go ensures all parties are clear on where they stand and what they need to do to improve.

This leads to a more fluid and open relationship, whereby the employee can adapt and evolve in their role. However, if this approach doesn’t garner any positive changes, and it looks as though it could be a capability or misconduct issue, then this will need a more formal meeting.

By letting that employee become the object of criticism and gossip is not only unfair, but you could have an outstanding employee there who just needs to make a few adjustments. Not to mention the savings on attrition costs. But if you don’t face that elephant head on, you may never know. 

Compassionate leadership. The newer face of company culture and values? 

Following turbulent times, businesses need to recalibrate – but not to the detriment of business results

Compassionate leadership has become something of a buzz term over the past couple of years. It’s a softening of the old school, hard edges of a business and acknowledging that people are not machines. We know that getting the best from people requires a more human side to leadership.

This approach is not without merit either, COVID and political turbulence has meant that leaders have had to move away from being very much business-led and more open to the twists and turns of life outside the office.

In a world that isn’t as predictable as it once was, this leadership style isn’t likely to change any time soon. However, whilst showing compassion, there does need to be a balance between showing understanding while still maintaining or even improving business performance and keeping teams motivated.

Read more

Appraisal – an utter waste of time or an important conversation?

No one ever said, “I can’t wait for my appraisal!”

Well maybe us in our formative years, but as a general rule you tended to hear – from a manager – “best I tick that one off my list for another year” or, from an employee – “I’m quite interested in knowing how I’m doing, but the process is pretty torturous!”

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You are the boss. Now what?

So, that moment has come when not only do you have your own business, but you have actually reached the point of employing people as part of your team. And we are fairly certain that whatever your passion is, it is not the paperwork behind being an employer!

That aside, there are some core obligations that you need to meet before you carry on with growing your company. Below are the 6 key points you need to cover off.

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