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Capitalising on the current career change boom: how to attract and retain top talent

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By Juliane Sterzl, VP of UK&I at CoachHub

Over the course of the pandemic, people of all ages and across all sectors have been forced to reassess their careers, whether through choice or by necessity. According to ONS data from 2020, 42% of Brits surveyed considered changing occupation due to the pandemic.

For businesses looking to scale, these changes represent a great opportunity to bring new talent and fresh thinking into the workplace. In addition, a dynamic and competitive talent market rewards businesses that strengthen employee benefits and development opportunities, which in turn will ensure strong retention rates for the future and save the money lost to employee turnover.

This influx of new entrants to the candidate pool does create a significant challenge for businesses that have to attract and retain the right talent against stiff competition from other firms. Onboarding and training new staff can also be difficult for growing businesses, particularly in the current remote environment, and especially if the new joiners are adapting to a new career as well. Tackling these issues will be key to capitalising on the current career-change boom.

Understanding the career-change candidate 

Whatever the motive or situation, searching for a new job requires a candidate to take stock of their current position and reassess what they value in their career. A career change represents a great opportunity for people to examine their priorities and set goals, and these kinds of applicants will typically be looking to learn new skills and engage in professional development.

However, despite training and professional development consistently coming out top in job search priority rankings, nearly one in three UK companies do not provide any kind of opportunities for employees to learn new skills. For businesses wanting to make the most of new talent on the market, offering training to facilitate upskilling and reskilling will be crucial.

Managers looking to approach career change candidates need to ensure that both the hiring and the onboarding process take into account the diverse range of ages, backgrounds, sectors and experience levels of applicants, along with making provisions for training, coaching, and development requirements.

Closing the skills gap

Juliane Sterzl

Juliane Sterzl

It’s also vital to offer an attractive salary and benefits package to prospective candidates, particularly when talent is in short supply. According to a recent survey by the World Economic Forum, eight out of ten global CEOs are concerned about the availability of appropriately skilled staff, particularly within the finance and technology industries.

The current market of candidates from all across the economy represents a rare chance for businesses to hire previously unavailable talent, and to invest in training future generations of leaders. However, there is no simple one-size-fits-all method to attracting these candidates, and hiring managers must take a strategic approach if they are to succeed.

Creating a talent acquisition plan 

One of the best methods for attracting and retaining top talent is to build out a comprehensive and strategic talent acquisition plan. These can work particularly well within niche and competitive industries where talent is scarce, but will also be applicable to any business looking to maintain a constant pipeline of skilled hires.

The plan should address all stages of the talent acquisition process from the initial job advertisement through to ongoing plans for training and development. It should be data-led, and make use of employee feedback, departmental retention rates, wellbeing surveys, and exit interviews. This data will build a picture of what’s currently successful, and will allow for any improvements to be made before taking on new joiners.

When building out the plan, it’s also important to take a multi-generational approach to the process. Whilst we should never look to put people in boxes or stereotypes, it can be helpful to look broadly at how differently people of different ages approach their careers. For example, according to a study by ManPower, 80% of millennials rate the opportunity to develop new skills through coaching or training as their primary consideration for choosing a new job, whereas for other candidates benefits including pension, life insurance, and flexible hours are more likely to pique their interest. It’s no longer enough to simply provide a competitive salary – employers must go beyond expectations when it comes to demonstrating their worth to prospective hires.

Whilst the initial costs of providing these benefits may be steep, the long-term rewards of reduced hiring and retraining costs can make investment here more than worthwhile.

Investing in the future 

Attracting the top talent is one thing, but retaining the very best staff requires constant attention. The economic turmoil of the last year has left many people concerned about job stability, particularly those who are in the midst of beginning a new career. Businesses need to demonstrate that they are committed to retaining and furthering the professional development of new staff and learners, and the best way to do this is with a comprehensive learning and development scheme.

A recent study by Linkedin found that 94% of employees would stay with a company longer if there was an investment in lifelong learning. Providing these schemes can be the deciding factor in whether a candidate accepts an offer, and will likely also determine their longevity within the business. Programmes can be tailored to meet the specific needs of individuals or groups, such as leadership coaching specifically designed for women, for example, or may take the form of one-to-one meetings with a coach or mentor for personalised support and guidance.

The work of attracting and retaining top talent is constant, and should be seen as part of a long-term strategy for growth, as opposed to a quick fix for a current need. The talent market has matured beyond salaries being the sole factor in career decisions, which means businesses must seriously look at what else they are offering candidates from a personal and professional development standpoint. A fully formed and well-considered development offering can not only be the difference for hiring efforts, but improves internal capabilities and boosts retention rates for future growth.

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