The Changing world of Work - People retention and attraction

by Laura Aucott

I recently came across this quote below, which was part of a review undertaken by the Harvard business school, looking at what global professionals thought the biggest risks and issues facing their companies currently were.


“The most important asset at your company isn’t something you can put your hands on. It isn’t equipment or the physical plant, and it isn’t data, technology, or intellectual property. The most valuable part of your company is the people—the human capital—and any plans to move your business forward have to start there.”


The idea of not having the correct support and people was a major risk that came out of this study, with only 32% of leaders taking part saying that they were confident that they had the right leadership talent and people skills to help them achieve their companies strategic goals. This definitely backs up what I have found anecdotally in the last 9 years I have spent in recruitment, in that a lot of companies don’t have the resources they need. (Or if they do they very often don’t know how to up skill their people and keep them interested.)

Millennials and Gen Z

I think there has been a huge shift in what the new generation of employees, millennial and Gen Z, are looking for when they join a company and unfortunately there are still a huge amount of companies who are stuck in the dark ages. They often see millennials and Gen Z as a group of people whose work ethic and approach they just don’t understand. However it’s not necessarily that these people don’t have work ethic or ambition, it’s just that it often now looks drastically different to what we are used to. Failure to embrace this new style of work means that you will not be bringing on, or retaining, the new staff that you need from this demographic, and will need to rely on what you already have. Although this is fine for the time being it will eventually leave you with a dramatic gap when staff retire and not enough people are coming in fresh (or are being up skilled) to fill that gap.

This got me thinking about what is seemingly important to these new generations- but do please forgive me here for some massive generalisations!

Ethical working practices and career progression

What we have been finding more and more is that the new generations are very concerned about their company being ethical from a people and cultural perspective. So this means not only looking after staff but also things like environmental concerns. They want to believe that they are having a good impact on the world in general and that the company beliefs correlate with their own personal ethics. With this in mind we are finding that more and more companies are starting to focus on environmental policies, or are bringing them more into the safety and risk domain – meaning it is important that either you have good policies currently to bring people in, or conversely you are willing to upskill your staff to bridge that gap between safety and environmental.


With the advent of the new ISO 45001 the systems have never been more aligned, so it’s a great time to look at this sort of thing


We are also finding that, particularly in the safety and risk world, roles are not “just a job”. Previously we had a lot of people who come to safety as a second career and sort of fell into it –but now due to the increase in ethical concern amongst Gen Z we are finding people choosing Safety and Risk as a first career. There is a whole new wave of youths who are genuinely passionate about this industry and want to progress and support their companies as best they can. This means that not only are they dedicated, they are ambitious, and expect really clear and precise succession planning. We tend to find now most advisors coming into industry spend approx. 2 years in their first role before moving on – and their biggest feedback we are given is that they move on because there is nowhere for them to go in their company. The new generation of workers need clear structure, they need to be able to see their progression clearly and know where their next step is coming from.

Now don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that you need to boot people out to make room for others to progress, but it does mean you probably need to spend more time with them to ensure that you understand their motivations, and to offer them the support they need. If you aren’t able to offer a step up (as there is someone in this post, or due budget concerns or similar) being able to support their development in other ways is a huge and important factor – offering additionally training, or additional responsibilities – i.e. looking at adding skills to their repertoire like environmental, quality, or similar – and supporting them through their CPD. Employees feeling like they have stagnated is the current biggest cause of moving on, and this is now happening much quicker than previously (where we would have previously expected someone after 7/8 years to feel this way, now it is much more likely to be circa 2 years).

Flexible/agile working

Next I looked at flexi/agile/adaptive working – which are essentially lots of different words for very similar things. I’m assuming most people have a good understanding of flexible working, but this is definitely a massive issue for people currently. It tends to be a given for most that companies should respect them and therefore understand that they will do what needs to be done, in the hours that work for them. Gone are the days of disciplinary meetings for being a few minutes late in the morning. Companies need to adopt an attitude that if the role is getting done, then the timekeeping is less important than it previously has been. As the world has never been more connected you don’t have to be in the office to work anymore – everyone tends to have emails and access on their phones and tablets, meaning that they are likely to give up extra time in the evenings, during their commute etc to deal with issues.


The working day is much more fluid than the previous 9-5.


Agile and adaptive working are slightly different in that not only do they take into consideration working hours and location, but also actual job role. Agile working is the idea that roles themselves are much more fluid, and constraining people to one area is limiting their creativity and therefore not using them to their best of their potential. For example, I have worked with my company for the past 9 years as a recruitment consultant, but have always had a passion for networking, social media and branding. As a result, my company were able to look at an agile working approach, allowing me to bring my passions into my role, and eventually creating a position for me that allows me to use my skills to the best of their advantage – rather than rigidly sticking to a pre-existing career path.

EDI policies and attraction

Having robust EDI policies is a huge factor at the moment that influences candidate decisions, and having a diverse workforce is one of the biggest influencers of company culture and growth currently. (For those of you who aren’t aware EDI stands for equality diversity and inclusion). Not only is a strong EDI policy imperative from an ethical perspective, but also a commercial one. For example, if you have a board full of white 50 year old men with the same education and same experiences, then this limits creativity, as everyone tends to think the same way and come up with the same ideas. Particularly within industries such as media or events, you can’t expect to understand and market towards (for example) Latin America, without a clear understanding of their culture and practices – and this is very difficult to achieve without strong internal representation of Latin America within your company, or board.

A lot of companies seem to think having a policy is enough – but unfortunately it’s not. Just saying that you don’t discriminate doesn’t eliminate things like unconscious bias, or give equal opportunity in terms of applications.


Think of it this way, if you want to gain a more diverse workforce but only ever advertise in the Guardian, you will only ever receive a certain type of application, the candidates you are trying to appeal to and recruit aren’t even seeing your advert in the first place!


Now obviously this was a whistle stop tour of some of the issues facing companies at the moment when it comes to people attraction and retention but this is definitely a subject that could be talked about for days!

In June, we will be hosting a seminar in conjunction with IIRSM on the subject of the “Changing world of work” and one of our speakers is Graham Jackson, who is the Associate Director or People and Culture Services at Grant Thornton. He will be going into much more depth about this issue from a people and leadership perspective but we will also have speakers Gareth Evans looking in further detail at data, and Helen Barge from Risk Evolves looking at the technology side of things.

To sign up for this FREE event, please click here and we look forward to seeing you there!
Back to Top