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Is there a talent uprising?

Jill Kissack, Kincentric

The disruption caused by the pandemic has resulted in a sea change in how, when and where work gets done, and the job market will never be the same. Employees are no longer willing to return to pre-pandemic ways of working, resulting in a “Talent Uprising” and creating a world in which employees have a stronger hand in dictating the terms of employment, allowing them to demand more flexibility in how, when, and where they work; increases in salary and benefits; and even changes in culture and progress in DE&I initiatives.

This Talent Uprising should not be seen simply as an employee revolution but as a driving force for organizational evolution. Smart leaders will leverage the learnings from the last year and a half to create meaningful changes in the workplace, the workforce and the work itself, elevating the employee experience to create a culture in which employees feel inspired, respected, connected and committed.

Embracing the Talent Uprising

What, then, should organizations consider as they look to create new work environments and operating models that best meet the needs of the employees as well as the business?

  1. Be intentional with your hybrid strategy—As more organizations move to a hybrid model, direction should be given around when and where employees will work on-site. Consider instituting set schedules, taking into account the needs of teams as well as individuals. Adapt workplaces to create fewer private offices and more open spaces to support collaboration and networking. Maximize tools and technologies such as video conferencing and virtual whiteboards to enable both on-site and remote workers to have consistent experiences and opportunities for meaningful collaboration.
  1. Triage your talent management philosophy—Examine your people strategies, processes and procedures to make them equitable for remote as well as on-site employees. Ensure remote employees are not overlooked for stretch assignments or promotional opportunities. Given the profound changes over the last year and a half, you may also need to re-evaluate the importance of certain functions to determine those truly critical to the business in the wake of the pandemic – think frontline workers in the retail and hospitality industries, without whose presence and continued performance entire organizations were destined to fail. Once the most business-critical employees and functions have been identified, double down on retention and engagement efforts. And remember, sometimes, turnover isn’t always bad, unless you are hemorrhaging high-potential employees or are unable to maintain operations.
  1. Explore new talent pools—Consider candidates who come from nontraditional recruitment centers. Look for skills and alignment with culture versus years of experience. Utilize freelancers or contract workers for “tour of duty” projects with a definitive end date. Once you hire, be sure to adapt your onboarding program to create strong connections early in an employee’s tenure. Conversely, take care not to alienate exiting employees. Many employees who left the workplace during the pandemic due to difficulty balancing the needs of their families may now be ready to return to either full or part-time positions.
  1. Ensure you have engaging leadership at all levels—Ensure your leaders have the right professional skills as well as the right people skills to lead through a return to the workplace. Are they demonstrating care and compassion? Are they connecting with their team members—in person or remote?
  1. Act-Listen-Adjust—There has never been a more important time to listen and respond to employees. But it’s not just about measuring engagement; it’s about using employee feedback to drive talent and business decisions. Identifying and shaping the moments that matter across your organization will be a must to successfully take advantage of the Talent Uprising. This means asking the right questions to the right segments at the right time.
  1. Go deep in succession planning—Make sure your succession plans are intentional; go deep into the organization; are based on data; and represent diversity in ethnicity, gender, culture, and experience. Evaluate and assess your pool of leaders to ensure the right talent match for your organization. Who is in it for the long haul? Do they have the agility needed to adapt to change effectively? Does their EQ match their IQ? Do they have the right people skills as well as professional skills?
  1. Develop clear and creative career paths—Employees want to chart a course for their future, yet just under half (45%) of all survey respondents do not feel positive regarding career opportunities at their current organization. If you don’t clearly articulate an employee’s path forward, you can rest assured there is another organization or recruiter who is happy to. Be sure to identify opportunities for growth and skill development for employees at all levels and have candid conversations around skill gaps and growth opportunities so that employees understand and align with the vision for their future.
  1. Invest in DE&I—Employees today want to work for a company that is purpose-driven, human centered and makes DE&I a top priority. They want open transparent communication from leadership and believe their organization should lead the charge in creating positive change in the workplace and in the community. DE&I is important to the vast majority of employees, not just under-represented talent and communities. In fact, more than three out of four of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor when considering employment opportunities, and more than 50% of current employees want their workplace to do more to increase diversity.1
  1. Design and align your HR function for success—Gone are the days when transformational HR initiatives can be deployed over the course of months or even years. It’s imperative that your HR function utilize the best organizational design, operating model, and technologies to enable them to remain nimble and continue to lead in the face of uncertainty. Examine the structure of your HR team(s), redefine roles and responsibilities where necessary, and make the investments in HR now to achieve both short- and long-term organizational effectiveness.
  1. Rethink your culture—A strong organizational culture helps attract—and retain—employees. Culture has become even more fundamental to business success over the past year, and many leaders have taken a fresh look at whether they have the right culture to deliver on their future business priorities. A successful culture is one that is aligned to strategy, shaped by leaders’ actions and decisions and reinforced by organizational decisions.
  1. Glassdoor, Diversity and Inclusion Workplace Survey, September 30, 2020.
  2. 2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics report,

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