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Key Priorities For HR Leaders – Attraction, Retention & Engagement of Employees

09 Aug 2022

Celia Moloney

Celia Moloney takes a look at what are the key priorities for HR professionals in recruiting and retention of staff.

Today, many HR leaders are facing an inflection point – how do we attract, retain, and engage the talent we need to remain successful?


Over the last two years, the pandemic has disrupted businesses on a massive scale and Human Resources has been at the very epicentre of it. HR professionals have had to adapt and engage with employees on a much more flexible and proactive level than ever before. They have had to work closely with senior management on creating tailored employee engagement programmes, flexible compensation packages as well as keeping up to date with ever evolving work models — from in-person to virtual and hybrid environments. These are all challenges that HR has had to face and manage on a daily basis.


So what are the major challenges facing HR departments in the war for talent?


Working Models – hybrid vs onsite

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to recruit key talent if employers are not flexible in their working models. As we moved from a remote working environment to a hybrid working model, it became clear that the old working model of 5 days a week in the office was never going to be realistic again for many organisations. While the flexibility of hybrid working seems to be the preferred model, that throws up the question of employee engagement and managing the social dynamic between employees. HR departments, always involved in training, have had to put far more formal arrangements in place when employees are not on-site with their teams to absorb on-the-job training or benefit from learning via osmosis.

There is also the need to respond to those employees who prefer to remain on a remote working model. As any HR professional knows, it can be far easier and more cost effective to retain an existing employee and their knowledge base rather than go to market to recruit someone new. Therefore, responding to individual needs of existing employees could be the preferred option. In an SME, this can be realistic although throws up potential accusations of favouritism. However, in larger organisations, where there are much larger employee numbers, this would not be a realistic option and a hybrid working model is preferred despite running the risk of losing people.


Employee well-being

No longer seen as just another employee benefit, employee wellbeing is almost viewed as a necessity. In the war for talent, every organisation wants to be perceived as an employer of choice, supportive in all aspects of their employees’ lives. This has expanded beyond mere physical wellbeing to include career progression, financial wellbeing as well as being mindful of mental health. In many cases, these types of packages are extended to the employee’s dependents as well.

Once again, this comes down to HR professionals to push at board level to incorporate across the organisation and to come up with an unique proposition that will position them at the top when it comes to choosing a new potential employer.

Working in remote or hybrid working models also has an impact on employee wellbeing and HR professionals have to be very mindful of developing social programmes (both in-person and virtual) that will lessen feelings of isolation.



Compensation & benefits

Getting the reward level right (both in monetary and non-monetary terms) has always been important but it’s become much more crucial in the current candidate short market. It’s no longer simply about the basic salary and standard bonus, it’s about the whole employee value proposition. This can prove vital in the war for talent.

Some organisations were forced to cut costs during the pandemic and with the advent of a supply chain crisis due to a combination of inflation, Brexit and the Ukraine-Russia conflict, companies are still being mindful of costs. However, in order to fully drive their companies towards a successful post-pandemic recovery, they still need to attract and compete for top talent. This is where HR comes in. In looking at overall compensation packages, they can find out what matters most to employees – is it an overall generous list of benefits, offering incentives on employee performance and productivity or designing personalised compensation packages that will prove integral in attracting and retaining key employees? This tends to cross over with employee well-being as HR’s L&D teams try and push enhanced training programmes or supporting employees in their individual charity choices rather than simply bring them all in under a CSR umbrella.



Knowing what the latest technology trends are and adapting them can prove vital for the success of any HR team. AI in particular is proving to be a hugely valuable tool for HR departments particularly in recruitment where AI and machine learning can speed up the CV screening and shortlisting profess. Blockchain is no longer the remit of the IT department as it allows encryption of sensitive information such as employees’ professional, personal and financial data, ensuring greater security of information. Digital learning platforms have also come into their own during and post pandemic. These platforms have created a whole new way of upskilling and training workforces, allowing a greater collaborative and training opportunity and freeing up HR departments to focus on other aspects.


What next for HR?

HR professionals need to increasingly walk a tightrope in supporting business leaders post pandemic, managing any cost cutting measures while still working closely with the workforce to increase productivity and employee engagement. They have to be innovative in adopting new ideas and technologies as well as anticipating future trends.  It’s no easy task but certainly the new breed of HR professionals who have adapted more easily to the massive transformations that have occurred over the last two years, are more than well prepared for it.


Celia Moloney is Manager of Brightwater’s Human Resources division, focusing on the recruitment of HR professionals at all levels.