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9 minute read

How to Attract Talent in a Candidate-short Market

In a globalised hiring market where competitors can easily outbid you in a remuneration war, competing for candidates based on salary alone is no longer sustainable. Recruiting now goes beyond what you can offer, and is also about what you stand for.

The Talent Trends 2023 survey report by Michael Page found that salary was still ranked first on a list of job motivators across the Asia Pacific.

However, salary alone is not enough to attract talent to jobs. 45% of respondents in Singapore shared that they are willing to reject a promotion if they believe it will have a negative effect on their well-being. If a candidate receives multiple job offers, they may not necessarily pick the role offering the highest salary.

Here are other factors to consider when trying to attract talent in a competitive market.

Provide information on career advancement opportunities to job seekers

High-performing, talented job applicants are keen to improve their skills, making career growth opportunities big motivators for them to join an organisation. Across the Asia Pacific, career progression and promotions have emerged as the second most important job motivator, after salary, according to the Michael Page Talent Trends 2023 report.

In Singapore, career progression ranked third in the Talent Attraction Index, three places higher than in 2022. This means it has become crucial to provide candidates with transparent information on their career path in the company, as well as to enable current employees to advance within the company in order to retain them.

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Employees have always been interested in career progression in APAC. In Michael Page’s report, a lack of upskilling options was one of the top three reasons that would cause employees to leave their jobs voluntarily across all levels of the company, from entry-level workers to VPs.

Additionally, 39% of Singapore respondents said that a lack of career progression or promotion will lead them to resign.

Career growth opportunities can also come in the form of mentorship, an essential part of a talent attraction programme. Not only do employees benefit from these initiatives, but organisations can also enjoy higher engagement, retention, and knowledge-sharing, hence boosting their employer branding to attract top talent.

Flexibility is now considered a universal right, not a luxury

Post-COVID-19, companies have learned how to implement flexible working arrangements for employees.

“Flexible work is here to stay,” says Nilay Khandelwal, Managing Director at Michael Page Singapore. “It boils down to the trust created in the last three years of hybrid work. Culture gets created on the back of becoming comfortable with that model.”

Depending on the job scope and industry, employers need to consider flexibility as an essential part of the employee experience. The Michael Page Talent Trends 2023 Report has highlighted that:

  • 88% of respondents with no managerial responsibilities said that hybrid working is the most important aspect of flexibility, and 86% of respondents in their 50s feel the same way.
  • 80% of employees with senior-level managerial responsibilities said flexible working hours are most important, and 70% of parents feel the same way.

The findings show that flexibility requirements do not just come from one category of employees – everyone wants flexibility at work.

“Flexibility has to be customised to individuals, and it also depends on the industry. Some people love the concept of going to the office, while others don’t. It also depends on your work environment. For instance, in Hong Kong, everyone goes to the office because homes are small,” adds Khandelwal.

“The important thing is to have a choice. It is not flexible if it is defined. Everyone views employee engagement differently and relates to flexibility differently,”

Organisations that embrace flexibility have significantly better retention rates. People don’t want hard and fast rules when it comes to flexibility — they want the trust to make the right decisions. The ability to retain talent will improve with adaptive flexibility policies that target individual needs rather than one-size-fits-all rules.

Bring company culture across to jobseekers and showcase it at every touchpoint

It can be fuzzy to define, but candidates usually know good company culture when they experience it.

Employees want to work in a place built on respect, trust and kindness. For companies to attract, retain, and grow talent that will bring them long-term success, they will need to create a people-first culture. This will boost team morale, enhance collaboration, and improve overall productivity and performance.

The question is, how can job candidates experience your company’s culture before they accept the job offer?

It is vital not to underestimate each touchpoint with a potential new employee, starting with advertising job descriptions and how HR personnel or hiring managers sound when they speak to the candidates over the phone or email.

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Treat job descriptions as a proposal that will be mutually beneficial. Clearly state what it will take to succeed in the role and what the candidate can stand to experience, learn, and achieve within the position and company.

“Hiring managers can humanise the conversation. They can share their experiences at that company and talk about what they enjoy about their jobs, not the technical aspects but just what makes them happy to go to work, what the hybrid work arrangements are like, etc.” explains Sonia Fernandez, Associate Director at Michael Page Thailand. “These would help bring across the company culture at your organisation. Also, the interview session should not be treated as an interrogation. It is a two-way conversation.”

The best way to attract candidates is through positive word of mouth. It is no secret that candidates look at reviews on Glassdoor to get an idea of a company’s culture before applying for their open roles. Internally, organisations need to connect employees to corporate initiatives that encourage collaboration, transparency, and trust.

A great company culture improves employer branding, making your company more appealing to top candidates. According to Glassdoor’s Statistical Reference Guide for Recruiters in 2020, almost all employees (93%) mention company culture in their reviews on the site, making it clear just how important it is to them.

The same report revealed that having an overall rating on the website that’s one star higher — a score that includes points for positive company culture — attracts talent six times more effectively than paying a higher salary.

Demonstrate commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I)

The rise in awareness of diversity comes at a time when modern organisations are increasingly structured to be collaborative and team-based, and there is ample evidence that those who effectively recruit and manage a diverse workforce have a clear competitive advantage.

According to Thomson Reuters’ Diversity and Inclusion Index, companies with a greater gender mix and ethnic diversity consistently outperform the rest by up to 21%.

Paludan adds that more candidates are now bringing up DE&I during discussions on job interviews. They are asking if companies have a DE&I strategy, how that aligns with the overall company strategy, and how it manifests in their company culture.

According to the Michael Page Report, 59% of respondents have asked or will consider asking about a company’s DE&I policies at job interviews, of which 70% are Baby Boomers and 85% are Gen Z. In comparison, Millennials make up 56%, and Gen X are 59%.

On top of that, 32% of respondents say they would withdraw from interviews or job opportunities if they observed a lack of DE&I policy and commitment from potential employers. People want to work in a place where they are heard and valued, and where there’s psychological safety to express their ideas and opinions.

Aside from reading about the DE&I policies companies may have on their websites, candidates can easily observe the level of diversity and inclusion in a company by going through the respective company’s LinkedIn account and looking at the profiles of its employees.

Hire from alternative sources and sectors, and focus on primary skill sets

Companies should also consider candidates from different industries with similar skill sets, diversifying their talent pool.

According to Sharmini Wainwright, Senior Managing Director at Michael Page Australia, hiring managers tend to stick to a linear hiring process, missing out on potential hires elsewhere.

“For instance, many hiring managers only consider potential hires from the same industry. Many don’t stand back and think: ‘What skill set am I looking for? What other job functions and industries can I recruit from?’ But that mindset is slowly changing.”

She adds: “If organisations want a solid chance at addressing the talent shortage problem, many realise they will need to get creative and hire from sources they might not have previously considered. If a potential candidate has the primary skill set but not the technical knowledge, it could be organising training sessions or upskilling them to get them up to speed.”

Offer great employee experience

Several factors contribute to a holistic employee experience:

  • Adequate pay
  • Clear career advancement path in a company
  • Flexibility
  • Hybrid work arrangements
  • Upskilling and reskilling opportunities

According to Toby Truscott, Managing Director at Michael Page Japan, “It is important not to underestimate the impact of having changes to working conditions thrust suddenly upon us as a result of the pandemic. Whilst many have enjoyed working remotely, many have also experienced isolation and fatigue. Moving forward, it is important to provide choices to employees.”

In this post-COVID era, offering flexibility and hybrid work models at the workplace are no longer substantial perks. The Asia-Pacific talent emphatically demands flexibility, yet the day-to-day experience of work flexibility is entirely individual.

The desire for flexibility and hybrid work models is consistent across all seniority levels in an organisation, even for those at C-suite levels, and across all generations, even Gen Z (1965-1980) and baby boomers (1946-1964).

Focus on strengthening your employer brand, not your company brand

Large organisations may lean on their well-marketed company brands, but this strategy is no longer viable in this new era of talent acquisition in a candidate-driven market.

The Michael Page report also found that employers overvalue the importance of their company brand by 49% when it comes to attracting talent in Singapore.

“Those with a good company brand think people would want to work with them just because of their well-perceived company brand image. However, that is not the case; and companies that still think this way would not be able to attract and retain talent efficiently if they do not work on their employer branding,” Rhiannon Guilford, Director at Michael Page Philippines, explains.

“Candidates are asking more in-depth questions about a company’s vision and how companies give back to the community. I advise companies to convey a simple, clear, and consistent message throughout the interview process,” says Olly Riches, Senior Managing Director of Indonesia, Singapore and Philippines, and Page Executive SE Asia.

In a world where money is no longer the sole motivator for employees, organisations need to move towards creating and maintaining a positive and meaningful company culture and employee experience to retain the best and brightest. They also need to focus on developing a strong employer brand and offer clear career growth opportunities.

This article is contributed by Michael Page.

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