Winning over and retaining the best talent has never easy, but employers today are finding it harder than ever to find people with the right skills to fill key vacancies. If businesses are to keep growing and evolving they need new ways to attract and engage the talented employees that will take them on that journey.

Interestingly, recent research from Mercer suggests that some businesses may be overestimating their ability to fill critical roles. Nine out ten organisations anticipate the competition for talent will increase in 2016, and 70% are confident that they can fill critical roles with internal candidates. The kicker is that nearly one-third (28%) of employees who responded to the survey plan to leave their current job in the next 12 months.

Unless businesses take action, the people they have pegged to ensure their future success may not be around when the time comes.

Part of the issue is that many companies aren’t currently in a position to compete for talent successfully. Mercer’s research also reveals that 85% of businesses admit their talent management programmes and policies need an overhaul, but instigating and managing these changes requires support from leadership. In addition, delivering modern HR requires modern HR systems that are more in keeping with the demands of a technology-savvy workforce.

Mercer is clear in its findings: Companies looking to retain the best workers should update and expand their employee development programmes and other processes. And yet only 4% of HR professionals said the HR function is viewed as a strategic partner within their organisation.

It’s a conclusion that we at Oracle agree with completely. Our own Simply Talent: A Western European Perspective uncovered similar trends in Western Europe. We found that most employees desire more proactive, regular interactions with their managers, improvements that are underpinned by better employee engagement initiatives, but that once again very few (3%) workers see the HR department as having an important role in driving employee engagement.

Clearly there remains a gap between the engagement programmes being run by the business and HR, and what employees now expect from their employers.

So how can companies create a culture that attracts the best people and keeps them on board? The first step is to invest in understanding what motivates and engages their employees. With HR at the helm, managers should be mapping out the employee journey from on-boarding to retirement to see where points of friction may arise so they can do whatever is possible to mitigate them. This approach is similar to the way retailers and customer service teams map out the customer journey to make it more satisfying and convenient.

Regular dialogue with employees is also essential. The days of annual reviews are long gone; today’s employees need to feel they are both appreciated and that their needs are understood, and this can only happen if line managers and senior team members have more frequent, focussed discussions with employees about their career path and progress.

Most importantly, these discussions must be followed by action. If employees feel nothing comes from their talks with managers they will be more inclined to seek a company that delivers on its promises. Our research found that less than one-third of employees believe their company is proactive about engaging with them. The time has come for a sea-change in how businesses communicate with their people.

Employees are every company’s most precious resource – in deed as well as in word. HR must take the lead in fostering an employee-focused work culture where development, training, education and support are treated as a priority and a true dialogue exists between employees and their managers. Those companies that adapt to this new reality will be in the best possible position to ensure they have the right talent to achieve their future ambitions.





HCM Strategy Director at Oracle.

Andy has been at Oracle for 19 years. As an HCM Evangelist he has a thought leadership role and works closely with strategic customers to explore the opportunities offered by leading-edge HR solutions. He was previously responsible for delivering significant business transformation programmes in the UK and EMEA, across a variety of industry sectors. Prior to joining Oracle, Andy was Head of Management Development for a leading UK retailer.