As companies continue to lose top talent during the Great Resignation, many are quickly trying to fill vacancies by pivoting their recruitment and hiring strategies—adding sign-on bonuses, emphasizing a commitment to flexibility, upping their investment in corporate social responsibility. Instead of focusing solely on hiring new talent, however, HR leaders should also concentrate on “re-recruiting” their existing employees to reduce flight risk and build an invested, engaged workforce.
That was the consensus of a panel of CHROs who belong to the Institute for Corporate Productivity’s CHRO Board and who spoke during a session Tuesday at the organization’s Next Practices Now conference.
“There is a war for talent and the pool we’re trying to siphon from is really small, so now more than ever, HR has to have a tight, strong bond with the business and be agile in its thinking,” said Clint Wallace, senior vice president of HR at global life sciences company Sanofi. “We’ve got to take big swings on new ideas.”
At Sanofi, that has meant re-engaging with the “hearts and minds of talent,” many of whom have become burned out over the last year-and-a-half. That process has involved doubling down on the organization’s vision and purpose and ensuring that the employee value proposition is both inspiring and authentic, Wallace said.
Among its efforts, Sanofi has laid out aggressive diversity and inclusion ambitions, sought to be proactive about creating the new hybrid workplace and rolled out new reskilling and digital transformation initiatives.
On the latter front, that has entailed on-the-job training, coaching, mentoring and matching to short-term, “gig”-like assignments called preceptorships, which has enrolled about 200 employees, allowing those workers to develop their exposure and experience, Wallace said.
Helping employees develop their skills has also been a key focus at Black Hills Corp., an energy company that serves more than a million customers across eight states. Jennifer Landis, senior vice president and CHRO—and a 2020 winner of HRE’s Honor Roll award—said most of the jobs at her organization require some form of tech school training but the organization has invested heavily in “building bridges” for employees who lack the formal education but have the drive.
For instance, it has offered to cover tuition, relocation costs and provide extensive mentoring for call center employees interested in becoming gas operations techs or line mechanics.
“Our goal is to impact generations, not just a single family at a single time,” Landis said. “We’re leaning into this opportunity to reskill while also building loyalty.”
Black Hills is also working to redefine “transferrable skills,” evaluating how to give employees who may lack specific training or experiences the credit for other attributes they bring to the company.
As organizations work to develop employee skills and identify capabilities needed for the future, technology is proving vital, the CHROs agreed. It’s also being tapped to connect current employees to more meaningful work.
Black Hills is in the midst of a more than year-long automation pilot program, which is enabling the company to identify and automate work that is not value-added.
“The technology that’s available makes it not necessary for folks to be doing such automated, routine work that takes a lot of time,” Landis said.
At Providence Health System, the organization is pivoting to automation for tasks like staff scheduling, said Greg Till, executive vice president and chief people officer.
Company leaders found that 30% of nurses’ time is being spent on administrative work—and they’re not happy about it. By automating aspects of the work performed at the health system, HR is looking to not only reduce costs and increase efficiency but also improve employee engagement—and, ultimately, retention.
“Technology is not going to give [employees] more work; it’s going to give them more time to do the work they were called to do,” he said. “[Technology] can be the holy grail in getting faster, cheaper, better work—all with a better experience.”