Winning the so-called war for talent is an enduring challenge for UK businesses large and small. With employment levels at a record high, competition for the brightest stars is fierce as organisations battle to keep talented employees from the clutches of their rivals – and struggle to attract skilled replacements when they fail. It’s a candidate’s market – and the best are playing the field. Talent attraction and retention is now a strategic priority.
Earlier this year, CEOs identified ‘human capital management’ as a primary challenge, while HR leaders cited talent attraction and skills shortages as the two issues most keeping them awake at night. Ironically, their third biggest challenge – remote working – could be the perfect cure for their insomnia, but many still fear it rather than embrace it.
In fact, as organisations strive to become Employers of Choice, the most successful have recognised that technology can play a significant role in luring – and keeping hold of – the brightest stars. Modern business has become the ultimate talent contest. The question is: has your workplace got the X-Factor, or are you Dancing on (thin) Ice? The judges’ verdict is simple: if you’re aiming for the stars, the best way to get there is via the cloud.
We all know that the office environment has changed. In the modern digital workplace, the tools of business are different. But so too are our capabilities, ambitions and expectations. Employees don’t want mobility, connectivity and speed – they expect it.
They also expect personalisation, automation and real-time collaboration. Why? Because we experience it everywhere else in our lives; from how we buy our groceries, to how we bank, watch TV or pay for goods in-store. Technology is pervasive and it’s changed the way we live.
The purists claim we now think ‘digital-first’, but with most consumer technologies we often don’t think at all, we just ‘do’ – instinctively. It’s the new normal, the world we know. However, it’s a world that’s not yet ubiquitous across British businesses.
Britain’s got talent
UK SMEs have got talented employees, but many are being deprived of cloud technologies that are ideally positioned to support them. Those same technologies power our new normal, but many organisations have yet to make the transition to the cloud-based infrastructure that can enhance job satisfaction and drive productivity. Employees are commonly left to work with old, cumbersome legacy systems that slow down processes and drive inefficiencies.
They’re often paralysed by silo systems that thwart timely access to vital data and stifle collaboration – or by software that makes the simplest of tasks become onerous and life-sapping. It’s little surprise that the UK lags behind much of Europe in workforce productivity. Simple and cost-effective tools of productivity are too often overlooked.
The downstream impact on the war for talent is significant. The hygiene factors that help or hinder employee engagement often boil down to attributes rooted in company culture and the workplace environment. Primarily, ambitious employees want to be recognised for doing a good job – but they need to be supported by tools that allow them to be as effective and productive as possible. Where those tools are absent, it’s easy for talented employees to become demotivated and disengaged. It’s just a short walk from there to the recruitment consultancy.
Alongside this, work/life balance is increasingly regarded as a key ingredient of job satisfaction. Flexibility has become a must-have requirement with workers keen to find employment that adapts to the demands and rhythm of modern lifestyles. The trend is forcing organisations to reshape their cultures to enable remote, mobile and home-working. In companies where work/life balance demands have been positively addressed, the uptick in productivity and satisfaction are significant. However, in businesses where old, rigid approaches prevail, the risk of losing talent is real and rising.
Fortunately, modern technology unlocks clear opportunities to enhance job satisfaction and overcome obstacles to employee retention. Cloud computing – which gives organisations enterprise-grade IT infrastructure hosted centrally in secure data centres – provides an agile platform from which companies can deliver a range of tools to support productivity and collaboration. Businesses can – flexibly and cost-effectively – deploy the very latest applications that automate processes, provide complex analytics or maximise the Internet of Things.
The smartest tools can help deskill mundane and repetitive tasks, meaning that employees don’t need to spend all day doing demoralising donkey work, they can instead be liberated to do more creative, productive, high-value tasks. The impact on job satisfaction, recognition and career development is great.
Similarly, cloud technology can open the door to remote and flexible working that supports work/life balance. Although remote working is a perceived headache for HR leaders, this need not be the case. The cloud provides a resilient platform that fuels mobility and connectivity, irrespective of location and physical hardware. Anywhere, any time, any device. Cloud computing enables ‘borderless environments’, giving employees a seamless experience and robust connectivity wherever they are.
Moreover, it allows companies to deliver IT at scale – so as businesses grow and teams get bigger, every employee benefits from access to the same tools, interface and business information. In the process, workers are better supported with technologies that enhance collaboration and communication. This not only helps enables a productive workforce, it makes for happier, more engaged employees.
Stars in their eyes
Cloud technology has long been considered an enabler of operational, productivity and efficiency gains. This is undoubtedly the case. However, its strategic impact on human capital management can often go unnoticed.
Cloud computing can certainly become the backbone of any organisation and drive tangible business value; it can improve processes, unlock revenues and fuel growth. But its innovative application can also become the signature of a progressive company culture and an engine for employee engagement and talent retention.
As the talent contest grows ever-more competitive and companies battle to hold onto their star performers, the final judgement is simple: modern workers – from baby boomers through to millennials – expect their employers to give them the same tools of mobility, connectivity and collaboration that they experience in their everyday lives. And if they don’t get them, they’ll invariably look elsewhere.
Business leaders are fixing their gaze on talent retention. But though the most progressive might have stars in their eyes, they know the key to victory is in the cloud.
Paul Blore is managing director of Netmetix