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Chris Sheppardson

EP Business in Hospitality


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Ethical business: attracting and retaining top talent needs actions, not just words


Right now companies face one of the biggest challenges ever faced in attracting and retaining new talent and every business, large or small, will be affected at some point in the future.  

The corporate world may be changing, few can argue with that, but talent is changing too and with a multitude of layers, beliefs and demands it is becoming even more complex to entice and retain top talent.

As businesses we seek the brightest and best talent around but this requirement is no longer the one-way wish list it once was.  

The balance is tipping in favour of empowered talent. People today are looking for something much deeper from their employment and career prospects.  

Good words are no longer enough for most. Pay rises, career progression, rewards and job satisfaction are all very well but they are not the only things at stake. 

In a recent survey by consultancy Global Tolerance, 44% of workers said that meaningful work that helped others was more important than a high salary, and 36% said they would work harder if their company benefitted society.

It seems that candidates today want to see action, as well as good intentions from their employers.

Expectations and tough questions

We can no longer anticipate the traditional interview pattern where the employer holds all of the cards. 

Today, the power is just as much in the hands of the candidate – in fact it’s easily a 50/50 decision on both sides.  

Employers can expect tough questions from talent and candidates make immediate judgments in reaction to our responses.  

Before we even begin to unpick what those questions might be, however, we have to start questioning ourselves as business leaders in terms of how we are making a difference, not just to our workforce and business, but also to the wider community and society generally.

As businesses continue to compete in the challenge to secure the top talent, ethics and trust move further up the food chain.  

Sustainable strategies, ethical policies, community support, social impact, health and wellbeing really matter to businesses in their quest to secure the best talent today, and they matter to employees too.  

People want to work for companies that they are proud to be associated with, those that stand for something bigger than themselves. They want to be part of businesses that aren’t afraid to take risks in the name of social good or the environment, and those that put their people first.

Shaping the character of your business

Trust is another important factor in attracting and retaining talent today. 

Trust has to be earned and built and for new talent, the only evidence that you run a trustworthy business and team is visible by what you do, what you’ve done previously and how that translates to your local community and the planet as a whole.  

If, for example, you can show that you’ve taken the right steps towards a more eco-friendly business approach, or that you have plans in place to make changes to your carbon footprint, you are setting the tone and shaping the character of your business for the world around you to see.

Words don’t equal action and people have wised up to this fact. Behaviour matters, so businesses need to start behaving with more of a social conscience.  

As businesses continue to compete in the challenge to secure the top talent, ethics and trust move further up the food chain.  

With cases of mental illness and the levels of stress in the workplace increasing daily (NHS Digital suggests that at any one time, one sixth of the adult population has a mental health problem), companies have started to learn that they have to be willing and open to listening more and dictating less.  

Candidates are looking for the best businesses to connect with, those that are physically walking the walk and making a tangible difference to people’s lives. 

Companies that recognise this fact and open themselves up to questions, praise, criticism and feedback can only learn and move forward in our evolving world.  

As leaders we all have varying views and plausible debates as to why businesses struggle to attract the best talent today, but one thing is clear – the there is a need to think differently about how we get the wealth of talent out there through our doors.  

Words don’t equal action

If we are to move forward, new ideas that come from a wider perspective is needed.  

Words don’t equal action and people have wised up to this fact. Behaviour matters, so businesses need to start behaving with more of a social conscience.  

Too many people are opting to join the gig economy instead to venturing into the corporate world.

In the US, gig economy workers accounted for 15.8% of the workforce in 2015, up from 10.1% ten years earlier. by 2020, it’s forecasted that half of the US workforce will be gig workers. This is echoed in the UK, where online marketplaces that fuel the gig economy are forecasted to be worth around £43 billion by 2020. 

This could be for a number of reasons but it seems that the lack of trust in leadership, people being unhappy in their job and the number of lost hours of productivity proves the need for drastic change.

Investment in people and their future career is still vital. Learning and development remains at the forefront when it comes to retaining and engaging talent, but thinking deeper and in a more ‘joined up’ way will carve a clearer path upon which teams and cultures will thrive.

Interested in this topic? Read Ethics in the workplace: what does an ethical business look like?

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