It’s great news for job seekers. The economy is adding new jobs, and unemployment remains low in many countries in the APAC region. Recent headlines in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, all signal that the economy has become more of a workers’ market. The flipside for organisations is that they may have to work harder to find and attract top talent. In an environment where there are too many jobs open, there are fewer candidates to go around and current employees are at a much greater risk of looking for opportunities somewhere else. The current scenario puts employee engagement and retention at the centre of HR agendas.

Practically speaking, companies may have to spend more to get the best talent. With an abundance of options, job candidates may be less willing to settle for any job. The same goes for existing employees—if they aren’t paid competitively they’ll be more inclined to seek out better opportunities elsewhere.  

When it comes to reward, organisations shouldn’t blindly increase compensation across the board. Firms should pinpoint in-demand fields where talent is scarce, such as cybersecurity, big data, artificial intelligence, and digital marketing. Rather than take a blanket approach and increase pay or put retention bonuses in for the whole organisation, companies should target the money where it will have the most effect. Indeed, research shows that IT and engineering roles have been the hardest roles to fill for the last three years, and have the highest rates of voluntary turnover.

But an employer can do more to raise its attractiveness than just focus on wages. Companies should double down on employee engagement by focusing on benefits and quality-of-life factors—such as maternity/paternity leave programs or flexible paid time off—and lead with mission and purpose. To retain employees, you also need to keep people energised and excited by the company’s mission and put them in a better position to succeed by enabling them to do their jobs well.

Enabling employees involves two key elements: making sure that people are in the right roles and creating a supportive work environment. This means providing people with the various resources to get things done. Not just financial resources, but tools, equipment, information, and collaborative support from co-workers. Organisations also need to avoid introducing barriers to performance—making sure that employees are not slowed down by red tape, procedural restrictions, and other things that get in the way of getting things done. In order to do this, organisations must evolve their systems and processes from check and control to focus on creating an experience that enables employees tactically, strategically and behaviourally.

Since part of creating an enabling environment is making sure employees have the skills they need to be effective in their roles, training and career development play an important part. Once it might have been possible to treat training as an event that employees attended once or twice a year or when an employee took on a new role. But companies are now have to treat training as an ongoing process. Organisations and the skills they need are rapidly evolving. The skills that may have made an employee successful in the past may no longer be needed for the future. Training and development ensure employees’ skills stay current with changing work demands. Managers and leaders should wear the hat of mentors and coaches to build accountability and trust and to stretch their employees to develop skills and build on their strengths.

Career development is also consistently cited by employees as critical to their satisfaction with an organisation and our engagement data shows that it’s one of the predictors of employee retention. Career development programs can be attractive to job-seekers as well.  A recent Korn Ferry research suggests it’s one of the top priorities for candidates choosing a company today.

Creating an engaged workforce is good not only for attracting and retaining talent, but also for improving company performance: according to our research, companies that engage and enable their employees see up to 4.5 times more revenue growth than companies that don’t. Achieving employee engagement is not an easy task but it’s a key differentiator for any business, specially those experiencing talent shortages.

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About Contributor

Halim Ariff is the Country Manager for Korn Ferry Products Group Malaysia, with 20 years of experience. Halim’s areas of specialisation include Integrated Human Capital Management, Organisational Re-Structuring, Organisational Design, Manpower Optimisation, Performance Management and Strategic Rewards Management.