Keeping a watch on your talent

Written by
Changeboard Team

17 Sep 2015

17 Sep 2015 • by Changeboard Team

Talent is an increasingly critical differentiator of corporate performance. The best companies realise that talent is a scarce resource and poses one of the most significant barriers to growth. As the reliance on knowledge workers intensifies and shifting workforce demographics increase, companies must understand the diverse preferences and expectations of different segments in the workforce to meet current and future business needs.

Following the global economic downturn, many hiring managers assume top talent is more readily available. However, companies must work harder and smarter if they are to attract and retain employees in order to gain advantage over their competitors.

What attracts Millennials to roles today?

With all of the buzz around Millennials, it can be tough to separate myth from reality. However, by having a better understanding about how and what Millennials – and other generations – think about their work and what expectations they have about their careers, you can get more from this very talented generation.

Millennials are more likely than other generations to use social media to learn about potential employers, but less than a third actually trust the information they read there. You can use social media to reach candidates, but avoid overestimating its engagement value. Job seekers across all generations place the most trust in friends and family when looking for jobs, so traditional channels such as referral programmes are still important.

Our data reveals Millennials are not as motivated by money as older generations. Instead they put top priority on opportunities to develop and grow, demonstrate the talents they have and progress through the company. Managers should identify opportunities for Millennials to learn critical skills on-the-job. By emphasising the opportunity to learn and make an impact, organisations can appeal more to Millennials.

Millennials want to ‘experience hop’ rather than ‘organisation hop.’ It’s true that more than half are looking externally for career opportunities, compared with 37% of Generation Xers and 18% of Baby Boomers. However, Millennials value internal job opportunities almost as much as other generations do. You can attract and retain Millennials more successfully by offering diverse career opportunities within your organisation.

Why are women under-represented in leadership?

Today, men outnumber women in leadership positions globally, which is a major challenge. Although investments have been made to increase women’s representation in leadership, HR neither sees desired results, nor believes strategies are effective. Leading organisations realise that improving the representation of female leaders is crucial to business success.

Our research shows that there is little or no difference in leadership potential or ability between the genders. When women are asked whether they have the desire to advance to the next level in an organisation, 69% say yes compared with 74% of men. Yet, when asked whether they specifically want to achieve an executive position, 18% of women say yes in contrast to 36% of men – exactly half the proportion.

Female employees are aspirational, but they need to see the opportunities available on the leadership track, so you should create visibility for them. Additionally, female leaders voluntarily take time off work for family reasons at a rate much higher than men, so firms must create paths for women who temporarily ‘opt out.’

Our research shows that attrition in female talent is a gradual process; women account for just over half (51%) of the non-management workforce. This goes down to 40% for first and mid-level manager positions, 32% at the department head level and just 21% when you reach top executive level.

We are looking at a long-term trend throughout the career cycle, not an obstacle at a specific point where female talent is stalled. It’s the cumulative effect of microissues that slows or stops women’s journeys to the top. Employers need to address these challenges by breaking through the micro-barriers along the way. For example, women at all levels cite flexi-time as the most effective tool to promote female careers so consider making flexible working the norm rather than the exception.

Addressing boardroom culture

A major cause of this difference between genders starts with boardroom culture. Women look for a “reciprocating” working context that values their contribution. By contrast, men are more likely to be driven by opportunities to exercise influence and authority. They are more likely to be driven by fear of failure, or being seen to fail.

As boards tend to be male-dominated, there’s a risk that the prevailing culture deters women from seeking leadership roles. To remedy this disparity and ensure you don’t switch off the next generation of female graduates, or lose women who are already on the leadership track, you need to balance the boardroom culture so more women will be keen to continue their career path to the top.

Given the business impact of open vacancies for critical roles, organisations can’t afford to adopt ‘one-size-fits-all’ talent strategies. Instead, to ensure long-term business success for the future, you should target key segments, harness data-driven insight about the preferences of these populations, and prioritise investments to better engage and retain them.

Clare Moncrieff, HR executive advisor, CEB
Clare’s role is to engage HR executives and use CEB resources to guide individual and organisational decisions across human capital areas.


Jean Martin, talent solutions architect, CEB
Jean helps companies to understand issues relating to talent management and overcome the barriers to drive organisational performance.