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Opinion: Don’t lose fundamentals in new hiring trends

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There is no doubt about it: This is a time of immense turmoil in our labor market.

The pandemic has made people reconsider the nature of work and the role that it plays in their lives. It has required employers to reconsider how work is done – and how we may compete with employees now working remotely from different regions of the country.

With these changes, prospective employees now have an unprecedented level of choice, and that is sending reverberations through the labor market. At the same time, baby boomers who held on through the pandemic are now retiring in droves.

In times of great change, employers may be tempted to chase new, trendy approaches. In the long term, though, success is found in pursuing a new take on the fundamentals.

For employers like CoxHealth, the current environment has created an entirely different consideration of what it means to provide meaningful work and how to compete for talent. Recent studies show that, for the first time in my career, employee engagement is not tied to retention. Some of the most engaged employees are considering new opportunities, and employers who continue to play the same old cards on employee engagement are going to struggle to recruit and retain talent.

The last few years have taught our organization much about our resolve and our reliance upon one another. While we will always pursue competitive compensation, it is equally important for CoxHealth to meet our workforce’s basic human needs of feeling respected, having purpose and holding a sense of connection to our organization. Thus, our focus will continue to be upon the fundamentals of belonging.

The current market conditions require us to get back to the basics on how people truly feel about our core mission, vision and values. People want to do meaningful work and to feel tied to a mission that is making a difference. Employers that can provide those elements stand the best chance of successfully navigating the current climate.

This means delivering an outstanding employee experience, both for new talent and for our long-term team members. Too often, employers fall into a trap of undervaluing their existing workforce while trying to attract new workers. It makes more economic sense, and is better for business performance, to retain employees rather than working to continually acclimate new staff.

To retain our best, leaders need to have true, open conversations with our employees. Employers must be considerate and flexible to meet their teams’ needs for family and personal time, and we must recognize the immense emotional and mental stressors in balancing a career and a family in today’s society. At the core, there needs to be collaboration between both parties to ensure we can achieve our business objectives together.

Right now, employees are taking advantage of the current climate to try something new. But the grass truly isn’t always greener. The current mass shuffling we see will settle. In fact, multiple recent articles covering the “Great Resignation” are now indicating upwards of 20% report regret in their decision to leave their last role. Our former employees will want to come home, and when that happens, we need to be ready to welcome them.

While we’re going to have to think differently about how we get work done with fewer individuals in our working population overall, organizations that focus on the fundamentals will succeed. At its heart, people want to belong in an organization that values them and respects them, gives them a voice and purpose and gives them opportunities to grow.

As always, organizations that provide meaningful work tied to a mission employees can believe in, while simultaneously adjusting to ever-evolving employee expectations, will not only survive today, but also they will thrive well into the future.

Andy Hedgpeth is vice president of human resources for CoxHealth. He can be reached at andrew.hedgpeth@coxhealth.com.

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