The world since March 2020 needs little summary. We’ve all experienced the pandemic and changes to everyday living as a result. The pandemic’s side effects are also substantial in the work world, from remote working, to leadership practices, to work-life balance. But perhaps the most notable one is not even occurring within the workplace but instead influencing large numbers of people to exit it.
This, of course, is known as “The Great Resignation.”
The term, “The Great Resignation” first entered the public lexicon in 2021 after economists – and just about everyone else – were shocked by the number of Americans leaving their organizations and the rate at which they were doing it. In April 2021, 2.7% of the workforce left its jobs, a record since broken. In turn, this has led to unprecedented job openings and companies scrambling to fill roles before more staff quit, a trend also reflected globally.
This is an overwhelming situation for those working to build a strong organizational culture and attract and retain talent. After all, building a solid workforce and internal culture was hard enough when we were co-located instead of the current virtual and hybrid models. So how do we mold and sustain a strong culture that satisfies staff and deters them from leaving?
Answers are still limited, but some best practices and new ideas emerge. There are those pointing toward increased internal communications as the key to retaining workers. Others recommend taking an analytical view of what workers most value in their jobs. And there are recommendations for employers to start paying for their employees’ vacations.
But accounting for the biggest worker movement since the industrial revolution requires more than a grab-basket of these solutions. It requires a holistic view of staff and asking our leadership teams essential questions to clarify the future. Among them:
- Who are the strongest, most satisfied performers within our workforce?
- What are the mindsets, behaviors, and skills propelling them to success?
- How do we seed a culture and build a complete roster of employees embodying these characteristics?
Easier said than done? Maybe. In our organization, we began asking ourselves these questions several years before the pandemic. We recognized then that our workforce was fundamentally shifting as more and more digital natives (those born after the widespread adoption of digital technologies) entered our workplace. We increasingly observed new challenges and needs preventing optimal outcomes—for them as individuals and the business unit – leading to unsatisfied workers and higher turnover rates. We knew a quick fix was not going to be our answer. Instead, we knew we had to reimagine how we would identify individuals with the right skills, mindsets, and behaviors to build a new workplace culture and thrive within it.
In short, we needed a new hiring paradigm.
Reverse-Engineering What Makes Top Performers Tick
We began by studying our top sales performers, also graduates of the SAP Academy – a nine- to 12-month training program designed to move talent into the next generation of technology leaders. These individuals overwhelmingly represented our youngest team members. The analysis painted a picture of why they are so successful by clarifying their strengths, values, most demonstrable skills, and how they think and communicate. This information helped rewrite the new optimal candidate profile for hiring.
The new optimal candidate profile is a map for distinguishing the exact mindset, skills, and behaviors we need as an organization, culture, and staff to succeed. The following comprised our profile and could serve as a helpful example:
The Growth Mindset: This mindset views challenges differently and often sees possibilities where others cannot. Instead of operating with an aversion to failure, the Growth Mindset views failure as an opportunity to grow, learn (often with others), and remain curious—even in ambiguous environments. This desired mindset should also deliver characteristics like competitiveness, persevering, and confidence.
Skills/Behaviors: Resourcefulness, proactive, builds and leverages a purposeful network to secure support when needed, leads with empathy, accountable for their self-development, can see the 360-degree-view of the organization, and collaborate across boundaries, and is resilient and willing to be vulnerable.
Hangouts and Strengths Assessments: Ditching the Resume and Interview Combo
Okay, so how do you work through a recruitment phase and identify candidates meeting the exact profile you seek? After all, the typical resume only provides so much information, and in-person interviews have many known limitations. To do this well, we must embrace a process that allows for deeper engagements with candidates and seeks to assess their mindset, behaviors, and skills.
We currently begin with two initial steps, and we believe others can follow a similar path:
Hangout with the Candidate: We recommend moving away from the traditional interview model, prohibiting deeper dialogues that reveal more about the candidate. Instead, find time to ‘hang out’ with the candidate one-on-one and hold a conversation about their views and experiences. Consider the following conversational structure:
- Growth Minded and Resilient – Ask about their biggest failures, career setbacks, and negative feedback received. And more importantly, ask how they responded in each case.
- Results-Focused: Have them discuss their experiences in setting and achieving goals.
- Strong Work Ethic: How do they define hard work and going above and beyond?
- Confidence & Effective Communication: What do they view as the best approaches for persuading, inspiring, teaching, and leading others?
- Inclusive: How do they assuage team members during conflict? How comfortable are they with different ways of thinking?
- Agile & Adaptable: How do they react when a project goes haywire? How quickly do they build new skills?
Add a Qualitative Complement to the Process: You should consider asking all remaining candidates to take a self-assessment on their perceived strengths. There are many tools, so find the one that fits your organization the best. However, the assessment needs to align with your ideal candidate profile as much as possible and provide your team with a data-rich picture of the candidate.
An Immersive Day as the Final Step
This new hiring paradigm concludes with candidates attending an all-day, immersive event. But this isn’t a typical social hour or stock meet-and-greet – this is a recruiting bootcamp. Instead, it asks final candidates to participate in team-based business simulations throughout an eight to 10-hour day, where business leaders can observe candidates in action. The day also includes multiple one-on-one interactions with company leaders. Ultimately, in-person evaluators gauge what they see and hear from candidates and measure it against the optimal mindsets, skills, and behaviors.
Over the last several years, including the time spent in a global pandemic, this hiring approach has yielded strong retention rates, fast risers, multiple external awards, and a culture aligned with what we first sought to create. And even though our recruitment efforts result in fewer than one percent of all candidates making it in, we often receive letters from past participants thanking us for the opportunity to reveal their whole selves during the hiring process. They see the value in fit just as much as we do.
What’s the ultimate lesson? Deliver the right mindsets, skills, and behaviors to your organization if you’re looking to solidify culture and mitigate the risk of adding to the Great Resignation. Ultimately, it’s a win-win for new people coming in the door, as well as those already thriving inside.