High employee retention rates are no longer the mark of a successful business. Today’s workforce consists of an amalgamation of generations, all with very different expectations of their employer. As such, there is no one size fits all when it comes to recruiting and retaining new talent.

HR teams are facing a reality where 43% of millennials envisage leaving their jobs within two years. Employees now have more choice over how and where they work. If their business isn’t giving them what they want, they have no hesitation in going elsewhere to develop their skills and achieve their goals.

The combination of new technologies, shifting skill demands and the evolving preferences and expectations of employees, means new approaches to recruitment and retention have to take precedence. If they don’t, HR departments risk letting their businesses fall behind and losing talent to their competitors.

Transforming expectations of the workplace

Employers need to strike the balance between making the most of the talent they have while also bringing in fresh talent. In order to do this, it is crucial for HR professionals to understand exactly how the workforce has changed and what new expectations employees have of their employer.

Large salaries with yearly appraisals are no longer enough to entice and encourage employees to remain at with a business. Employees are far less attached to the idea of working for a single employer or progressing in a singular direction, feeling free to move around. We are seeing a growing trend of people moving to flexible work hours and freelancing. In fact, nearly 40% of freelancers are planning to remain working in that manner.

More so than ever, employees are aware of the importance of well-being and understand that the way they work can have a huge impact on this. When both employer and employee take responsibility for making it work, flexible working can be a powerful retention tool. The freedom of letting employees organise work around their lives, as opposed to the other way around, can have a hugely positive impact on both productivity and employee engagement.

Millennials are rapidly making up the majority of the modern workforce and are bringing in a drastically different outlook to what they expect from their employers. They have grown up completely reliant on technology. They are highly skilled, quick to pick things up and are master multi-taskers. Millennials thrive off challenges but having a good work/life balance is essential for them.

Being a generation of digital natives, there is a clear expectation from millennials to want to know everything as it happens and to constantly feel valued. In this way, regular, real-time feedback is becoming a key part of acquiring and retaining new talent. The traditional annual or bi-annual appraisals are no longer fit for purpose. The modern worker wants to be listened to. They want to know when they’ve done well, how they can progress and they want to know now.

This influx of new generations into the workforce is not only causing a shift in how HR retains talent, but also the way in which businesses acquire the best people. Today’s workforce has acquired skills that didn’t exist a few years ago, meaning traditional recruiting is proving to be ineffective and outdated.


It has become apparent that traditional routes into the workplace are failing to adequately match people to suitable vacancies. This means that thousands of skilled workers who can approach problems from fresh angles are being overlooked.  To overcome this, other techniques need to be used to test people’s skills. Welcome to gamification.

Currently being used by Google and trialled by SD Worx in Belgium, gamifying recruitment is proving to be a successful approach. In short, candidates are invited to take part in three or four ‘games’ which include answering fairly general questions, as well as responding to real client issues. The purpose of this recruitment process is to observe individuals, focusing on how they communicate, process information and manage their time. It is about finding the right people for the business and role, irrespective of background and work trajectory.

Gamification is already seeing an increase in the percentage of people hired. Taking a traditional approach to hiring saw 5% of candidates hired, as opposed to 10% when adopting the gamification technique. Likewise, traditional recruitment tended to attract applicants with suitable academic or specific skills sets. Whereas there is now a diverse range of applicants from varied backgrounds motivated by wanting a career change. This shift in candidate profiles is something that simply would not have been possible with traditional recruiting.

Out with the old, in with the new

Talented employees are absolutely vital to any business. In order to stay ahead of the competition, businesses need to enable HR professionals to take a wider perspective on their recruitment and retention strategies. These strategies must be aligned to the needs of the new workforce. The key to successful talent management is encouraging HR teams to embrace technology as part of their talent strategy to ensure they attract and retain the best talent in what has become an extremely fickle job market.

Author: Fiona McKee, Head of Human Resources, at SD Worx