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What Employees want

Knowing the difference between an attraction and retention strategy will help HR managers navigate the skills shortage. By Dr Danica Hooper, Organisational Psychologist, Drake.

With chronic skills shortages continuing to reverberate throughout Australian organisations, the spotlight has firmly been thrown on the importance of having effective strategies in place to attract and retain key staff.

While today's tight labour market has meant that HR managers have typically concentrated on attracting the right employees to their organisation, employers can make significant gains by retaining, engaging and getting the most out of the talent they already have. With competition for labour and skills so high, an attractioncentric recruitment strategy is almost fuelling turnover among existing staff.

HR managers who engage attraction techniques as retention strategies fail to make the distinction between extrinsic motivators (such as salary and working conditions) which underpin an attraction strategy, and intrinsic motivators (such as job satisfaction and personal fulfilment) which drive an effective retention program.

To educate employers about attraction and retention strategies, Drake conducted a comprehensive survey among more than 400 candidates get a direct insight into what they believe attracts them to a role and keeps them there. The findings present some interesting insights in terms of how to best attract, select and retain top talent.


Drake's survey revealed the number one factor that attracts people to a company is training and development opportunities, with 89% indicating this was an important consideration when choosing a company to work for.

Not surprisingly, the second highest attribute was salary with 86% of respondents citing remuneration as an important element of an attraction package.

The third key attractor was the promise of fun in the workplace. Over three quarters (77%) of respondents said it was important to work in an enjoyable environment. While tricky to define, employees are looking for more immediacy in terms of fun. This means looking at cultural aspects of an organisation which makes turning up to work everyday a pleasant experience, rather than, for example, going on an annual abseiling trip!

Interestingly, the fourth highest attribute that appeals to job seekers is up front salary advertising, with 75% saying it was important to know the salary range before submitting a job application. This indicates that most candidates are not prepared to undergo a potentially extensive interview process only to find out upon being offered a role that the salary is significantly lower than their current remuneration, or salary expectations.

Rounding out the top six attractors was flexible working hours, the equal fifth highest attractor with 72% indicating it was important, along with a straight forward application process, also considered important by 72% of candidates.

Today's time-poor candidates do not want to invest a great deal of time searching and applying for jobs. The current war for talent also means that often they do not need to. Organisations that advertise their likely salary up front and have a straight forward application process are more likely to appeal to job seekers.

There is a big movement away from intensive selection processes, particularly within the public sector. One public sector authority reported a 30% rise in job applications after removing the written component of their selection process. Increasingly, traditional written response based selection criteria is being replaced with standardised resumes tailored to the role, quick skills tests and other psychometric assessments.

Interestingly, a recognisable company brand was the least important attractor for job hunters, indicating candidates may be more attracted to individual motivations, such as training and development and remuneration, which collectively make up the brand promise.

Online job boards are the preferred method for people to find a job. 47.5% solely use this channel to find a job while 43.8% use them in conjunction with newspaper or magazine advertising.


Further highlighting the notion that candidates seek an efficient recruitment process, Drake's research found 77.1% believed hiring decisions should be made within two weeks of submitting a job application.

When it comes to selection activities, job hunters prefer resumes and one-on-one interviews compared to panel interviews and written assessments, which were the least favoured selection methods.

On average, candidates are open to sitting psychometric tests as part of the selection process. This is a promising finding for HR managers, as psychometric testing offers valuable insights into a candidate's suitability for a role including:

1. Can they do the job? Do they have the knowledge, skills and ability to perform the tasks required

2. Will they do the job? Do they have the motivation to apply themselves; and

3. Do they fit the organisation? Will they work well with existing staff and fit into the organisation's culture?

When using psychometric tests as part of the selection process, it is good practice to provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants as it helps to prevent candidates from making their own assumptions about why they did not get the job.


Drake's key findings around employee retention highlighted that candidates will be quick to move roles if something better comes along. While 81.5% of respondents thought they should stay with employers for more than two years, 33.4% across all generations and 62.5% of Generation Y employees (aged up to 26) reported staying less than this period with a single employer.

When you consider that it takes on average 18 months for an organisation to achieve a return on investment on a new hire, and that the average cost of staff turnover is between 30% and 250% of a person's annual salary, a strategic retention strategy is not just an HR imperative, but a financial one.

The good news is that reasons why people do remain in their jobs are relatively consistent and often (although not always) relate to intrinsic motivators which drive job satisfaction. The work itself (34%), good leadership (31%), relationships with immediate supervisors (29%), recognition (28%), and remuneration (26%) were cited as key factors for motivating candidates to remain with an employer.

The top five reasons for leaving a previous role included poor management, unsatisfactory remuneration, issues with immediate supervisors, limited work-life balance, and unmet expectations. The increase in the number of people who leave their job due to salary is not necessarily a shift away from the importance of intrinsic motivators for staff retention, but a reflection on the current competitive marketplace and the knowledge they can potentially earn more elsewhere. Essentially the bar has been raised in terms of what is competitive and fair when it comes to salary.

In terms of unmet expectations, HR Managers can better control the risk of staff leaving through better advertising and selection practices, including the use of realistic job previews.

While extrinsic factors such as pay and benefits are an important element in any attraction strategy, organisations can compete for talent by focusing on intrinsic factors such as development, recognition and good quality working relationships to ensure job satisfaction - and therefore retention of your key staff.

During April, Drake is conducting industry specific employer seminars on attraction, selection and retention to help HR managers navigate the skills shortage. For further information email Drake at marketing@au.drakeintl.com.


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