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What Leaders Need to Know When Looking for Top Talent

By Lyn Currie

We are in the midst of a talent redefinition with 40% of people saying that they plan on leaving their current employer. Furthermore, those who are looking for new opportunities, are looking for organizations that put culture at the center of their business strategy – organizations whose culture is fueled by purpose and by values.

As leaders, how do we address this shifting landscape? 

It starts by keeping the seismic shifts we have all experienced in the labor market over the past couple of years top of mind.

In our executive search business at DRiWaterstone Human Capital, we interview people every day about potential new executive opportunities and making a career change. What we’re seeing – what everyone is seeing – is that the labor market has changed. This change started before COVID, but the past two years have accelerated shifts to how and where we work, how we feel about work, how we get recruited, and how open we are to being recruited. Leaders looking to attract top talent today need to embrace these changes and lean into a redefined recruitment market.

How we work
With work from home, we’ve seeing an increased reliance on tools and technology, the blurring of work and home life and duties, and people working on more projects in solitude. People today are looking for the flexibility that work from home brings, but that needs to be balanced out with the right tools, and the right opportunities to build and maintain connections and to collaborate in meaningful ways with internal teams, clients, and customers.

How we feel about work
Many of us have experienced feelings of isolation and a yearning for connection. But what we’re also seeing is that many of us are questioning the “why” of work, and questioning what our organizations stand for and how we fit in. Purpose, and a connection to purpose, have become key factors for candidates from entry level positions right up to senior executives.  Knowing your organization’s purpose, building that purpose into a well-defined Employee Value Proposition, and then actively looking for ways to connect your team members to that purpose is key in today’s market.

How we get recruited – and how open we are to being recruited
Today’s tight labor market means that most candidates are being pursued for multiple opportunities. But we’re also seeing an increased number of candidates dipping their toe into the job market – often out of curiosity more than a desire to move, but that doesn’t mean the right offer won’t tempt them away.

We have all heard about the “Great Resignation” and we know that compensation has jumped to record levels. That has allowed candidates (many who are happy in their existing roles) to explore their options. They are curious as to what else is out there and how much they might be worth. It can be an exciting and informative journey for candidates; but, for employers the result is that they can go far down the hiring path with a candidate only to have that candidate decide to stay with their current employer. This leads to a lot of offers, counter offers, and time spent – but with poor results.

Leaders looking to hire top talent in today’s market need to take each of these elements into consideration. And don’t forget to factor demographics into the equation! Many mid- and later-career employees are yearning for work from home scenarios, but many newer entrants into the workforce are, perhaps counter to what we all may have predicted, yearning for an in-office culture (one that includes social activities and group projects) where they can connect and collaborate in-person.

The talent acquisition landscape has changed. Companies looking to recruit top talent today need to ensure that they have the programs and processes in place to address these shifts while putting their purpose and their culture front and center.


To find out more about talent acquisition, visit our website or contact us.

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By the year 2025, millennials are expected to account for 75% of the global workforce.

While Gen X (born 1961 to 1981) is known as the independent and entrepreneurial generation, millennials are a more collaborative group that thrives on mentorship, teamwork, and strong communication. This makes them a valuable asset to any business or organization.

The Pew Research Center defines millennials as individuals born between 1981 and 1996. As the first generation that grew up in the Internet age, they’re often known for being bold, tech-savvy, highly educated, and adaptive to change. Millennials are also risk-takers.

Unlike previous generations that often struggle with change, millennials are generally more able to accept novel things and ideas. They are also able to listen to diverse perspectives and work with other people easily.

Many millennial professionals report that they are thinking less about money, and more about jobs that closely align with their values, advocacies, and passions. They value company culture more than past generations.

study by Fidelity Investments shows that millennials would be willing to give up $7,600 in salary every year in exchange for a career that offers more meaningful work, better work-life balance, healthier company culture, and excellent career development opportunities. This is a marked shift from older generations who are generally believed to consider salary as a top factor in employment choices.

Purpose over paycheck

Millennials are not afraid to leave a job when an employer fails to meet their needs – a fact that organizations are seeing play out in a very real way two years into the global pandemic. Where many baby boomers were once happy with working any 9-5 job that provided security for them and their family, millennials are after something more than a paycheck. They are looking for job purpose and organizational values that align seamlessly with their personal beliefs and values.

One of the challenges for companies today is figuring out how to transform processes, cultures, and environments to meet the needs and demands of this generation. To help you get started, we pulled together three things today’s employee looks for in a job.

  1. Flexible arrangements and remote work opportunities

Research shows that 40% of job candidates around the world believe that flexibility in schedules and work models are guiding their career decisions.

Flexibility means different things for different people. Some prefer compressed hours while others choose flextime arrangements, where the employee chooses when to start and end work as long as they fall within specific core hours.

For others, flexibility might mean avoiding the rush-hour commute and working entirely from home. Flexible remote working also results in a better work-life balance and reduces the risk of burnout among employees.

A desire for flexible work models is common among millennial professionals. In fact, a Bentley University study indicated that 77% of millennial workers believe flexible work hours would increase their productivity.

  1. Fast adoption of collaborative technologies

Millennials are first-generation digital natives. They grew up in the era of computers, digital devices, and the world of social media. According to the Pew Research Center, 86% of millennials say they use social media and more than 9 in 10 millennials own smartphones, compared with 90% of Gen Xers.

As a tech-dependent generation, millennials expect virtual tools and smart technologies to be readily available in the workplace. If companies aim to attract millennials to their teams, they must prove that they are forward-thinking by adopting devices that allow employees to be more efficient and productive.

Poor or slow technology can drive away top talent. This is a group that wants collaborative technologies that are fast, intuitive, and easy to use. Examples are instant communication tools, video conferencing platforms, and screen-sharing tech that help simplify project management and facilitate group work, both remote and in-office.

Collaborative virtual tools also help employees feel connected with clients, managers, and colleagues at any time and from anywhere.

By embracing innovation in the workplace, companies will have an easier time attracting and retaining high-performing talent. Digital adoption provides employees with the necessary tools and resources to achieve their goals and perform better.

  1. Personalized learning strategies

According to a study conducted by the venture capital firm, Accel Partners, and software firm, Qualtrics, sufficient training is the leading factor millennials consider when starting a new job.

Because they grew up surrounded by evolving technology and connectivity, this group approaches workplace challenges differently and thus, requires a unique learning approach. The challenge for companies is to transform employee training in a way that satisfies this generation’s desire for innovation and self-development.

Some tools that organizations are using to successfully leverage with the leaning needs and styles of this group include:

  • E-learning tools like e-books, digital libraries, and online classrooms that allow employees to learn at their own pace and have quick access to the knowledge they need (some employers are even using  AI and virtual reality (VR) to upskill workers in a safe and affordable manner);
  • Gamification (using point systems, badges, avatars, and leaderboards) transforms training into more engaging, easier to understand, and more memorable experiences, and  mimics the ways in which this group of employees consume content outside of work (a 2019 report by Nielsen showed that two in three millennials play video games every month; they also spend roughly six hours per week watching gaming video content).
  • Microlearning – the exchange of knowledge in small, digestible components – is growing in popularity as employees look to take advantage of new learning in their increasingly busy lives. Courses are often broken down into sessions that last around 10 minutes long, on average.

Grow your millennial workforce

If you’re expanding your team, we can help you recruit top high performing talent. Contact us to discuss your recruitment needs.

Reprinted with permission from Waterstone Human Capital

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By Nicole Bendaly and Marty Parker

A robust body of research has clearly established that how you do things drives outcomes. The pandemic coupled with the transition to a younger workforce that is focused on connecting their personal meaning and purpose to their work has accelerated a realization that was already taking hold: Prioritizing culture is good business.

PwC’s 2021 Global Corporate Culture study reveals that 66% of C-suite executives and board members now believe that culture is more important to performance than an organization’s strategy and operating model. We know through our own experience with Waterstone Human Capital’s Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures awards program that organizations that put culture at the centre of their business strategy, measure corporate culture, and take the time to participate in organizational culture assessments benefit from improved employee engagement, increased retention, and better performance.

The reality is whether you are purposeful about it or not, you have an organizational culture. If you do not define and set the course for culture, it will define itself. The only way to ensure you are creating and living the culture you want to embody is to measure it.

What it takes to measure culture

While many organizations have tools (such as surveys) in place to measure employee engagement, they represent just one aspect of measuring culture. Through our own research of best-in-class organizations, Waterstone Human Capital has identified 10 drivers of winning cultures and we use these behaviors to measure organizational culture. These drivers are:

  • Ownership/Accountability
  • Collaboration/Teamwork
  • Customer Focus
  • Competitiveness
  • Innovation/ Agility
  • Growth
  • Work Environment
  • Clarity of Leadership Communication/Organizational Purpose
  • People Focus
  • CSR/Environmental Sustainability

Five reasons every organization needs to measure culture

1.   To establish a clear understanding of the current state of the culture

Culture is the way an organization does things. It’s how people show up; the behaviors they demonstrate.  Culture is going to be unique to each organization – that’s why it’s so powerful. It’s also why it’s critical to measure culture and understand the actual lived experience of the culture from everybody’s perspective. Unless and until you have an accurate, holistic understanding of the state of your culture, you won’t know what the strengths or the risks of your culture are, whether or not your culture will be able to get you to where you want to go, and what your people need to bring their best selves to work.

2.   To engage your people in culture

Measuring culture is an important opportunity to let your people know that it’s a priority, that you want their honest perspective on the state of the culture, that you are committed to building and strengthening culture, and that their voice matters. It is also a way to communicate to leaders and team members the specific behaviors and practices that drive performance in your organization.

3.   To align culture to strategy

Measuring culture ensures the business is moving in the right direction. It’s what will let you know whether or not your people have what they need to execute the strategy and how the culture needs to shift to meet strategic objectives. There is no such thing as the status quo. If growth isn’t happening, deterioration is. Regularly assessing culture both quantitatively and qualitatively will ensure culture and strategy are aligned and that you are shaping the path you want to be on – and staying the course.

4.   To attract and retain talent

The great resignation upped the competition for talent at a time when organizations were already struggling to adapt to a different set of expectations from younger workers. Millennials and Gen Z are used to being asked for their input and how they are feeling. It’s how they were raised. They are also acutely focused on purpose and meaning and how they personally and their organizations are impacting the world. Measuring culture is critical to providing the kind of work experience today’s workforce wants.

5.   To be able to adapt quickly

We are more connected than we’ve ever been, and the world is moving faster than it ever has. At the same time, culture is harder to see because of the hybrid work environment. Measuring culture is important to maintain the health of the organization so you can adjust to each new challenge and opportunity.

Taking the first step in measuring culture

Companies that are excited to take the first step and start measuring company culture don’t always know where to begin. For some, it involves adjusting existing employee surveys; for others it means starting from scratch. Either way, the Waterstone Culture Institute can help. Waterstone ENGAGE™ is an annual employee survey program that will equip you with actionable data about your corporate culture, employee engagement and the level of trust in your organization. For more information, contact our team.

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