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Attracting and retaining talent in a rapidly changing employment landscape – a result of economic instability and changing cultural ideals about success and careers – is a constant concern for many of my clients and colleagues.

Three big ideas that will influence your talent strategy – Part 3

Recent conversations have brought up three key themes:

  1. The new world of diversified career journeys: changes in the employment market are influencing how talent think about their careers.
  2. The significance of experiential careers: how experience is having the biggest emotional impact on engagement for people coming into workplace now.
  3. Personal and organisational narratives: how employers need to consider presenting the experience of working in their organisation.

Over the course of this series, I have attempted to shed light on what these three themes mean. If our careers are becoming more diversified and our appetite for experiences is driving our decisions, then embracing strong stories is the next step in attracting, retaining and engaging employees.

Personal and organisational narratives

Just like actors in a play, employers now want to be part of a good story. They are not happy just watching stories unfold in front of them. Furthermore, employees want to decide which character they play and how they contribute to the story.

Once upon a time, employees were happy to ‘carry the bosses bag’ and aspire to one day having the corner office. Now, they want to be a boss (even in a small way) much more quickly. Some may say this is particularly the case for the ‘self-entitled’ millennial generation, who are confident in communicating what they can do and ask about where/how they can be used.

By using narratives, there is an exciting opportunity for organisations to give employees a sense of what story they are acting in, the story of their business and why it is exciting. For individuals, it offers the opportunity to ask themselves what their personal, career story is. What part do they want to play?

This has two implications for talent. Firstly, individuals have greater scope to seek work at a place that has meaning for them. When we are an actor in our own story we feel a much greater sense of meaning. Secondly, employers who have a strong yet simple and powerful narrative can have far richer conversations with their employees based on questions like: What do you think the story is? What would be a great part for an actor like you in this story?

Employers need to be clear on the overarching or ‘big’ story (growth, innovation, world domination) and ensure that employees know what it is. Furthermore, leaders need to consider how the story can be adapted to each part of the organisation. The most powerful narratives are built when leaders and employees create the plot and cast together.

When the story is too restrictive, there will be few opportunities for employees to play the role(s) that they are best suited to. There are too many examples of leaders (particularly in large organisations) deciding on the plot, the roles and the cast resulting in employees choosing to audition elsewhere.

However, narratives require a 50/50 commitment. Employees need to take responsibility for being clear on their role, what part they want to play and be prepared to pro-actively audition for what they want.

I hope this series has deepened your appreciation of these three ‘big’ themes. However, the challenge now lies in understanding the implications they have on an organisation’s talent strategy. Over the course of several articles this year, I hope to investigate and share with you what these three big themes mean in practice throughout the talent cycle.