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Marrying Employers’ and Employees’ Wish Lists

Ask a business decision-maker in almost any high-flying Canadian industry to nominate his most consuming corporate concerns, and settle in for some expressed grievances about how managing human capital is more of a trick than ever. The currently soaring pressure to attract and retain talent — and the coincidentally shrinking means to do so — explains why it’s a not-so-envious time to be an HR flack.

An employer’s best bet with this gambit has to begin with understanding what’s important to his prospective hires. Only by identifying priorities can one seek to fulfill them, after all.

Alas, according to a recent study by global professional services firm Towers Watson, employers demonstrating a grasp of this one are few and far between.


Too many managers, the survey revealed, are seriously out of touch with what today’s roster of available talent really wants. When asked what the top three most meaningful attractions for eligible talent are, business leaders picked opportunities for career advancement, a challenging work environment and an organization’s reputation as the winners.

Prospective employees, meanwhile, ticked the salary, job security and career advancement opportunities boxes. Only one common placeholder appeared on both lists and it wasn’t in either of the top two spots. Surely the secret to both-sides-now satisfaction lies in the ability to reconcile the two inventories.

And so the call for managers to hear the truth is loud.

Workers are concerned, first and foremost, with whether they can put food on their tables and clothes on their backs. Only after these necessities are met can they contemplate the particular nuances of their careers’ progress within a particular organization. Bar nothing else, base pay/salary is number one on the list of professional attractions for prospective employees. On top of that, it’s also the biggest retention driver for existing staff.

The sooner employers acknowledge this stripped-down wishlist of their potential workforce, the more productively they can staff their ranks.

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