There are some key themes cropping up in all of the conversations I’m having with members at the moment. These range from more support for female-led entrepreneurialism, to increased investment in Scotland’s rural economy. But perhaps most pressing of all is the need to attract and retain talent.

Our State of the Nation survey found that almost half of Institute of Directors (IoD) members were concerned about being able to recruit the right staff in the next 12 months. When it comes to attracting and retaining talent, the way we do things has changed significantly over the last few years. This is partly due to the shift towards remote working we’ve seen since the pandemic, but also the incoming Gen Z workforce.

It’s clear that young people are less focused on salary, and more interested in workplace culture. It’s no longer only about what an employee can offer an organisation, but how the core values, purpose and culture of the business are reflected in the offering to new staff members.

Gone are the days when “Pizza Friday” and “dress down day” were enough to entice candidates. Organisations are now evaluated against different criteria; ability to offer remote working, clear-cut career paths, work/life balance, sustainability commitments and whether the business aligns with personal values.

So how can leaders get on the front foot? If we get the culture of our organisations right and can articulate what good looks like from a leadership point of view, we will make our cross-sector, cross-industry organisations better places to invest in, work for and work with.

For me, it’s all about taking a people-centred approach. It is critically important that good leaders understand their team members and know who they are beyond their employee status. Ensuring everyone feels valued, supported and part of something bigger, will not only tick the values box for incoming talent, but will also improve productivity of the business.

With the cost of living crisis, childcare (especially over the summer holidays) and caring responsibilities, staff are likely to be juggling several challenges in their personal lives. By taking time to understand team members, their interests, and the issues affecting them outside of work, leaders are able to not just support their team, but also identify any pinch points ahead of time. This foresight allows mitigation measures to be put in place to make life easier for staff, but also prevent business continuity concerns and potential absences with stress related illnesses.

If employees know that they will be supported through difficult periods, retention rates will increase, and they are far more likely to become advocates of the business when it comes to attracting talent.

Whether it’s promoting hybrid working, flexible working arrangements, or simply ensuring that employees know the door is open to leadership if they need to talk, creating an authentically supportive workplace culture will attract incoming talent- though I do still enjoy a Pizza Friday!

Catherine McWilliam is Nations Director at Institute of Directors (IoD) Scotland

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