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Talent for Tomorrow

So do you know what skills you need for the future?

In the first of an occasional series of articles looking at all aspects of human resources and people management and development, Helen Taylor, HR Director at Weightmans, offers some thoughts on key topics which any organisation with an interest in its future talent should also be considering…

Recruitment of Talent

Tomorrow’s talent is the early years’ talent that you are recruiting and developing today. At Weightmans, we have recognised that an essential component of our people plan is recognising that we have to invest time putting renewed focus on building our people’s capabilities, not just finding them.

That may sound straightforward but actually, it is a little more complex than it may initially appear. If you realise that you need to build capabilities, that requires you to know what those capabilities need to be for the future success of your business.

So do you know what skills you need for the future, or are you simply recruiting in the model that you have used for years, on the basis that this may have served you well in the past? We recognise that we need to start thinking about what skills and attributes our firm will need in the future. If the past 16 months has taught us anything however, it is that the future is likely to look very different from all our previous professional experiences, which only serves to add another ‘unknown’ element to an already challenging and increasingly demanding task.

A strong digital proposition and the increasing use of AI with a customer base that requires fast, efficient service with options to self-serve and access data and information through multiple different channels requires different thinking and new skills sets. The future will also require people not just with an openness to change, but rather a mindset which welcomes and seeks out change as part of a constant process of professional evolution, embracing that evolution and being part of a team which develops efficient, affordable digital solutions whilst also retaining claims, underwriting and all the other professional expertise which our clients expect from us.

Early years recruitment is increasingly exciting for us. Apprenticeship schemes allow for new and innovative opportunities to develop early years’ talent. For example, Trailblazer allows you to build an apprenticeship around an area where either the firm or sector has a skills gap and partner with a high education institution to deliver this. The opportunities here are significant with real chances to make significant and long-lasting impacts on the lives of both customers and service providers.

In addition, work experience and insight days to help to build and cement employer brand and connect people with your organisation will help you to attract the best talent in the future, but doing that effectively so that you really do attract the best people is increasingly challenging in the face of a younger workforce with very high expectations not just about the work that they want to do but in respect of the organisations of which they want to be a part.

Network groups enable you to raise your organisation’s profile within those groups of people that may traditionally have been under-represented. This is obviously key not just to increasing your firm’s attractiveness to potential employees – and clients – but is central to nurturing and developing that diversity of thinking which all businesses now realise is critical to future success in all sectors.

Development of Talent

Recruiting great people is fantastic, but how do you keep them and, more importantly, develop them in a way which is professionally rewarding and satisfying for them whilst also being commercially successful for you? It is obviously key to have development opportunities for all career level - personal development and the opportunity to grow are key elements of the employee experience and contribute to high levels of employee engagement. We are currently running bespoke and dedicated development programmes for our people at all levels and have seen sizeable benefits in the few short years since these were instigated.

Development programmes for your future leaders are crucial and any programme should be about equipping your talent with the skills, knowledge and expertise required for the future, but they also need to include access to senior people, key clients, external bodies and networks both within your firm and externally. The talent of the future will want to collaborate and learn through meeting and working with others. Access to timely on-line learning solutions provided through a variety of different and flexible media are all part of that melting pot.

We at Weightmans are also seeking lifelong development opportunities and want to connect and be around people who we can develop and from whom we can learn. Can you play a role as mentor and inspire and motivate tomorrow’s talent? Can you give people development opportunities by taking them to client meetings, helping them work with industry bodies or becoming involved in complex work?

There will always be a war on talent. Often your most talented people will also be the people your competitors are looking to attract. What differentiates you as an organisation - and salary isn’t everything! Are you looking after your talent? Do they have opportunities? Are they recognised and engaged? If you cannot answer yes to these questions, you are at risk of losing your best people. But we have to be realistic in our expectations, however hard we push ourselves to be an organisation and real employer of choice. Not many people will stay with one business for their entire career in the way many people have in the past in the insurance industry. See this as a strength or a positive however. If you can retain your best people but also build new skills and experiences to compliment your core team, this strengthens the overall team.

Culture

You will hear a great deal talked about organisational culture and one of the difficulties for employers is actually getting to grips with it, because it’s not easy to pin down and show someone what it looks like. However, a successful organisation should be able to do just that – describe your culture in a few brief words and be able to articulate what that looks and feels like for everyone who works there. It is increasingly important that you can do so, and central to this is creating an inclusive environment where everyone can develop to their full potential, where there is a strong social purpose and a real commitment to corporate social responsibility.

What about your approach to flexible working? The pandemic has taught us beyond any doubt that in future people will be looking for flexible working arrangements which allow them to maximise their work/life balance and fulfil their personal obligations whilst also giving them the opportunities to work together collaboratively and learn from being in an office environment. Experience has taught us that your prospective talent will certainly be looking at all this closely and critically.

Finally, one specific consideration that we are focussing on at Weightmans is Environmental Social and Corporate Governance, or ESG. Lead by Partner Simon Colvin, this is hugely important for us all, not least your future and indeed current talent.

We are more than happy to discuss this very exciting initiative or any of the other issues raised in this piece with you.

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