Summit news: Talented staff are making extra demands

Talented staff are increasingly making demands for extra benefits, yet employers are being warned that reward strategies aimed at the retention of these employees can divide the workforce.

Speaking during a panel debate on Strategies for recruiting, managing and retaining talent at the Employee Benefits Summit, held in Jerez, Spain, David Russell, group HR director for William Hill, said: “Reward is clearly important for everyone. I can’t embrace the idea that you give the talented more pay and [incentives] unless you are 100% sure you’ve got the most talented. I think we’re a long way from being able to do that.”

Richard Smelt, group director, human resources at Carphone Warehouse, added that the key to retaining top talent lies in long-term rewards. The mobile phone retailer, for example, offers a special share scheme that is intended to reward talented employees rising through the organisation.

The current shortage of talented employees means that staff feel increasingly able to dictate what they want from an employer, particularly around perks such as flexible working. “People are being much more demanding about [flexible working]. They’re not coming with a request, they’re coming and saying ‘I need to do it’,” said Smelt.

But allowing staff to work flexibly poses a number of challenges for employers, as it must be balanced with meeting the needs of the business. Smelt raised the point that working from home, for example, can be seen as “skiving” by managers and other employees.

Ros Barker, director of the Hollywell Partnership and former head of HR at Ladbrokes, explained: “I do think [flexible working] plays a part in retention, but it’s not easy to manage particularly if you have a large workforce.”

Whatever approach employers adopt to recruit and retain talent, it must be transparent to avoid demotivating those staff who have not been selected. “You have to go with transparency. If people find out about [any talent initiative], that is even worse,” added Barker.