by Liz Alton

By focusing on new approaches to retention — powered by workforce data — organizations can develop effective, customized solutions to their talent needs.

In today’s competitive recruiting landscape, having an effective talent management strategy is more critical than ever. Unemployment is at a 40-year low according to Stats Can. While that’s good for individuals in the workplace, HR professionals are having difficulty recruiting qualified applicants, with skills shortages a significant issue. Leading businesses are finding innovative strategies to retain talent and close the skills gap.

To learn more about the latest trends in talent management strategy, we spoke with ADP Human Capital Management (HCM) Consultant Rob Namba in advance of his SHRM talk, “Elevating the Talent Experience.” Here’s a closer look at three key trends HR leaders should consider to elevate their talent experience and increase workforce retention.

1. Workforce Data Informs Shifting Retention Strategies

Competition for talent is fierce, and organizations are increasingly shifting their retention strategies to meet their workforce needs. HR leaders are leveraging insights from cloud-based workforce analytics to better understand what’s driving their talent retention and invest in high-impact areas as they shift from industrial approaches to agile ones. Analytics allow HR leaders to understand the specific drivers influencing their employees to join, remain or leave the organization — rather than relying on more general assumptions.

“Using data analytics to understand the drivers and talent is a must-have for every company today to stay competitive,” says Namba.

Having real-time access to multiple data points across a large organization can reveal unexpected insights that allow businesses to take meaningful action. As Namba highlights, “Having brilliant data helps HR make brilliant decisions. Take turnover for example: If I have an anomaly in a large organization, how would I identify the reason? Where is the bleed? Who am I losing? Is there something different about that team? Is it because the manager has too many direct reports compared to others? Or is there a management aspect that we need to look at from a training and development side of things? Imagine having that in one brilliant dashboard.”

Frontline managers and their HR counterparts can use real-time insights to guide decision making. Up-to-date internal data, coupled with industry benchmarks, allows frontline managers to create a better workplace while empowering HR leaders to develop competitive compensation, benefits and recognition programs. The result is retention strategies that are customized to the group’s workforce and informed by pertinent, timely data from all levels of the organization.

2. Differentiate the Talent Experience with an Onboarding Strategy

As businesses find new ways to compete for talent, onboarding strategies are in the spotlight as the starting point for effective retention. Successful onboarding is critical because it helps new hires establish relationships and gain a thorough understanding of an organization’s culture.

An important component of effective onboarding is modeling success — and providing examples of leadership that embody organizational values such as transparency.

“According to the ADP Research Institute’s Global Study of Engagement, there are two important contributors to successful onboarding: assigning the new hire a buddy or mentor to provide guidance and support, and they have to understand the goals of the company,” says Namba.

Organizational culture can be the key difference when employees are choosing between their current employer and an equivalent opportunity at another company with slightly higher compensation.

“What makes me choose between those two? It’s going to be the culture. It’s going to be the work environment and the relationships with my peers and my direct manager that makes the difference,” says Namba.

Investing in these areas from the beginning of the employee relationship is an important step in building a solid foundation for retention. The best human capital management technology supports a strong onboarding strategy, from ensuring each step is managed to streamlining the feedback loops that help workers get up to speed. In many cases, firms are finding ways to more effectively use the tools they have as part of their retention process, capturing the value of technology without adding to the bottom line.

By focusing on the onboarding strategy as a cornerstone of your larger retention initiatives, it’s easy to see the value. Taking the time to help workers truly master their role is about more than just enabling them to contribute quickly. It also sets the tone for the whole employee experience, while modeling the culture, leadership and values you hope they’ll emulate.

3. Transform Your Talent Strategy from a Judging Model to Activation

In many organizations, the talent management strategy has traditionally focused on annual performance reviews and evaluating how workers stack up against their peers. The result can be an environment where workers feel judged rather than recognized for their contributions or supported to do their best work. Namba suggests looking at Dr. Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability as a catalyst for creativity, change and innovation may be a critical starting point to reshape the conversation.

“It’s important to consider how we’re creating an environment where people can be more vulnerable. Dr. Brown says there are three components to vulnerability: uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure,” notes Namba. “When employees are safe to do focused work in their strengths and are rapidly recognized by their leader, their talent becomes activated. That’s what really taps into creativity, and that’s what taps into employees being more engaged, staying longer and loving their jobs. Employees still need accountability and targeted development plans to close skill gaps, but activation truly comes from managers creating an environment of trust.”

Implementing these changes involves shifting the way organizations are pivoting toward more team-based models rather than cascading-based HR organizations. In these structures, the role of managers is key, with a focus on soft skills.

“How does a manager respond in the right way to the risk employees put out there when they put themselves up for evaluation? How do they create room for failure? Or how do they learn those things?” asks Namba.

As organizations find ways to meet their workforce’s needs in today’s competitive landscape, the talent management strategy plays a central role. Retention and helping talent develop the technical and soft skills needed to thrive are important. From investing in the right HCM technology to underpin every employee experience (onboarding to employee reviews), to making sure your managers have the soft skills needed to thrive, taking an agile approach to talent retention can help set the long-term foundation for success.

This article originally appeared on SPARK Powered by ADP.