Companies have to compete with each other to attract the best professionals. The time when you had to impress an employer as an applicant or employee is behind us: it is now sooner the company that has to tempt the candidate.

Employees want to go back to developing at a personal and professional level and expect a tailor-made offer per target group and per individual. Organisations looking for new talent will therefore have to distinguish themselves in ways that go beyond the salary alone. How do you ensure that your talent appeals to all relevant target groups?

Although most Dutch companies are now aware that they need to pay attention to the needs of their employees, both to recruit new talent and to retain existing staff, this is still only occasionally used as a targeted sales argument.

The average job advertisement mentions primary and secondary employment conditions, salary and any bonus schemes, but these benefits tend to remain very general and are not tailored to the individual needs of employees. For example, training programmes are available for all employees, but are not tailored to the needs of different target groups or even individuals. Or they offer the freedom and flexibility that appeals to a younger target group, but forget the financial security and career path that the older generation is looking for.

1. Differentiation

A differentiated personnel policy is vital to survival in the world of today. After all, in a scarce labour market, you want to be attractive to all target groups. For both men and women and for younger and older employees. This calls for initiatives that may at times seem revolutionary, but which on closer inspection prove to be no more than a logical step. For example, when ING announced that it was extending paternity leave from the standard two days to one month, that seemed like a revolutionary idea, but of course it wasn't really. Parenthood has long ceased to be a primary role of the mother in society, yet over the past 40 years almost nothing has changed in how companies deal with parental leave. ING shows that it is able as an organisation to listen to society and respond appropriately. This drew media attention and headlines, but it's actually the most normal thing in the world.

2. Give your people the freedom

There's a professional to be found in most employees. Most of us once chose a direction that interested us at some point, so if we're given the space and opportunities to develop, we can become very valuable employees. But you as an employer have to give your people the freedom and opportunities to flourish. Encourage people instead of criticising them. Let them do what they're best at and give them the affirmation they need. Contribute ideas and guide them where necessary. Offer them training and education appropriate to the career path they have in mind. Give them recognition where recognition is due. That will benefit them, create a closer-knit team and lead to a growing feeling of loyalty that cannot be enforced by strict rules and restriction of freedoms.

3. Be open to criticism

If you want to be an organisation in which people feel they are taken seriously, you have to accept that there will sometimes be criticism of you or the company. That's not always much fun, but is it a bad thing? Often, employees can offer new insights based on their expertise, which you as an employer may not have had before. Allow them to be the specialists in their field, and take their views into account in your judgment. Invite criticism, be open to it, let it be known that it is appreciated and also show that you are putting it to good use. Of course, that is not to say that every form of criticism should be given equal weight in your decision-making; sometimes your employees may not see the big picture that you do. But you can explain that to them in a friendly way.

4. Give trust in order to gain trust

Of course, as an employer, you can choose to run your business in the old-fashioned hierarchical way, constantly chase after everything and assume that you can't let anyone work independently, but then you'll be at home with a burnout within a year and you'll achieve the opposite of what you wanted to do.

Do you want your employees to take their own responsibility, show initiative and behave like adults? Then you have to learn to trust them and let them go. This is certainly true of the younger generation, who attach great importance to development and flexibility. This group of employees isn't one that will readily accept methodologies or manuals imposed from above, something the average manager is often inclined to do. Companies should realise, especially when working with higher educated people, that there are more roads that lead to Rome.

If you don't give people any responsibility, they eventually stop taking it. If you keep a close eye on your people's hours down to the last minute, you can count on little goodwill when you need someone to work some extra hours. Don't give people any trust, and they will turn out untrustworthy. Give them the trust they deserve and you create committed and loyal employees.

5. Show vision

This is simultaneously the hardest and easiest way to bind employees to your organisation. People will unfailingly let you know when you, as an employer, have lost your way. If you have a bad day at the office, this has an immediate impact on the entire organisation. Are you structurally overworked, do you think more in terms of problems than solutions, do you doubt your own leadership and do you secretly have no idea if you are doing the right thing? In that case, you can be sure that your employees will ask themselves exactly the same questions.

But how do you succeed in projecting your vision and self-confidence? First of all, it is no longer of this time for employers to see leadership as a hierarchical issue. It is just a position, like any other. There can be no managers without employees. It is therefore essential that employers work with their staff rather than simply dictating to them what to do.

Everyone bears responsibility for the success of the company (the employer perhaps a little more, but that's reflected in his pay grade). Once you realise this as an employer, it immediately becomes a lot easier to show vision. After all, leadership is no longer an abstract concept, but simply a job like all the other jobs within your company. And another burden will fall from your shoulders, because you now feel supported in your responsibilities by loyal colleagues who care about the company.

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