There’s no denying that our country is experiencing some politically trying times. While the news is constantly full of stories about political divisiveness, there’s still a taboo about bringing those tensions into the workplace.
Ideally, professionals should be able to leave political stress outside of the office. But the reality is, what’s going on in the government directly affects many aspects of business. Health care? Tax reform? Fiduciary rules? Immigration? All these things face an uncertain future.
Also uncertain: talent acquisition. A 2017 Talent Tech Labs survey of 189 senior-talent acquisition and HR leaders found that 63 percent of respondents believed that the current political rhetoric is making talent acquisition harder.
They're not alone: During these fluctuating times, passive job candidates are less eager to take a chance at a new company: And employees already in jobs are worried about whether they'll keep them; this makes them less effective employee-ambassadors. Even the perceived political leanings of a company can scare off job-seekers.
However, when employers strive to be proactive and understand how politics can negatively impact hiring, they can continue to find great talent. So, for them -- and perhaps you -- here are four things to remember during these trying times:
When they're unsure of how the political tide might change, many organizations take a reactionary stance: They believe it’s better to wait and see what happens, instead of trying to guess what their best option is. Unfortunately, this means that by the time leaders are ready to make a change, they’re too late.
“Forward-thinking organizations never completely shut off the talent pipeline,” Mike McSally, vice president of enterprise operations and technology at TEKsystems in Hanover, Md., said via email. “That is not to say they don’t adjust the number of applicants they meet with; however, they take a more carefully considered approach when it comes to hiring the right people for both current and planned initiatives.”
The trick is is understand what outside factors are driving candidates away and to adjust accordingly.
For example, some industries -- like health care -- will be directly affected by imminent changes to laws and policies. This can make job candidates wary of accepting a position with a healthcare company until they’re sure the company will remain a viable business.
Reassure candidates by sharing contingency plans with them. Let them know what will change at the organization if certain laws are passed or rejected. By showing that your company is trying to stay ahead of potentially damaging situations, you'll help candidates feel more confident working for the organization.
It’s perfectly acceptable for employees to have different opinions. However, if they don’t feel as though they might be included in a company because of their political beliefs, job-seekers may be reluctant to join the organization.
“Candidates may start self-selecting based on assumptions of a company's progressiveness or conservatism,” Frans Johansson, CEO of The Medici Group in New York, said in an email.
This can hurt organizations because it keeps them from hiring diverse employees with new and valuable viewpoints. However, when a company showcases its inclusivity, talent sees that their different political ideals don't matter; they can still be a vital part of the organization.
“A critical hallmark of an inclusive company is that an employee does not need to hide his or her beliefs, perspectives or background,” Johansson went on to say. “Instead, they can bring their whole selves to the workplace, without fear or judgment.”
In a world where people feel isolated due to the political conditions, finding a workplace where they feel safe and comfortable can be a powerful draw for talent.
When people consider a job, they often give weight to the benefits they’re offered. If things are always changing and there’s no stability, job candidates will be less likely to trust what is offered to them. And outside factors can affect what people need from their employees.
For example, with the Affordable Care Act, many people could take jobs without being overly concerned about the insurance the company offered. Now, however, with the status of ACA up in the air, candidates might be worried to take a job that doesn’t provide consistent healthcare benefits. Employers can counteract this uncertainty by deciding what they think their employees deserve and giving it to them no matter what.
“In terms of health care, we inform all of our candidates during the job offer stage that we began providing healthcare benefits to our employees in 1998 and will continue to offer benefits even if the Affordable Care Act is repealed or changed,” Rob Wilson, president of Employco USA in Westmont, Ill., said via email
“We believe this helps alleviate candidates’ fears that the uncertain political environment will change our portfolio of employee benefits.”
One thing many employers forget is the power of great employee-ambassadors. If current employees confidently recommend the workplace to others,talent acquisition is a breeze. However, if employees are worried or unsure about the status of the company or their job, they’re less likely to recommend it to others.
Instead of thinking about their company’s overall future and direction, employees tend to focus on existing signs that their position within the organization is safe. “The need for validation out of self-preservation is disruptive to productivity and hinders business goals. Senior leadership can’t afford to sit on the sidelines,” Lyde Spann, CEO and founder of Netamorphosis in New York, said in an email. “They can alleviate the uncertainty through an open dialogue between employees and managers and on the path forward for the organization.”
When employees see their leaders getting down in the trenches with them, they feel seen and important to the organization. Even if there are issues, they know their leaders are working to make things better.
As for employers: When they eliminate reasons for employees' fears, those employees can focus on their jobs and share how great the workplace is, with other talented individuals.