With the increasing application of digital technologies, talented employees are expected to become an even more important component of successful business models. According to digitalswitzerland’s Top Talent study, evidence suggests how in complex occupations, the productivity differences between high and average performers increase dramatically. For example, the impact of talented software engineers, data analysts and creative designers on a company’s success will likely increase with the amount of data it has at its disposal as the result of using digital applications. Technological innovation and talent are therefore connected through a mutually reinforcing relationship: where talent increases the application of technological innovation, those technologies in effect disproportionally contribute to the importance of the highly talented in a company’s success. Digitalisation will change skill requirements as employers seek agility, adaptability, flexibility, ability to learn lifelong and social skills in their top talents. In order to attract this talent, companies need to make their value proposition clear.

What star employees look for

A Gallup poll among “star employees” identified some of the important features they look for in a new position:

  • the ability to do what they do best
  • greater work-life balance and better personal well-being
  • a significant increase in income
  • the opportunity to work for a company with a great brand or reputation.

The working environment, a culture which allows error, having fun and job variety are also important to top talents.

The talents of today (and tomorrow) are looking for more than income – they are looking for purpose, opportunities to grow and associated career support. Development practices such as training, personal coaching and clear performance feedback are vital tools for companies to meet these demands.

Income is not the only important thing

Work-life balance has been a perennial desire in the growth years of the 20th century. What has changed is the weighting given to work-life balance in the 21st century. The overall wellness trend – healthy eating, regular exercising, stress reduction – is affecting the workplace too. Desk research has shown that top talents, amongst others, look for a “greater work-life balance and better personal well-being” when changing position or employer. For top talents, a better work-life balance translates in the possibilities that are offered to “work remotely when they can without compromising work quality or productivity”. This includes flexibility, fairness and wellness.

On a broader level, top talents demand personalised plans that allow them to take time off for executive education or for important moments in their private lives, such as paternity leave. Companies which adhere to the “no pain/no gain” maxim must rethink their positions if they are to remain attractive to the coming workforce. 30% of the current workforce is currently either Gen X or Millennials, with strong work/life balance values; by 2025, Millennials will comprise 75% of the global workforce. Millennials are the largest and most educated workforce in history, one that is digitally native, has grown up to multitask, like to do “work that matters” and working in teams. According to one study, Millennials expect to stay less than 3 years in any one job. like to do “work that matters” and working in teams.

Work that matters

The brand or reputation of the organisation can give employees a feeling of pride and purpose. Top talents want to work for organisations that offer a higher sense of purpose and “whose values are aligned to their own personal values”. Various surveys indicate that for Millennials, the social impact and purpose of an organisation are among the most important decision criteria to choose among different employees.

For Swiss companies to remain competitive in the talent market, they thus need to clearly identify and communicate their value proposition, the promise of what value the company delivers. It goes beyond just a statement however; companies need to walk the talk too. As consumers become more critical, verbal and mobile, so will employees. It is by having a clear value proposition coupled with appropriate organisational behaviours that companies remain attractive to top talents.