Employers no longer have the upper hand in hiring, so how can they keep their great employees engaged?
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From the pages of In Business magazine.
Unemployment rates hovering around 3 percent and a workforce that is choosing flexibility over tradition is causing many employers to scratch their heads these days.
Jobs seem plentiful, but technology allows employees to submit resumes or be recruited from their laptops while at work without their employers ever knowing. Besides that, anonymous reviews can fairly or unfairly characterize workplaces for the public to scrutinize.
Suddenly, valued employees may fly the coop for more money, better benefits, or both. And if that job doesn’t work out, they’ll likely turn around and do it all over again. Today’s workforce is clearly driven by the demands of employees rather than the employers. So, what’s an employer to do to keep their great employees engaged and their new employees around?
In this article on worker retention, we look at workforce trends and how employers are stepping up to the plate.
Low unemployment brings challenges. The onus is on the employer to not only find qualified employees, but to keep them employed because the sudden loss of a valuable employee can be just as jarring to remaining employees. No company wants to have a revolving door, yet many do.
If business owners learn one thing from today’s workforce, it’s that work-life balance, community give-back, and culture matters more than ever. The younger workforce wants to impact their company’s future, have their opinions heard, and be treated fairly and honestly.
According to a recent Robert Half blog titled, “Effective Employee Retention Strategies,” retention of employees should be the priority of all business owners, particularly in this job market. Some strategies to consider:
- Set new employees up for success with a thorough onboarding and orientation program explaining the job, the culture, and how they can provide input;
- Create mentorships between new and seasoned employees;
- Offer excellent wages and benefits soundly based on market research;
- Acknowledge employees for jobs well done verbally or through incentive programs or handwritten cards;
- Offer professional development programming to coincide with their goals;
- Encourage employee ideas and acknowledge any concerns they may have;
- Be transparent and honest, and handle major announcements face-to-face, allowing time for employees to digest the information and ask questions;
- Encourage collaboration on team objectives, business goals, and roles;
- Celebrate major milestones, whether that means the birth of a child, employment anniversary, or birthdays; and
- Revisit all of these ideas at least once a year to stay on track, particularly with your competitors — other employers. Tweak if necessary.
Consider the following, posted recently in a FastCompany.com report titled “What companies should be doing to retain talent in 2019” dated Jan. 5, 2019:
- 83 percent of companies suffer from low employee engagement, primarily because the management doesn’t have the ability to define engagement in any meaningful way.
- 69 percent of employees say they would work harder if they were recognized for their work, according to Socialcast, so be timely and personal in that recognition.
- 59 percent of employees rate their company as either not effective or somewhat effective at empowering career decisions, according to a recent Deloitte capital trends study.
According to a Gallup poll, 98 percent of employees say they will not be engaged in their jobs or their company if they don’t receive manager feedback.
Top companies also are signaling a trend that goes beyond just engaging employees to enabling them. According to Deloitte, this shift toward people enablement empowers employees “to acquire valuable experiences, explore new roles, and continually reinvent themselves.”
Local input: Know your employees
“This is a very good candidate-driven market,” notes Jim Jeffers, Wisconsin market manager for Robert Half, who oversees the Milwaukee, Waukesha, Appleton, and Madison markets. “The chips are all with the candidates. They can pick and choose who they want to work with and who they want to work for,” he states.
The question is, will they choose your company? And how do you compete if you’re a small business?
When meeting with an employee, Jeffers cautions employers not to make a job review solely focused on the job. “Reviews have to be about what makes the employee happy, what keeps them here.” That, he continues, creates a competitive, creative, and diverse workforce.
With several generations represented in the workplace, everyone is motivated by different things, which can be healthy for employers, Jeffers says, because it introduces a diversity of thought, decision making, and networking.
He suggests making your excellent employees part of the company’s culture, asking them to serve as mentors to others, help establish relationships, and learn what motivates others.
Is it money, for example? “I think it’s a case-by-case scenario,” Jeffers responds. “We talk a lot about generations, but if you find the right motivations, generation doesn’t matter.”
Admittedly, employers can only do so much, he adds. “It’s a tough market for employers and a great market for candidates. [Candidates] can go after their dream job right now, which is fantastic, but employers also must do a great job determining who they are, what they stand for, and offer their best tools to retain employees.”
Mary Jo Spiekerman, vice president of human resources for Hausmann-Johnson Insurance, acknowledges the pressure facing employers these days, and urges companies to think of their employees as customers.
“Increasingly, customers are more educated. For example, they’ll tell their doctor which drug they want based on an ad they saw.” Just as retailers have to compete for shoppers, employers need to compete for employees, she adds.
The speed at which a unique benefit moves from “special” to commonplace, however, is also increasing, Spiekerman observes.
“It’s been surprising to me the number of employers that have embraced paid leave programs, starting with maternity and paternity. Some employers, like Hausmann-Johnson, offer compassionate care leave, for example, allowing employees who need to care for an ill family member in hospice, for example, or a sick child in the hospital, to take time away from work to care for them without forcing them to use paid time off or vacation time.”
Many large employers have been offering benefits such as student loan repayment programs, genetic testing, infertility and adoption support, or charity gift-matching to keep valuable employees.
Paid sabbaticals are growing in popularity among some organizations, allowing employees to take one or two months paid leave for whatever they choose — volunteering, a trip, or just taking a breather from work.
And as baby boomers age through retirement, Spiekerman says some companies are offering graduated retirement options, whereby employees might negotiate a plan to work 40 hours a week for a year, then 32 hours, etcetera, until their retirement date.
“A lot of employers are doing that because they’re desperate and are having trouble replacing these people,” she says. “We’ve even lured people out of retirement, which is a real trick because most retirees don’t want to put in a 40 hours anymore.”
Spiekerman mentions one Wisconsin hospital that allows employees to work six months on and then six months off, yet stay “employed.” The reasoning, she explains, is to attract “snowbirds”— generally retirees — who winter in warmer climes but return to the area in spring and summer ready to work just as year-round hospital staff is anxious to take vacations.
From an administrative standpoint, Spiekerman says it can be both challenging and costly to orchestrate such arrangements, and it could lead to situations where an employee receives full benefits for part-time work. “On the other hand, some organizations may feel it’s worth it, or feel a sense of obligation to honor their good, long-term employee.”