Springfield, MO

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Opinion: Status quo workplace culture puts businesses at risk

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We are experiencing the longest economic expansion in recent history. Springfield’s economy is also strong with unemployment of less than 3%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These factors, plus others, are creating a competition for talent many businesses have never experienced. If your business doesn’t have a robust plan for attracting and retaining talent, you will be at a significant disadvantage in the marketplace.

It’s simply not enough to provide adequate pay and health insurance. Today’s workforce demands more, creating the need for purposeful strategies and more importantly – understanding that many factors create a “great place to work.” I’d like to focus on three: people, placemaking and protection.

People create culture. The right people in the correct roles in a positive environment can solidify a great culture. Most everyone wants to feel valued and part of something meaningful in their work lives. Sincere investment in your most important asset – the people – drives continued business growth and success. Being part of a team that values each member and works well together for success is a powerful combination. We’ve all seen this in successful sports franchises.

Attracting and retaining a cohesive team is paramount, and three things can dramatically improve a company’s success:

• a purposeful recruiting strategy;

• a disciplined hiring process; and

• a formal onboarding, training and mentoring plan.

One of the most effective strategies we’ve deployed is implementing “behavioral-based interviewing.” Focusing on how an individual handled work situations in the past reveals specific skills, abilities and personality traits. The idea is that past practices equal future success or failure. Getting the right team assembled requires a constant effort in recruiting and hiring coupled with solid training, mentoring and career track programs.

The placemaking term is often associated with community development and also can play a major role in building a desirable work environment. The idea is to create and enhance people’s health, happiness and well-being by improving physical, environmental and social environments.

Simple physical space changes can include improving natural light, paint colors, furniture and overall cleanliness. Nobody likes an outdated, dark and dirty environment. Creating other amenities, including beautiful outdoor spaces (i.e., landscaping and flowers), break/collaboration areas, artwork and workout facilities. Does your space inspire or exhaust?

Most of us have learned and experienced having our basic needs met – or not. A business can provide protection from an unexpected health, family or financial event. Providing the right mix of employee benefits coupled with human resources policies is now paramount. Every business is different; however, all require a solid employee benefit offering, if you want to compete in the marketplace.

Key basics include medical, dental and life insurance, while pensions and 401(k) plans are popular. Businesses also are adding other benefits such as disability insurance, flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts. A few even offer tuition reimbursement, loan repayment, pet insurance and employee assistance programs. Starting this calendar year, we added a 90-day, short-term disability program that has been extremely well received. While most short-term disability plans pay only a portion of an employee’s salary, our plan pays at 100%, and it is available to employees starting from their first day of employment. Frankly, we already have the salaries budgeted, and it’s a relatively low-cost benefit that’s especially needed for pregnancy, injuries and significant illness.

Business leaders need to review and update their company policies and practices. The status quo is no longer effective for attraction and retention. Think about it as an extension of your overall benefits program – a total rewards program.

A generous paid-time off program with provisions for flex time or working from home is becoming the new normal. Other programs like parental leave, volunteer time off and perks, such as snacks, drinks and on-the-clock celebrations are becoming more popular.

Marketing and memorializing your benefits/rewards program is important, as is updating your website, while touting recruiting and benefits material to include all that you offer. A total compensation statement provided to all employees annually can communicate your complete package and remind them of the total investment you make in them throughout the year.

The competition for talent is at an all-time high. A status quo approach will most certainly put a business at risk. Strategies related to people, placemaking and protection will set you apart from your competition.

Richard Ollis is CEO of Ollis/Akers/Arney, an employee-owned business consulting and insurance advisory firm. He can be reached at


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