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Opinion: Talent wars wage in HR offices

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In spite of unemployment figures, for many companies, attracting and retaining quality employees continues to be a challenge. While a slow economy may decrease the options of employees looking to make a change, it presents a prime opportunity for employers to reinforce employee-company bonds and persuade employees to recommit to their organizations.

The actions taken on the human resources front during a downturn impact the bottom line and potential growth of an organization in an upturn.

Creative retention strategies can give employers a competitive edge in the war for talent.

I recently had the privilege of serving as emcee for Springfield Business Journal’s 2010 Choice Employers event. In doing so, I had the opportunity to recognize the honorees and to learn about the innovative strategies they have implemented within their own organizations to increase employee retention. They, like many other Springfield area employers, have committed to creating high quality work environments that increase employee satisfaction and drive productivity.

That process often calls for careful introspection.

A recent article by The Herman Group suggests employers consider the following questions to help develop employee-retention strategies:
• “Is this company the kind of place where people want to work? Are they empowered? Accountable? Do workers collaborate to achieve results, or wait for management to make decisions? Do workers have a clear sense of mission, of goals, of measurement and of accomplishment?”
• “Are the managers and supervisors focused on management or leadership? Are they attuned to the needs and expectations of today’s workers? The relationship between employees and their immediate supervisors is most important in building work force longevity.”
• “How quickly can I and my people change to respond to shifting circumstances? Do I offer flexibility to my workers – in hours, in how they approach their work, in where they work? Do I facilitate telecommuting? Are my people well-trained, cross-trained?”

The article also suggests employers focus on developing work force stability. When filling a position, be selective. Recruit the best person for the job. Spending time and resources on retention is only a good investment if you have good people to retain.

A few other strategies worth implementing:
• Conduct “stay interviews.” This is the flipside of exit interviews. Stay interviews are conducted by supervisors to gather data from employees while they are still contributing to the company’s bottom line.
• Make sure employees understand and believe in the company’s mission. A study by the Society for Resource Management revealed that workers at an organization with a clear mission and follow-through are going to be more than five times more satisfied at their jobs than workers at organizations that do not have a clear mission.
• Offer an attractive benefits package. Employees consistently rate benefits as one of the key factors in employee job satisfaction.
• Promote work/life balance. A recent study by Spherion found that 94 percent of employees surveyed said an organization that offers work/life balance options is more attractive to them. Work/life balance was a top career priority for 86 percent of the employees surveyed. The study noted that employees at organizations where work/life balance is a priority are more likely to stay for at least five years and report higher job satisfaction.

Brent McCoy is membership manager for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at brent@springfieldchamber.com.
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