Time for two Rs

With inflation and employee movement expected to continue, employers must master retention and recruitment

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We are still hearing that many workers are considering a job change — the phrase “the great resignation” still seems to be hovering over our economy.

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We are still hearing that many workers are considering a job change — the phrase “the great resignation” still seems to be hovering over our economy.

So what’s the issue? I have to confess, in terms of recruitment challenges I honestly don’t know what is causing the problem. It seems there is a wide variety of jobs still available, yet as was reported in the Free Press recently, companies are receiving responses to their help wanted advertisements, but that’s no guarantee applicants will show up. Are all candidates simply on vacation enjoying the summer weather?

It has also been widely noted that many current employees are also looking for work or would at least be willing to “jump ship” should they be approached. These individuals are looking for higher rates of pay, better overall benefits and the ability to continue with remote work arrangements. Better work-life balance is the new name of the game. Even senior executives are reported to be willing to leave high paying jobs to grab some of that desired balance. Still others are simply choosing to retire.

Those organizations really wanting their employees back in the workplace are trying to get creative in terms of attracting staff to return to the physical office. And since employees appear to have the upper hand right now, we are seeing organizations attempt to implement creative initiatives and perks such as in-house yoga classes, ping-pong tables, gaming consoles and other fun activities.

Still others are examining the potential of changing their workplace layout, both due to the potential of the spread of diseases such as COVID-19 and the desire of employees to have more quiet spaces. Part of this challenge is that a wide variety of employees creates a wide variety of needs, interests and demands. How can a leader please everyone? It can’t be done.

We are back to some very traditional methodologies to attract and retain workers. The first is higher wages. A recent survey indicated that at least 35 per cent of employees globally are looking for a salary increase. Governments are being pressured to increase the minimum wage. Consequently, salaries are beginning to grow across a wide spectrum of industry sectors.

Some businesses are beginning to undertake a total compensation study to examine the market rates, how salaries are distributed throughout their organization and what can be done to make that salary more attractive. As mentioned earlier, some organizations are looking at perks rather than focusing on salary increases per se.

Other businesses are turning to increased overtime, contracting out work to independents more frequently or improving their automation. Still others recognize employee benefits are not only a way to attract candidates, but also a means to minimize employee turnover, and so are seeking other creative ways to realign their benefit program to be more attractive. Examples include tuition reimbursement, paid leave and flexibility in terms of work hours, time and place.

It is also interesting to note a recent survey showing that four out of five Canadian employers are considering the potential of instituting on-the-job training programs in areas where they can’t find fully qualified candidates. While this approach requires an investment, my experience as a consultant for many years is that these employees often stay with their employer much longer and are more loyal.

Thus while recruitment is important, organizations must also focus a good amount of attention on employee retention strategies. That’s because losing an employee can create an expense of one to five times the employee’s current salary inclusive of recruitment costs, new employee orientation and the time it takes to become fully productive. By the way, this formula applies to all jobs, including front-line workers.

Managers also can’t forget about lost productivity when an employee leaves the organization and their team. This can also include some morale challenges with remaining staff, risking the potential of others contemplating leaving the organization.

One of the first strategies is to focus on having a strong internal communications strategy. With so much uncertainty in the world today and with inflation risks hovering over the horizon, employees want to be kept updated on the status and well-being of their organization. Take time to communicate even the smallest of business successes and to highlight and applaud the employees involved.

Focus time and attention on organizational culture. For instance, summer is a great time to share positive personal stories of various employee vacations through special lunch-and-learn programs. Create joint special events to complement local celebrations such as the Winnipeg Folk Festival, Folkorama or other summer festivities.

Finally, it is important for organizations to find out just why their employees are leaving, especially if turnover is more than an annual 10 per cent. Typically this is done through exit interviews, but as mentioned in earlier columns, it might be wise to initiate “stay interviews” which would help identify what employees like about your organization.

Consideration should also be given to an employee engagement survey, which would assess different cultural factors and provide an outline of strengths and areas of challenge within the organization. Be mindful of the fact that if you do conduct a survey, you will have to report back to employees and act on the results. Otherwise you will disrupt employee trust, which may in turn lead to more resignations and lower employee morale overall.

While hard to accept, the consensus of human resource surveys is that the current market for employees will remain competitive, demand for increased wages will continue (especially in the so-called blue-collar jobs), as will the increased expectations that today’s employees have for their employer. Therefore, a balanced approach inclusive of both recruitment and retention strategies is required to be successful in today’s marketplace.

Source: More than half of employers boost wages amid labour shortage, Jim Wilson, HR Reporter, July 6, 2022; HR in 2023, Insights and Predictions, Paycor Centre for Excellence.

Barbara J. Bowes, FCPHR, B.Ed, M.Ed, CCP is a human resource professional, author, radio personality, speaker, executive coach and workshop leader. She can be reached at barb@bowesleadership.com.

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