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Making Your Company a Talent Magnet

Posted on 1.23.2016

By Michelle M. Wicmandy, Collective Changes

In today's marketplace, every organization should make finding and keeping talent a high priority.

This is important since employee turnover is estimated to reach 25 percent, or 192 million, by 2018. Why the concern? Employee turnover costs for entry-level workers alone in large companies could exceed $17 million. It also results in work disruptions, lost knowledge and skills, and extra recruitment and training costs. Furthermore, very high turnover can tarnish the organization's brand and discourage good candidates from applying.

Acquiring Talent

Job seekers flock to reputable companies known for offering a good work environment, stimulating work and a future. How does one make this happen? First, hiring managers must understand the company's needs. This helps ensure the company fills the gap with the right talent and increases the odds of keeping them. Be sure to prepare an interesting job description that includes the goodies. For example, the opportunity of working with the latest technology, joining an award-winning creative team or rubbing shoulders with a high-profile manager may appeal to the candidate over salary alone.

Also, be mindful that first impressions count for the hiring firm, too. Employers should make every touchpoint count (e.g. social channels, website, office setup, etc.). To arrange the interview, send candidates a warm invitation rather than a canned note. During the interview, be cordial, positive and inspiring. Sharing employee success stories that showcase how the firm launches careers can spark interest. After the meeting, send a follow-up note in a timely manner. And, assign one caring contact to the candidate who can answer questions and provide support throughout the interview process.

Once the pool has been narrowed to a few qualified candidates, it's time to make a decision. A good rule of thumb to follow is hire people with the right attitude first, followed by the right skill set. Motivated people can always learn new job skills but changing attitudes in work ethic, perseverance, achievement, loyalty and working with others can be challenging.

Understanding Motivation

Today's workplace spans five generations of employees: Traditionalists, Boomers, Gen X, Millenials and Generation Z. This may cause confusion as managers try to meet each group's specific needs, manage their expectations and understand what motivates workers to keep their jobs. For example, most employees need to feel valued and respected; get stimulating and challenging projects; have opportunities for career growth, learning, and development, as well as collaborate with others. For Millenials, in particular, achieving a work-life balance is the primary consideration for joining or staying with an employer.

When managers fail to cater to their employees' needs, they risk losing good employees.

"After all, people don't leave jobs, they leave managers," said Samara Donald, director of emerging businesses for Microsoft.

In fact, an Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement report conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) confirms that over half of work satisfaction is determined by the employee-supervisor relationship.

Leading with Vision

An excellent retention tool is a great manager. Jackie Hiddlestone, change director for Sydney Water in Australia, advises managers to value people, the organization's most important asset. She suggests companies invest resources to develop staff, deliver transformational programs, encourage innovation and more while creating an inviting work environment that fosters teamwork. To achieve an enjoyable and engaging work environment, the experts offer the following tips:

•    Practice mindfulness by focusing on the task at hand.
•    Listen to staff to reduce stress and improve productivity.
•    Keep an open door policy that welcomes employee questions and communicates teamwork.
•    Showing interest in staff demonstrates respect while improving communication and critical thinking.
•    Hold collaborative workshops to brainstorm and identify new business opportunities. By drawing on each staff member's strengths, the group learns.
•    Delegate work and provide "stretch" assignments to prepare employees for the next promotion. 
•    Create mentoring programs to groom rising stars and keep the leadership pipeline full.
•    Encourage employees to take risks, expand knowledge, build networks and not to fear failure.
•    Show employees how they impact the customer experience.
•    Offer diversity training to ease employee tensions that arise from interacting with unfamiliar cultures.
•    Reflect on individual and group actions to identify influencers and improve learning.
•    Foster employee friendships by creating social groups focused on common interests such as coffee, wine, bowling and more.
•    Promote work-life balance by offering flex-schedules and creating a family-friendly work environment.
•    Reward staff publicly for reaching milestones such as tenure, business excellence and community service.
•    Create a “Day of Caring” that allows employees to volunteer with a non-profit during business hours. 

"Above all, have fun," adds Hiddlestone. "Quite often, during these ‘down time’ moments, greater insights and innovative ideas are born."

Sharing Knowledge

Many agree that silence is retention's greatest adversary, so employers should be sure to keep information moving. Technology can enhance harmony in the workplace by facilitating communication. Tech giant, Microsoft, employs a variety of collaboration tools including SharePoint, Yammer, Sway, Skype, an intranet portal, traditional email and others.

"Collaboration and communication are key components for our culture of a ‘growth mindset’ and continuous learning," said Donald of Microsoft.

Measuring Up

How do all these efforts measure up? Companies can measure employee work satisfaction by asking employees their opinions via surveys or tracking metrics that matter. Conducting employee surveys regularly captures employee perceptions toward the company to alert leadership of hidden issues, explore employee motivations and help improve productivity.

Companies can also use business and human resource reports to track key performance metrics. Success lies in knowing what to monitor for a business and consistently measuring the right thing in the right way. For example, Sydney Water monitors each person's average outstanding annual leave, average absenteeism, lost time injury rate, and training and development investment. The organization also reports number of new entry level staff, staff-initiated turnover and average staff turnover. Other key indicators that companies can monitor to measure engagement include tracking performance outcomes such as customer ratings, profitability, productivity, theft and number of defective parts.

“Work environments don’t need to be stress pits," said Hiddlestone of Sydney Water. "You’d be surprised the difference in attitudes and organizational culture where everyone in the team feels welcome, supported, respected and valued for their uniqueness and capabilities."

Michelle M. Wicmandy is a regular contributor to Website Magazine, a lecturer at the University of Houston Downtown and the Chief Marketing Officer at Collective Changes.

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