The challenge of finding and keeping the best people

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It feels like the term “unprecedented” is the most overused word in business vernacular right now, but it is the best description for the challenges human resource leaders are facing today. Employee turnover is high, and the costs resulting from that turnover are higher. Employee retention is the top management challenge right now, followed by recruitment.

Paying higher salaries is one way to attract and retain employees, but small businesses are slowly recovering from the pandemic, the cost of materials remains high and customers are balking at increased prices. And how do you compete when large retailers are offering hourly wages that in some cases are higher than what your company’s professionals make?

In the recovery phase of the pandemic, while many companies have open positions, they are not seeing qualified applicants. In other cases, applicants are showing up for interviews for nonprofessional jobs, only to admit they are just filling the minimum application requirements for unemployment insurance. And for professional roles, the work-from-home option that many companies are offering makes it more likely that a long-tenured employee will leave for a job that gives them that opportunity to be more flexible, or opt for a lighter role outside of your company, such as teaching or project consulting. So, what can companies do to make their business an employer of choice?

Some have introduced an employee resource group to focus on retention and the needs of employees. These groups connect people across physical office locations and organization groups, bringing together associates at different levels, from different departments, and building a sense of community and belonging across a business. Young workers especially mention that they have social needs that the job may not always meet, so HR has the opportunity to help connect them.

Companies can also focus on new skill development for younger and motivated associates, showing them what a career path could look like if they stay. At many businesses, baby boomers have been a staple and have established long-running customer relationships, but companies need to be mindful of passing the torch to young associates, even if that means a clunky transition at first.

It’s also critical to cross train individuals for high-need roles. Transition employees in service lines harder hit from the shutdowns to other lines of business that are back to capacity. And be intentional about recognizing employee successes. In many industries, there are boundless opportunities for new skill development, and losing an employee due to minimal educational opportunities is the worst kind of employee turnover.

To fill labor needs, it is important to look externally, as well. If your labor needs exceed your capacity, consultant partners and contractors can help meet the demand. And “coopetition” with similar businesses can help share best practices, support other local vendors and serve customers more quickly.

Finally, it’s critical to keep the “human” in human resources. Associates don’t just drop their personal and family issues off at the door when they clock in to work. Keep your office door open so employees are comfortable coming to you with their concerns. Implementing family-oriented policies can create a flexible and caring work environment where employees want to be. ●

Stephanie Foley is HR director at RJ Lee Group

Stephanie Foley

HR director
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