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A Publication of WTVP

This month I write about the issue of recruiting and retaining a qualified workforce, the third most cited issue currently facing many employers in Illinois, according to an informal ongoing survey being conducted by the Employers' Association. Illinois employers aren't alone in this dilemma, according to the Workforce Management magazine article "What's In Store for 2004" by Samuel Greengard. Today's organizations face far greater challenges than ever before: a tough, rapidly changing labor market; a dearth of talent, as well as obstacles to keeping existing employees productive; challenges in adequately training and developing workers; soaring health care costs; and the ongoing task of making human resources smarter, more relevant, and more meaningful. If this is an issue employers are facing currently, what are they going to be faced with down the road? Definitely not business as usual.

What's driving the recruitment and retention issue? Some employers say it's generational; the younger workers just don't have the same work ethic as their Baby Boomer peers. Or, perhaps recruitment and retention as an issue lies with the employer due to the nature of the work, the culture of the organization, or their "people" practices. Maybe jobs themselves are really different. According to Peter Cappelli, professor and director of the Wharton's Human Resources Center, "The notion of a secure long-term career is harder to imagine because restructuring is non-stop." The effects of this phenomenon have led employees to be less concerned with length of service as a means for greater earning power. They're more like independent contractors, honing their occupational-specific skills for the next opportunity.

Retaining talented workers is the most economically viable option for employers to maintain productivity and achieve competitive advantage. Additionally, successful organizations view the workforce differently. The growing use of temps, independent contractors, consultants, part-time employees, and outsourced labor continues to change the way employers and employees think about jobs, loyalty, and the pursuit of goals. This creative use of human capital places more pressure on human resources managers to manage diverse groups of employees, frequently with differing values and attitudes. The secret to success lies in finding ways to create and sustain a work environment that fosters teamwork, building synergy to create a cohesive culture.

The following are steps in the right direction:

Organizations that are successful in recruiting and retaining aren't always those that have the resources or the necessity to develop knowledge-based systems of a technological sort. In fact, many successful organizations are those that have strong leadership at the top that recognize we're in different times and that calls for different solutions. They embrace change and empower their staff to look at different solutions to hiring and retaining a qualified workforce. IBI

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