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:
Hiring Right. Take the time to establish recruitment strategies to position yourself to find the best candidates for your organization, and then measure your success. Utilize behavior-based interviewing and pre-employment testing to improve the odds of a solid match. Organizations should explore a competency-based model rather than staying with the purely job-based model of human resources administration.
Pay and reward systems. If it's been a while since your pay and benefits packages have been reviewed, it's important to compare how you stack up with others. Today, finding the right talent and creating a compensation and reward system to retain an organization's brain trust is paramount. Asks Scott Cohen of Watson Wyatt Worldwide, "If you have limited resources, do you want to give everyone 3 percent raises or do you want to reward your top performers with 7 or 8 percent and others with 1 or 2 percent?" It's also important to provide challenges and growth opportunities for top performers
Orientation, training, and performance management. It's extremely important to effectively assimilate new hires into an organization and then to give them the support and tools they need to be successful in their roles. Successful organizations are those that have been able to integrate performance management and skill development to directly relate to measurable business objectives.
Managing information and knowledge. Information and knowledge have always served as the cornerstone for business success. But as the economy has shifted from an industrial base to a knowledge base, the stakes have grown exponentially. Using technology to manage human capital is key. For example, to develop a smarter workforce, Inquisite Inc. has turned to performance management-focused training programs, informal brown-bag lunches, and a knowledge management application for its 100 employees that captures key information and makes it available to others. Employees can log on and find tidbits about subjects ranging from new information technology to an improved sales technique.
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