Many are returning to the office this spring, perhaps for the first time since March 2020, but it’s not the same as when we left. The Covid-19 pandemic brought about rapid behavioral changes that forced people to rethink their priorities and purpose. As a result, our world has changed dramatically and business leaders are tasked with completely reimagining the workplace to address a hybrid workforce, the idea of tele-everything, and an ongoing talent shortage.
2021 was a year of transition from the uncertainty and horror of the 2020 lockdown, to a sense of hope and then disillusionment as Covid reared its ugly head and returned in the form of the Delta variant. This disruption caused workers to massively re-evaluate their lives, accelerating the Great Resignation. Ten years ago, in the wake of the Great Recession, there were often ten applicants for every job. Now, as a result of the Great Resignation, there are often ten jobs for every applicant. For some people laying off means the workforce, but for the majority it means moving to another job – 678,000 jobs were added in February, but employment fell to 3.8 percent, and workers have more influence than ever before.
No matter how advanced we are and how much technological advancement we have, people remain the most integral part of the workplace – people are the fossil fuel for the growth engine. Heading into 2022, 76 percent of small and medium-sized business (SMB) CEOs planned to increase their workforce, the highest number ever recorded since we began the Vistage quarterly workplace survey in 2003. Meanwhile, 62 percent of CEOs say their top concerns are people-related: hiring, retention, development, leadership and culture. Everyone is looking for people, because everyone is losing people. But before a leader can increase the workforce, it must first stabilize the workforce. Retention has never been more important to a company’s success. Here are a few ways to get it right.
Address current salaries.
While hiring continues to be a huge priority and increasingly competitive, it is equally important for existing employees to feel valued for their ongoing efforts. If wages increase during the hiring process, reset the midpoint and fill that salary gap for existing employees corresponding. Increases, promotions and salary adjustments save in the long run.
When a talented employee quits, it inevitably takes longer and costs more to hire someone with less experience. Likewise, recognizing good work with merit and spot bonuses should weigh as much as offering sign-up bonuses during the hiring process.
Work on the company culture.
While corporate culture has become a commonly used term, it is a critical part of increasing the likelihood of an employee staying with a company. Culture starts at the most basic level with what a workplace looks like. If one is a technician, is their lab state-of-the-art? Likewise, if someone is in marketing, does their office have cubicles or an open floor plan and do they have the flexibility to work from home? Rethinking the work environment to reflect the changing needs and desires of employees enables longevity.
Conduct ‘stay interviews’.
An increasingly popular retention tool is the ‘stay call’, where employers proactively determine whether to re-hire someone, rather than waiting to be debriefed at an ‘exit’ call when it’s too late. “Stay interviews” are an opportunity to determine appropriate compensation and benefits, armed with a better understanding of performance and abilities. It should be a two-way conversation in which employees also provide insight into their goals and desired career path. Together, identify and address any pain points and work to foster an inclusive environment and culture.
Invest in your executives.
Another powerful way to increase retention is management development. Everyone’s work experience is most determined by their boss; people rarely quit jobs, they quit managers. By investing in how a company leads at all levels and empowering managers with the autonomy to address the concerns of direct reports and improve their experience, the company can reap the benefits of employee loyalty.
Ultimately, retention comes down to creating a sense of “workplace FOMO.” Employees need to be energized, hopeful and supported in their long-term careers. CEOs and business leaders must foster an inclusive workforce that is flexible to meet the changing needs of employees, as the only sustainable way to grow the workforce is to retain the workforce first.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not Inc.com’s.
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