Organizational success Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2009

The results of the 2009 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey suggest that in spite of a challenging economy, many organizations continue to work toward creating and maintaining great workplaces.

Hiring and keeping top performers remains the driver for organizational success — especially in tough times. Challenging times require perseverance, creativity, innovation, and balancing cost reduction with talent attraction and retention. This year’s survey results illustrate that many Northeast Ohio companies have risen to the challenge.

One way to attract and retain valuable employees is to maintain a culture that is socially responsible and one that offers opportunities for flexibility and development. The percentage of surveyed organizations that have received awards for community involvement increased 4.7 percent from last year, the highest margin over the past six years of this survey. This suggests that organizations are increasingly active in their communities.

In addition, the number of organizations that offer employees paid time off and flexible arrangements remained high. Organizations continue to offer development opportunities to enhance the skills and capabilities of their employees. In fact, the percentage of organizations providing financial assistance to employees to upgrade their skills via tuition assistance, job training or other methods increased by 7.2 percent during the last six years. Organizations are offering a variety of mentorship opportunities to their employees, as well.

Recruitment methods and selection procedures remain critical for employers seeking top performers. For instance, the survey reflects that the percentage of organizations that have an online career center is the highest in six years. The number of organizations using psychological assessments to aid in employee selection has increased 27 percent from five years ago. The use of online job boards has increased, as well. In addition, some organizations are taking advantage of the tremendous amount of talent in the marketplace, recognizing that great talent is abundant during this period of high unemployment. By putting these practices into place, organizations are effectively preparing to acquire the talent they need to succeed when the economy inevitably recovers. Smart move!

As the survey results illustrate, even amid tough economic conditions, organizations continue to employ workplace practices that align with the attraction and retention of top performers. If your organization is struggling in maintaining a great workplace in these challenging times, we’ve included some suggestions:

Creatively cut costs with the input of your employees

There may be options to layoffs. There are other ways of cutting costs without eliminating your talent. Great organizations are enhancing communication with their employees to identify creative and new ideas to effectively cut costs. These ideas often save jobs.

Develop talent internally

Developing talent internally can be less costly than seeking or recruiting talent externally. In addition, developing employees’ skills and competencies enables them to contribute more to the organization. Development is an important factor influencing retention of top performers, so advance the skills of your employees when possible.

Reward performance

If your organization needs to decrease compensation costs, it is important to ensure that top performers are still rewarded in meaningful ways. Providing increases with greater differentiation based on performance is a good way to ensure that top performers are still compensated for their performance. Again, it may be a good idea to involve your top performers in a discussion around performance rewards. It’s a great way to identify new and creative ways to take care of the people that are driving your business success.

Manage benefit costs

It’s important to find ways of managing employee benefits costs differently and more effectively. Maintain the benefits that are the most meaningful to your employees but develop new strategies for managing their costs.

Use interns for extra support

Many organizations can’t afford to hire full-time employees at this time but need additional work force support. Consider using interns. Organizations frequently cite that interns not only provide them with meaningful and cost-effective project and work support but also enable them to develop a pipeline of future talent.

Continue to promote our region

Emphasizing the positive aspects of our region helps keep talent in Northeast Ohio, which is essential for the economic growth and development of our region. Promote Northeast Ohio by linking to your Web site.

Thanks to the organizations that participated in the survey and to Smart Business for 10 years of survey collaboration. In addition, we would like to acknowledge the NorthCoast 99 winners over the past 11 years ( for their continued perseverance to create and maintain great places to work. These organizations are leading by example.

Pat Perry is president of ERC (, Northeast Ohio’s largest organization dedicated to HR and workplace programs, practices, training and consulting. Reach him at (440) 684-9700 or