Finding good employees Featured

7:00pm EDT December 31, 2006

Finding good employees has never been harder for companies than it is today. There exists a shortage of qualified workers, and filling the holes that large numbers of retiring baby boomers promise to leave won’t be easy.

According to Terry Phillips, vice president of Robert Half International in Akron, companies will need to enhance their recruiting efforts to meet their staffing needs.

Smart Business spoke with Phillips about how companies can pursue a more targeted approach to finding the talent they need.

Why is it so hard for companies to fill their employment needs today?

More than half (52 percent) attribute recruiting challenges to a shortage of qualified workers. Right now, many of the most skilled professionals are already employed, and there’s a more shallow talent pool to draw from. With large numbers of baby boomers expected to retire, there simply aren’t enough highly skilled replacement workers to draw from in the Generation X and Generation Y work force.

Also, firms are being highly selective and often seek that elusive perfect hire. They want to hire professionals who can start contributing immediately with little training and staff members who have diverse skill sets.

What sort of positions are the hardest to fill today? What are the easiest?

As we discussed earlier, there’s a shortage of highly skilled labor, so positions requiring advanced degrees and certifications are the hardest to fill. That’s also because the workers with those skill sets are more apt to stay in their positions and are less likely to be looking for other work opportunities.

What sort of strategies can a company undertake to get the staffing it needs?

Employers need to enhance their recruiting efforts, including using more targeted methods such as working with specialized recruiters and posting opportunities on job boards, to attract skilled candidates.

Companies should start focusing on retention now if they haven’t done so already. The last thing firms want to do is create an environment where professionals don’t feel their work is valued or feel they have to jump ship to get ahead. One way companies can reduce recruiting challenges is to do less of it — and that means keeping their top performers on board.

What sort of strategies can a company undertake to retain the good employees it currently has?

Approximately 70 percent of employers have not instituted any retention programs in the last year, which is down only slightly from 77 percent from last year.

With the changing work force and impending retirement of the baby boomer generation, the task of attracting and retaining qualified employees won’t be easy for employers. Implementing a program is vital. Hiring managers say the most common measures they are taking to retain employees are offering salary increases, bonuses and flexible work schedules.

While most employees won’t jump ship over a modest amount of money, nobody wants to feel undervalued. Firms need to examine prevailing wages for professionals in their regions and make sure their compensation doesn’t come up short. Salary guides, such as those published by Robert Half International, are a good source of information.

Now is an excellent time for managers to reach out to key players and find out how they feel about their jobs, and what types of things might increase their professional satisfaction.

Will this employment picture continue and perhaps get worse in the future or will it improve?

Our survey shows 21 percent of hiring managers said their employee turnover rate is higher than it was 12 months ago; and the same percentage expect it to be even higher 12 months from now. More than 80 percent of hiring managers expect it to be equally or more challenging to locate qualified candidates 12 months from now.

TERRY PHILLIPS is vice president of Robert Half International in Akron. Robert Half is a specialized staffing firm headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif. Reach Phillips at (330) 253-8367.