2012 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey: Employers’ Outlook

Pat Perry, President, ERC

The results of the 2012 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey demonstrate Northeast Ohio employers using innovative ways to attract and retain top performers.

While respondents indicate for the second year running that the economy is no longer their most pressing challenge, other challenges such as funding, health care costs, controlling costs and financial stability all featured prominently in the top-10 challenges faced by employers. Despite this focus on costs, hiring and employee retention continued to be most employers’ top concern.

So how can employers be so worried about costs and be looking to make new hires? These two topics are in fact closely intertwined. Making good hiring decisions at the outset and then developing that employee into a top performer can save an employer thousands of dollars over time. To ensure that the “right” employee is hired from the start, more employers are using job boards, online career centers, and social networking sites, thus expanding their network of potential candidates. The use of psychological assessments for selection is also quickly gaining popularity, up about 6 percent in 2012 to 57percent.

A surge in technology usage among manufacturers as it relates to workplace practices was also reported. In the survey, manufacturers accounted for virtually all of the increased use of social networking as a recruiting tool. Similarly, manufacturers increased their use of electronic communication with employees in areas including e-mail (97.8 percent), website/intranet (51.1 percent) and social media (8.9 percent).

Similar to last year, participants reported pay raise projections of about 3 percent. In addition, the average dollar amount of individual cash bonuses saw healthy increases over 2011, particularly in manufacturing up $4,492 on average. Even the minimum hourly rate paid to employees improved, up to $11.02 on average. In addition, the use of non-monetary rewards significantly increased, with the percentages of employers offering work-life benefits such as flexible scheduling and paid time off banks up by 8 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

Clearly employers are seeking more creative ways to retain their employees, particularly as the job market begins to recover and factors such as voluntary turnover become more of a concern. In fact, participants reported a voluntary turnover rate of 8.6 percent, up from 2.7 percent in 2011. To combat this increased risk of losing top talent many organizations are trying to improve their workplaces. Based on the exceptional practices of this year’s participants as well as our NorthCoast 99 winners, here are a few suggestions to help you retain your top performers:

Communication is key. Keeping all employees informed builds trust and helps employees better understand their impact. Face-to-face conversations with an employee can go a long way – particularly when trying to ensure that top performers understand just how much their exceptional job performance is appreciated.

Find creative ways to reward for performance. Look for meaningful ways other than pay raises to reward and recognize your top performers. Autonomy, flexible work arrangements, or other non-monetary incentives can serve as lower cost, but effective alternative rewards programs.

Manage benefits costs. If you haven’t yet, implement wellness programs and incentives. The overall health of your pool improves as employees make healthier lifestyle choices, which can help you manage your health care costs in the long run.

Make technology work for you. Use social networking to expand your pool of potential candidates and consider exploring web-based training which often is more cost effective and offers a nearly unlimited list of topics to fit the needs and interests of your employees.

Thanks to the organizations that participated in this year’s survey and to Smart Business Magazine for 13 years of survey collaboration. In addition, we would like to acknowledge the NorthCoast 99 winners over the past 14 years (www.northcoast99.com) for their continued perseverance to create and maintain great places to work.

Pat Perry is president of ERC (www.ercnet.org), Northeast Ohio’s largest organization dedicated to human resources and workplace programs, practices, training and consulting. Reach him at (440) 684-9700 or [email protected]