Talent scout

Where are the good employees and how do I get them and keep them?

That’s a question a lot of Northeast Ohio employers are asking themselves, according to the results of the 2005 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices survey. Once again, attracting and retaining great employees was listed as the biggest challenge faced by those surveyed.

“If you want to be competitive or be successful, attraction and retention will always be your No. 1 priority,” says Marty Mordarski, manager of workplace research for ERC. “If you have talented workers, then you’ll be more competitive, so it doesn’t surprise us that attraction and retention is No. 1 and has been.”

What is surprising, though, is the lack of emphasis on the importance of human resources leadership within companies, even though HR is typically tasked with finding ways of getting the top talent into the organization.

“When asked the question, ‘What’s the most important position in the company?’ no one said HR,” says Mordarski. “When the No. 1 issue is finding and keeping employees, why isn’t the area responsible for that considered one of the most important?”

The lack of emphasis on the importance of human resources hasn’t stopped HR professionals from continuing to take advantage of technology to fill positions.

“Along recruiting lines, one of the other trends we saw, and this is consistent with what we saw in last year’s survey, was the approach to online recruiting is growing even stronger,” says Mordarski. “For the first time since we started doing the survey, spending for online ads has eclipsed that spent on classified ads. That’s a complete 180 from when we first started doing the survey.”

Almost 70 percent of participants find candidates using online job boards, an increase of 12.4 percent from last year. More than 37 percent of manufacturers and more than 43 percent of nonmanufacturers report that their Web sites have online career centers.

The importance of promoting the region in general via the company Web site has also increased.

“We all talk about the regionalization of the area and attracting people to the region, but last year, only 10 percent indicated they promoted living and working in Northeast Ohio through their Web site,” says Mordarski. “This year, that jumped up to 15.9 percent. It’s a small increase, but it’s a good sign that people are recognizing the importance of saying this is a great place to be in — not only are we a great company to work for, but this is a great region for living and working.” There are also some indications in the survey that the regional economy may be improving.

“When asked, ‘What is the biggest challenge facing your company,’ for the first time in the last five years, ‘managing growth and expansion’ showed up in the top five,” says Mordarski. “For ‘What’s the most important position in the company?’ sales and customer service positions snuck in there as well. That ties into growth and expansion.

“Another indicator is we had the lowest percentage in the last five years of those planning layoffs. Only 12 percent reported planning layoffs this year, while that number was 30 percent in 2001 and about 13 or 14 percent last year.”

With fewer dislocated workers to choose from and an average employee age of 41.9 and rising, the problems from a shrinking labor pool will probably become even more pronounced in the next five to 10 years.

“If you are having a hard time finding good workers now, once the labor pool is smaller in the near future, there will be even more challenges for area companies,” says Mordarski.

How to reach: www.ercnet.org