Tapping into the emerging work force Featured

6:47am EDT August 29, 2006
The labor pool of qualified people in the U.S. today is smaller than it has been for quite some time, so many companies’ employment needs are going unfilled as they desperately search for the people they can’t operate without.

With that in mind, Lisa Kyle, district director for Spherion, a recruitment and staffing agency headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, says the key thing that companies need to focus on is employee retention and come up with more ways than just raising one’s pay to keep employees around.

Smart Business spoke with Kyle about the characteristics of the emerging work force and how companies might best tap into it.

How does the work force in the modern era differ than any in the past?
For 10 years, we tracked and benchmarked what motivates workers as well as what steps employers were taking to attract and leverage talent. We found that, by the end of the decade, there will be 10 million more jobs available than workers to fill them. We also found that there were a lot of serious misconceptions about retention among employers and their current as well as future employees. There were a lot of areas of disconnect between what employees need and want and what employers were providing.

We also found that employers on average believe that 14 percent of the work force will leave their current job within the next year. But through our survey, we found that over 40 percent were planning on leaving their current jobs within the next year.

Nearly 45 percent of companies believe that work force planning is a minor initiative. But because of the recruiting crunch, this will have to increase as the baby boomers exit the work force. In addition to providing a contingent work force for our clients, our main goal right now is to try to help our clients focused on the retention of their current employees so they have fewer turnovers.

What are some retention strategies that companies can use?
One of the most important is offering employees solid training and development. The desire for more training and career development has been driven by the digital and computer age where people are trying to gain the skills they need in this new age of business.

Compensation and benefits are always important. We’ve entered a new age of compensation deflation where little or no pay increases are taking place but benefit costs are rising.

Being sensitive to the work/life balance by offering employees flexible hours and vacation time is paramount, too.

How has the increasing number of immigrants affected the work force?
It’s a good thing, in that all companies are focused on diversity. We work with some local organizations that assist immigrants by placing them in jobs comparable to what they did in their native country. Many clients are looking to become more diverse and are thus asking to tap into this work force.

Do you believe outsourcing labor to foreign countries has been good or bad for the labor pool?
I believe it has a positive side and a down side. For example, we never like to see a 500-seat call center moved out of the country because it eliminates jobs for Americans. If you look at it exponentially across the country, that could be thousands of jobs lost. However, when those jobs are moved overseas, suddenly 500 qualified people are looking for work.

With the recruiting crunch employers are facing today, that’s a virtual gold mine of good, experienced people who can be placed. It’s rewarding to help people that way.

How can a company be assured it is receiving quality people?
Companies should set up a list of criteria, including educational background, references, skill sets. Do managers want background screening and drug screening completed in addition to past work experience?

The candidate should not only be qualified for the job but also fit the company’s culture. We funnel candidates through several steps in order to make sure that happens.

Prior to a face-to-face interview, candidates must pass an automated three-tier questionnaire via the phone. If all three tiers are passed, they are then directed to the Candidate Resource Center where they can apply to work with Spherion. That, in turn, allows the pre-screened candidate to become an applicant. A face-to-face interview takes place next, followed by intensive screening, testing, referencing, employment eligibility and any other criteria requested by the client.

LISA KYLE is a district director for Spherion in Atlanta, Ga. Reach her at (770) 960-0607.