The results of the 2011 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey show many positive signs of recovery and optimism for employers and a renewed focus on attracting and retaining top performers.
According to respondents, the economy is no longer their most pressing challenge. Organizations are more concerned about attracting and retaining talent and managing the growth of their businesses. This is especially evident in employers’ hiring practices. Fewer than 6 percent of responding organizations, the lowest percentage in the survey’s history, are anticipating layoffs this year, and many employers in the region appear to be hiring. More employers are using online methods to hire, including job boards, online career centers and electronic advertising. Social media is also being adopted into hiring practices at a fast pace, and the use of psychological assessments for selection has also increased. These practices may suggest that employers are increasingly focused on hiring this year and ensuring that they recruit the best talent.
Likewise, many organizations are improving their compensation practices. Pay raise projections are gradually returning to around 3 percent, up from the past two years, and more employers plan to provide pay increases compared to last year. Similarly, the percentage of employers providing cash bonuses to management and nonmanagement employees has increased and is the highest in five years.
Additionally, more employers are making investments in their staff’s development compared to past years. The percent of organizations providing financial assistance to employees for training and development has increased and is the highest it has been in four years, with 91 percent of organizations providing such assistance. Web-based training, in particular, has increased in popularity — by 43 percent in the past seven years. Tuition assistance, job training and mentor/career development programs also continue to be commonly used by employers to help enhance employees’ skills.
Employers also continue to offer competitive benefits — despite rising costs. More employers are offering employees health savings accounts and sharing costs for health insurance. Despite a 10 percent rise in health insurance premiums reported in the survey, the average percent of premium employees make toward their health insurance coverage remained fairly stable in comparison to the past few years. Additionally, organizations continue to offer 401(k) plans with matching contributions. The percentage of employers offering work-life benefits, such as flexible scheduling, paid time off and child-care/elder-care support, also continue to remain stable.
These are just a few examples of how organizations are enhancing their workplaces to ensure they retain their top performers and attract new talent. We applaud these organizations, as well as our NorthCoast 99 winners, who continue to improve their workplaces to retain their key talent. Based on the exceptional practices of these organizations, we’ve included a few suggestions to help you retain your top performers.
Manage benefit costs. It’s important to find different and more effective ways of managing employee benefits costs, particularly health insurance, as these costs continue to rise. Understand the drivers of these costs for your business and explore new ways to manage and cope with them in the long term, such as by investing in wellness initiatives. Also, be sure to invest in the benefits that are most important to your work force.
Compensate and reward for performance. Ensure that top performers are rewarded in meaningful ways, especially through compensation. Continue to keep pace with compensation trends and differentiate monetary awards, such as salary increases and incentive pay, based on performance. Additionally, you may consider involving top performers in a discussion about rewards to help identify alternative ways to recognize performance or to determine which rewards are most valuable to them.
Develop and advance your talent. Offering training and development opportunities is essential to manage continued growth and success but also to engage and retain your top people. Provide your top performers with numerous opportunities to be challenged and advance within your organization by offering opportunities to attend workshops, expand their education, gain credentials, network, volunteer and become leaders.
Encourage innovation. To sustain growth, continue to encourage employees to think creatively and look for ways to improve your products, services and processes. Provide them with opportunities to share their suggestions and ideas, either formally or informally. Additionally, strive to do business simpler and smarter and invest in new innovations and technological improvements. Engage your top performers to lead these efforts. Similarly, continuously improve and innovate your workplace practices, as well. You may even consider involving your top performers in discussion of workplace policies and practices.
Thanks to the organizations that participated in the survey and to Smart Business Magazine for 12 years of survey collaboration. In addition we would like to acknowledge the NorthCoast 99 winners over the past 13 years (www.northcoast99.com) who also demonstrate excellence in the attraction and retention of top talent.