Making good business decisions Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2010

The results of the 2010 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey suggest that in spite of continued business challenges faced by employers, a number of organizations are continuing to take positive steps to ensure that they are ready for a successful recovery by enhancing their workplaces to retain their top performers and attract new talent.

The organizations we surveyed, in general, are making good business decisions that support the attraction and retention of top performers. For example, most employers are continuing to offer competitive compensation and benefits. More organizations are projecting base pay increases for employees and are providing employees with cash bonuses compared to last year. Additionally, the minimum hourly rate paid to employees continues to rise. In terms of benefits, nearly all employers are continuing to offer 401(k) plans to employees. More organizations are also providing employees with flexible spending accounts as well as flexible scheduling options.

Many organizations continue to enhance employee development. According to the survey, 82 percent of employers provide financial assistance to employees for job-related training, tuition reimbursement and other skill development opportunities. More employers than ever before have a mentorship program in place at their organization and are utilizing Web-based training. These results seem to suggest that employers continue to be willing to invest in the capabilities of their staff.

In addition, many organizations are planning for the future of their business. Several more organizations (91 percent) report having a strategic plan compared to last year. In addition, more organizations (70 percent) report having a disaster recovery plan. Employers continue to communicate their mission and vision to employees and use quality improvement processes to enhance their businesses. These are signs that organizations are taking steps to build stronger businesses.

Retaining top performers remains a key workplace issue, particularly as the job market begins to recover and there is increased risk that top talent will move on to other organizations. We applaud these organizations, as well as our NorthCoast 99 winners, who continue to enhance 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:

Invest in talent.

Continue to invest in talent, either through hiring externally or by developing employees’ capabilities internally. Many of our NorthCoast 99 winners have continued to hire as well as provide training and development opportunities to their staff. Money spent on new talent and assisting employees who wish to improve their knowledge and skills is a wise investment in your business. Exceptional talent is the key to continued organizational growth and success.

Encourage innovation and creativity.

Innovation and risk-taking are two reasons that many organizations have been able to weather the business challenges they’ve faced and even thrive amid some difficult circumstances. Encourage employees to think creatively about ways they can add value and improve the business. Many employers have cited impressive cost-savings and product or service enhancements from programs and initiatives that they have instituted to enhance innovation in the workplace.

Keep communicating.

In times of uncertainty, it’s important to keep your employees up to date on the direction of the organization as job security and stability remain top concerns for top performers. Many organizations have increased communication efforts with regard to business issues, strategic direction and organizational performance, which have helped to ease concerns, build trust, enhance transparency and engage employees.

Continue to promote our region.

Our survey revealed that the percentage of organizations promoting our region is at an all-time high. By promoting the many positive aspects of working in Northeast Ohio, employers are continuing to attract talent and improve our local economy.

Remain focused on your top performers.

As your organization navigates through continued challenges, it’s important to remain focused on your most important asset: your top performers. Are you doing everything you can to keep your best people? We recommend keeping an open dialogue with these individuals, addressing their feedback and concerns, and continuing to recognize them for the contributions.

Thank you to all of the organizations that participated in this survey and to Smart Business for 11 years of collaboration. We believe that the results of this survey provided some wonderful insights for developing great workplaces necessary to continue to attract and retain top performers.

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 pperry@ercnet.org.