Pat Perry

Thursday, 15 August 2013 06:58

Pat Perry: In pursuit of a better workplace

Workplace practices and policies ranging from innovative flexible work arrangements to the debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were topics of this year’s ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey. Watching the discussions around these events unfold serves to reinforce the fact that the decisions we make as employers have the ability to significantly impact the well-being of both our individual employees and our organizations.

Now in its 14th year, the 2013 survey collaboration between ERC and Smart Business aims to shed light onto how employers in the region are effectively applying these practices, enhancing their workplaces and ensuring that they retain their top performers and attract new talent in the region.

So, whether you are pursuing the latest innovative trend or simply looking to meet the basic needs of your workforce, you are likely doing so for largely the same reason as the vast majority of other organizations in the area — to overcome the challenge of attracting and retaining the best and brightest employees here in Northeast Ohio.

Below are a few hot topics from this year’s survey. Also included are a few suggestions about how each can be used to help attract and retain top talent at your organization.

Benefits

Organizations are increasingly expressing concerns about health care costs with 42.6 percent of manufacturers and 28 percent of non-manufacturers reporting that they are “unsure” whether they will “‘pay” or “play” when the new ACA regulations take effect.

Two-thirds of organizations are choosing to “play” and will continue to offer health insurance to their employees. With many unknowns still on the horizon, try to understand the drivers of these costs for your business and explore new ways to manage them in the long-term. Investing in wellness initiatives helps manage costs and still allows you to provide the benefits that are most important to your workforce.

Safety

Creating a physically safe work environment starts with putting specific policies on the books that will keep employees safe on a day-to-day basis. We’ve been fortunate to see very low rates of violence in the workplace in recent years among participating organizations, 77.5 percent of which prohibit firearms and other weapons. But safety isn’t always as cut-and-dry as having a policy in your handbook.

While violence has declined, incidents of bullying have actually risen to a high point of 19 percent in 2013. Creating an environment that encourages employees to speak out if they experience or see inappropriate behaviors can be challenging, but results in a healthier, safer workplace.

Work-life-balance

Respondents are making this popular concept into more than just a catchphrase. This year, flexible work arrangements rose to 68.9 percent — the highest level seen in the past 13 years. While we understand not every job is conducive to off-site work arrangements like telecommuting or work-from-home, even manufacturing organizations have some options. In fact, manufacturers in this year’s survey allow their employees some degree of flexibility with 34 percent allowing part-time schedules and 36.2 percent granting flextime.

Social Media

While social media use is seeing growth on the whole, the most prominent role it plays in organizations is in recruitment strategies. Half of respondents report using some type of social media tool for recruiting. But this year organizations made it abundantly clear that not all social media tools are created equally.

When it comes to finding the right employees, organizations appear to be taking their recruiting responsibilities more seriously, with 90.9 percent sticking to professional networking sites like LinkedIn. Facebook ranked second with only half that number of users at 45.5 percent.

Sincerest thanks to this year’s survey participants and to Smart Business magazine for 14 years of survey collaboration. In addition, we would like to acknowledge the NorthCoast 99 winners over the past 15 years 

(www.northcoast99.org) who also demonstrate excellence in the attraction and retention of top talent.

 

Pat Perry is president of ERC, Northeast Ohio’s largest organization dedicated to human resources and workplace programs, practices, training and consulting. Reach him at (440) 684-9700 or pperry@yourERC.com. For more information, visit www.ercnet.org.

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 pperry@ercnet.org.

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.

Click here to see the survey results.

Saturday, 29 July 2006 07:07

All aboard

Northeast Ohio is a great place to live and work.

The past few years have been challenging ones for the local business community, so it is important to share the successes of area businesses. This year’s SBN/ERC Workplace Practices Survey suggests that the economy is improving and that organizations are responding to the shortage of top-performing employees.

A prime example of some encouraging news is that the number of organizations expecting layoffs has fallen for the sixth consecutive year (since this survey began) to a new low of 8.4 percent. Six years ago, that number was just more than 30 percent.

One of the ways organizations are meeting the challenge of attracting and retaining top-performing employees is through innovative recruitment and selection processes. More and more, organizations are embracing the concept that a bad hire can cost more than a vacancy, and allowing underachievers to remain can drag the entire company down.

The popularity of pre-employment drug testing and psychological assessments continues to rise; both are at a six-year high. It is great to see that organizations are taking steps to ensure hiring the best.

For the sixth year in a row, the most frequently reported challenge facing businesses today is attracting and retaining quality employees. We do not see this priority changing much.

Hiring and keeping top people is no longer an option — it is a business necessity. And there is little argument that the core initiative of any regional economic development effort is the attraction and retention of talented individuals to work at local organizations.

Besides, those organizations that attract and retain the best talent significantly increase their chances of beating their competition on a regular basis. We believe that the ongoing development of a great workplace is the silver bullet for your organizational success and Northeast Ohio’s regional economic success. Best of all, great workplace development is something you can control.

Based on the results of our survey, we believe there are other initiatives organizations can implement today to support their success and energize our local economy.

  • Buy local. Whether it is consulting, employee training, outplacement or staffing services, Northeast Ohio has high-quality and competitively priced products and services available. Each time you purchase locally, you support local job creation and retention.

  • Employ the unemployed. There are many talented individuals in this area, anxious to work, who can add significant contributions to your organization. Hiring these individuals supports economic development and creates an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.

Incidentally, the baby boomer group has been particularly hit hard in our area. These are the people who have made an investment in our local community — let’s not leave them behind.

  • Employ at least one intern this year. Northeast Ohio has a rich, talented pool of students who attend our local vocational institutions, universities and colleges. This very affordable labor pool comes equipped with high energy, great technical skill sets and a willingness to learn and participate on a team.

This is an opportunity to make an impact on the media-hyped brain drain.

  • Promote the region. It is incumbent upon every Northeast Ohio organization to brag about the many fine attributes of the region. One tool to help you do that is a free link to a state-of-the-art site, no advertising site that showcases our great region. Link http://www.ercnet.org/neohio/index.htm to your Web site.

Congratulations to those organizations that get it and have risen to the challenge, and thank you again for participating in our annual survey. It is great to see Northeast Ohio organizations working toward becoming great workplaces for top-performing employees.

And, for those of you who haven’t boarded the train yet, there is plenty of room — hop on board and get ready for the ride of your life.

Pat Perry is president of ERC, the region’s largest organization dedicated to HR and workplace programs, practices, training and consulting. The organization also hosts NorthCoast 99 and has partnered with Smart Business Network since 1999 on the annual Workplace Practices Survey. Reach Perry at (440) 947-1280 or pperry@ercnet.org.

Sunday, 26 July 2009 20:00

Organizational success

The results of the 2009 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey suggest that in spite of a challenging economy, many organizations continue to work toward creating and maintaining great workplaces.

Hiring and keeping top performers remains the driver for organizational success — especially in tough times. Challenging times require perseverance, creativity, innovation, and balancing cost reduction with talent attraction and retention. This year’s survey results illustrate that many Northeast Ohio companies have risen to the challenge.

One way to attract and retain valuable employees is to maintain a culture that is socially responsible and one that offers opportunities for flexibility and development. The percentage of surveyed organizations that have received awards for community involvement increased 4.7 percent from last year, the highest margin over the past six years of this survey. This suggests that organizations are increasingly active in their communities.

In addition, the number of organizations that offer employees paid time off and flexible arrangements remained high. Organizations continue to offer development opportunities to enhance the skills and capabilities of their employees. In fact, the percentage of organizations providing financial assistance to employees to upgrade their skills via tuition assistance, job training or other methods increased by 7.2 percent during the last six years. Organizations are offering a variety of mentorship opportunities to their employees, as well.

Recruitment methods and selection procedures remain critical for employers seeking top performers. For instance, the survey reflects that the percentage of organizations that have an online career center is the highest in six years. The number of organizations using psychological assessments to aid in employee selection has increased 27 percent from five years ago. The use of online job boards has increased, as well. In addition, some organizations are taking advantage of the tremendous amount of talent in the marketplace, recognizing that great talent is abundant during this period of high unemployment. By putting these practices into place, organizations are effectively preparing to acquire the talent they need to succeed when the economy inevitably recovers. Smart move!

As the survey results illustrate, even amid tough economic conditions, organizations continue to employ workplace practices that align with the attraction and retention of top performers. If your organization is struggling in maintaining a great workplace in these challenging times, we’ve included some suggestions:

Creatively cut costs with the input of your employees

There may be options to layoffs. There are other ways of cutting costs without eliminating your talent. Great organizations are enhancing communication with their employees to identify creative and new ideas to effectively cut costs. These ideas often save jobs.

Develop talent internally

Developing talent internally can be less costly than seeking or recruiting talent externally. In addition, developing employees’ skills and competencies enables them to contribute more to the organization. Development is an important factor influencing retention of top performers, so advance the skills of your employees when possible.

Reward performance

If your organization needs to decrease compensation costs, it is important to ensure that top performers are still rewarded in meaningful ways. Providing increases with greater differentiation based on performance is a good way to ensure that top performers are still compensated for their performance. Again, it may be a good idea to involve your top performers in a discussion around performance rewards. It’s a great way to identify new and creative ways to take care of the people that are driving your business success.

Manage benefit costs

It’s important to find ways of managing employee benefits costs differently and more effectively. Maintain the benefits that are the most meaningful to your employees but develop new strategies for managing their costs.

Use interns for extra support

Many organizations can’t afford to hire full-time employees at this time but need additional work force support. Consider using interns. Organizations frequently cite that interns not only provide them with meaningful and cost-effective project and work support but also enable them to develop a pipeline of future talent.

Continue to promote our region

Emphasizing the positive aspects of our region helps keep talent in Northeast Ohio, which is essential for the economic growth and development of our region. Promote Northeast Ohio by linking www.neoisgreat.com to your Web site.

Thanks to the organizations that participated in the survey and to Smart Business for 10 years of survey collaboration. In addition, we would like to acknowledge the NorthCoast 99 winners over the past 11 years (www.northcoast99.com) for their continued perseverance to create and maintain great places to work. These organizations are leading by example.

Pat Perry is president of ERC (www.ercnet.org), Northeast Ohio’s largest organization dedicated to HR and workplace programs, practices, training and consulting. Reach him at (440) 684-9700 or pperry@ercnet.org.

Monday, 26 July 2010 20:00

Making good business decisions

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.

Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:00

Challenge the seemingly impossible

For the seventh year in a row, the results of the 2007 ERC/SmartBusiness Workplace Practices Survey suggest that hiring and retaining employees is the most prominent challenge facing organizations in Northeast Ohio.

While it may appear unachievable, given that the number of organizations facing this challenge appears to increase every year, it’s not. Organizations continue to rise to the challenge, adopting great workplace practices that help attract and retain top talent, and this year is no exception — they are truly conquering this seemingly impossible task.

Organizations are continuing to improve their hiring practices to meet new demands and competition. The results of our survey suggest that organizations are using the Internet to a greater degree for recruiting and hiring purposes, as 40 percent of organizations reported having an online career center. The number of organizations using Internet job boards has increased nearly 25 percent in the past seven years. Likewise, the average percent of recruiting budgets spent on online advertisements has increased significantly each year.

The number of companies performing reference checks on applicants and using psychological assessments has increased from last year. The use of these selection tools continues to rise each year, indicating that organizations are implementing sound hiring processes that ensure the selection of top candidates.

The average percentage of an organization’s work force that is temporary is down to 2.9 percent — the lowest in seven years. The use of a contingent work force is down to an all-time low of 5.6 percent, as well. More employers appear to be hiring full-time and permanent employees — a great sign of economic development in the area.

Not only are organizations improving their hiring practices, they are also consciously making efforts to retain the employees they do have, particularly in the area of benefits. The percentage of companies offering Health Savings Plans is up 9.3 percent over last year. The percentage of companies offering ownership opportunities to nonmanagement employees has increased from last year, as well, and 44 percent of companies are offering flexible arrangements for employees.

Nearly 75 percent of organizations are using long-term service awards to keep quality employees. Programs such as these help retain employees and create great workplaces.

Hiring and retaining great employees is not an unattainable goal, although trends make it seem so. We need to constantly be asking ourselves what we could be doing differently to face the challenge of creating workplaces that hire and retain top performers who stay and thrive. We’ve included some ideas to help you based on this year’s results.

Institute an employee referral program. Getting top-performing employees talking about the company to their friends about how much they love working there is the best recruitment tool. This will generate a pool of great candidates and a solid reputation for being a fabulous workplace.

Develop your employees. Only 8.6 percent of employees in organizations surveyed were promoted this year, and less than a quarter of organizations surveyed have mentorship programs. Top performers want new and challenging work, and research has shown that employees who leave organizations typically do so to seek out new career development opportunities. So start developing and advancing your employees and putting programs into place that make this happen.

Implement work-life programs. None of the surveyed organizations have an elder-care assistance program, and very few have child-care assistance programs, yet there is increasingly high demand for these work-life-friendly programs. To distinguish yourself from your competition, institute a low-cost program for your employees.

Continue to promote the area. Advertise all of the great places in Northeast Ohio and the perks of working in this region. Link www.ercnet.org/neohio/index.htm to your Web site.

Congratulations to all the organizations that continuously exhibit that the art of hiring and retaining quality employees is not an impossible challenge. And thank you to all the organizations that participated in this year’s survey. You are cultivating great workplaces every day by creating the unthinkable, changing the ordinary to extraordinary and challenging the seemingly impossible.

PAT PERRY is president of ERC, Northeast Ohio’s largest organization dedicated to HR and work-place programs, practices, training and consulting. Reach him at (440) 684-9700 or pperry@ercnet.org.