Winning the war on talent Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2007
With average employment tenure less than four years, contemporary wisdom suggests that companies cannot succeed in today’s business environment if they do not improve and create new programs to attract and retain employees. Companies that have experienced extensive turnover costs are starting to bend over backwards.

Receiving a paycheck each period is not enough to bond today’s employees to a company. So finding the creativity to connect employees with their companies for long-term relationships is vital in today’s work force management.

Smart Business spoke with the vice president of Delta Dallas Staffing, Kim Follis, to gain some insights into how corporations can attract and retain employees as one way to strengthen their competitive edge in today’s complex business environment.

How do employers create an atmosphere that helps retain top talent for the long haul?

Employers need to evaluate five critical factors when attracting and retaining top talent for their company: culture, empowerment, appreciation, communication and goals/direction.

Culture is the environment that represents the people, ideals, personality and overall style of the company. Empowerment is the ability for employees to impact the business, make decisions and take the initiative in solving problems or creating new ideas. Appreciation is the ability and desire to convey among employees the feeling that they are appreciated, needed and valued. Communication should be open, valued, candid, respected and welcomed. Goals/direction is the idea that the company and the employees know who they are and what they are striving for.

Recently, at an event sponsored by SMU Cox School of Business, a new topic was added, ‘Implementing Innovative Talent Management Strategies.’ Discussions included the process of horizontal and vertical alignment in hiring congruently with companies’ strategies. Additional areas that need to be addressed in attracting and retaining top talent were defining clear expectations, opportunities for development, talent fit, recognition and having committed co-workers.

Does addressing those five critical factors help employers retain their employees?

Once management ensures that the factors are in place, it should address them on a quarterly basis. Doing so opens communication and confirms that the parties are on the same page. It’s the role of the organization’s executives, management and leaders to have these conversations and to be in tune with their employees’ thoughts, ideas and feelings. Executives and HR personnel have to be conscientious about and hold true to those ideals and implement them in their hiring process.

Many times companies settle for a hire to fill a specific job rather than taking a look at the long-term effect of the hire and how this potential employee can help build a stronger business. In such cases, they do not share the expectations and goals that they have for this person. Consequently, they do not get a buy-in from the employee, who may have the abilities and skill sets required to do the job, yet is way off base from the other critical factors. They understand what they are to do and how to contribute, but the ‘fit factor’ is not there.

How do employers benefit from retaining their employees?

Employers benefit in tangible and intangible ways. For example, they foster a sense of stability among customers.

Employees feel that they do not have to tell their story over and over again, that the company knows them and that the people there have ‘company intelligence.’ That stability is complemented by ‘branding,’ which results in constancy in message, goals, direction, policies and procedures.

Another employer benefit is the sense of knowledge and confidence that employees develop in themselves and their employer regarding policies, business practices and decision-making, which contributes to a positive work environment.

Finally, financial benefits are derived from reduced costs of training, hiring and loss of business when transition occurs. Research from the Human Capital Institute suggests that corporate market value is increasingly defined as the sum of human intangibles, ranging from public perception of a company's intellectual capacity to its perceived ability to create new solutions, enter new markets and respond to change.

What benefits do employees accrue from staying with their employers?

Employees gain better senses of history, empowerment and accountability. They earn more leadership opportunities through training, mentoring, management and leading by example. All these factors create more personal and professional growth.

These benefits are made possible when the five critical factors mentioned earlier are in alignment with the personal and professional goals of employees. When this happens, employees and companies benefit, which refutes the idea that neither employer loyalty nor tenure exists in today’s world of business.

KIM FOLLIS, CPC/CTS, is a vice president with Delta Dallas Staffing. Reach her at or (972) 788-2300.