Retaining line-level talent Featured

12:05pm EDT July 31, 2006
Tampa has one of the 10 lowest unemployment rates in the nation while the region grows at one of the fastest rates. This combination has led to high demand for employees who can afford to be choosy about where they work. A recent survey has shown that between 75 percent and 85 percent of area employees are thinking about making a job change in the next year. Employers have more reasons than ever to take a good hard look at their benefits and compensation packages, according to Brent Short, managing director at Spherion Corp.

“Employees and potential employees are really shopping around right now, closely comparing benefits when considering a new job,” he says. “Now is the time for employers to take the blinders off and see what’s really going on in their organizations and assess their benefits and compensation against their competitors.”

Smart Business spoke with Short about ways in which employers can use benefits and compensation packages to recruit employees and how employers can benefit from working with a professional staffing firm.

How can employers best use their health care benefits to retain and recruit employees?
The two biggest issues right now are the cost of health plans and how quickly health care coverage will begin upon taking a new job. One thing employers can do is offer lower cost plans, or they can offer health care benefits starting with the employee’s first day on the job rather than making that employee wait 30, 60 or even 90 days before their health care benefits kick in. If it is necessary to maintain a waiting period, then employers can also consider paying the new employee’s COBRA costs to help ease that employee’s burden.

How do employers benefit by going the extra mile to retain their employees?
There are real costs associated with employee turnover, including the cost to replace and train employees as well as the human capital that is lost when an employee leaves. Employers who invest in their employees reap the benefits of low turnover.

How can employers benefit from the expertise of a professional staffing firm?
Professional staffing firms make it their business to know what’s happening in the market — what companies are offering what benefits, what companies have happy employees, and what companies have high or low turnover. We can help employers identify which benefits and perks their competition is offering and ways to improve their employee retention.

Perhaps the biggest benefit we offer is the ability to provide nonbiased third-party information about how employees and potential employees perceive a particular company as a place to work.

What are some creative fringe benefits employers can offer to help retain employees?
The single greatest request we hear from employees today is the need for more flexibility. More employees are seeking the opportunity to work from home, even if it’s just one or two days a week.

Employers can also provide more flexibility simply by encouraging their employees to take time off for vacation and make it possible for them to actually follow through and take the time without feeling guilty. Allowing flex time so employees can come in early and leave early to catch a child’s ball game or other personal activity also goes a long way toward creating a flexible work environment.

Some of the more creative benefits we see are tuition reimbursement and on-site day care facilities. The key for keeping today’s employees happy really comes down to working for a company that they feel provides them with a sense of work-life balance.

How can a company’s culture play a role in employee retention, and what can employers do to maintain a positive office culture?
I think it comes down to really listening to employees and getting a true sense of how they’re feeling and what they need to help them do their jobs better and be happier at work. This can be done in a variety of ways, including conducting regular meetings with company management and employees or conducting company surveys on a regular basis. Too often, companies get so focused on the day-to-day business that they lose touch with their employees, and problems that could be easily addressed will often spin out of control very quickly.

How important are salaries to retaining top employees, and how can employers ensure that their salaries are competitive?
Salaries are extremely important, especially in today’s environment where Tampa’s unemployment rate is down around 2.4 percent. Employers need to provide an attractive compensation and benefits package that can compete for new employees as well as ensure their current employees are content and happy so they won’t feel the need to look for a new job.

BRENT SHORT is managing director at Spherion Corp. Reach him at brentshort@spherion.com or (813) 864-1111.