Keeping good people Featured

8:00pm EDT August 26, 2007

With multiple generations in the work force, ease of travel, global competition, and a relatively sound economy, companies are facing challenges in attracting and retaining top talented employees.

“Employers today are realizing that they must invest in sound hiring and retention practices to include programs that meet the needs and wants of employees,” says Michael Garcia, work force services manager at Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance. “Those employers that best understand their employees’ behaviors, values and goals fare better in the competition for the brightest.”

Smart Business talked to Garcia, who said that many companies are employing strategies that break away from traditional culture.

What is the employment situation in the Tampa area?

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan statistical area (MSA) has been going through a period of growth. For example, in 2006, on average 1.2 million people were employed in our MSA each month. From 2001 through 2006, the average monthly employment levels in the Tampa-St. Petersburg MSA experienced approximately seven percent growth, an increase of more than 73,000 employed workers. Hillsborough County’s average monthly employment levels rose approximately 60 percent of overall estimated employment growth for the MSA. For the same period the average weekly wages increased by 20 percent. Among the highest average wages are finance and insurance.

Unemployment rates, on the other hand, hover around three percent with minor fluctuations. There was a slight increase for the month of June, which is fairly common given the number of graduates entering the workforce at that time.

What does this mean for the employers?

It means that it is going to take more preparation and effort to secure the best employees. The lower the unemployment rate, the more challenging it is to find qualified individuals. Management needs to be fully aware of employees’ needs and wants to offer competitive packages that are compatible with the values and goals of job seekers they wish to recruit. Companies should strive to be the employer of choice in the area and within their industry.

What are some things companies can do to obtain and retain the best people?

Companies are creating work environments that are as conducive to employees’ needs as they are to customers’ needs. When employees are satisfied, they work toward making the customer satisfied. If flexible schedules, fitness programs or dress codes are important items on the overall compensation and benefits scales, employers are working toward incorporating those items into the corporate culture. Job candidates search for those companies that share their philosophies for financial responsibility, environmentally friendly practices, a family first environment or work-life balance. A new-hire will put in long hours and time and energy into a project as long as they feel they are contributing or making a difference (not just to the bottom line, but their community as well). Adopting flex schedules that allow a parent to attend their little leaguer’s game or school play or allowing employees the freedom to express creativity by decorating the work station are not costly initiatives and can garner positive morale and productivity if your environment can accommodate it.

What about going outside this area to find the right talent?

Employers can no longer think locally as they seek the best talent. They need to look globally. Candidates around the country are interested in positions in areas showing significant growth. Tampa Bay is one of those growth areas, creating jobs in the professional service, technology and creative industries.

Do you have any other thoughts on securing the right people for the job?

Knowing what is going on in the market, using available resources to assist you in the recruitment and training process and taking the steps to create an employer of choice for your type of business is key. Job seekers today align themselves with companies that offer not just competitive salaries, but that also have a high standard of ethics, share values for community empowerment, and have environmentally sound policies.

MICHAEL GARCIA is work force services manager with Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance. Reach him at (813) 740-4680 ext. 259 or by e-mail at garciam@workforcetampa.com.