The age old saying goes something like “quitters never win.” In this labor market, though, it seems like quitters still end up ahead. The unemployment rate was at a 10-year low in May of 2017; today, it sits at an 18-year low. Some experts say the labor market is in a sweet spot because of the increased need for workers. But it’s not a sweet spot for everyone: it’s sweet for employees looking to make a career change and people looking for a job, it’s not so sweet for employers struggling to recruit and retain employees. As the labor market continues to grow tighter, employers are going to need more creative approaches to retaining employees—and that’s where HR should step in.
The incentives for employees to leave and find a new job are really high, and it’s a job hunters market. HR and managers should look no further than their employees to find out how to create a more engaging environment. For organizations wondering how to creatively hook candidates, what areas to revitalize, how to better support their workforce, and figure out why people are leaving, current employees could prove invaluable. Send a survey, hold a round table discussion, and look where improvements can be made. It’s likely the employees will provide more creative, economical solutions than a handful of senior leaders around a conference room table. It’s likely buy-in for the changes will be higher, too.
Employees need to see there’s a future at their current organization. Consultants at top firms have a saying that goes something like “up or out,” where consultants must build a book of business up or they’ll end up leaving leave. I think the same principle applies to careers in any organization: you need to communicate where an employee can go next (up) or they’ll find another organization providing that roadmap (out). Showing employees they’re worth investing in can help an employee see the organization is worth growing with.
Lastly, HR and managers should be willing to embrace non-traditional benefits offerings. It’s becoming more difficult for companies to differentiate with compensation, health and welfare benefits, and 401(k) contributions; these are important, but those aren’t always the “benefits” candidates look for. Factors where companies can differentiate on are cultural and fringe benefits: flexible scheduling, remote work arrangements, student loan repayment assistance, paid-time off, professional development, and maybe the occasional happy hour (or two). These cultural/fringe benefits often have a lower price tag, and a greater perceived value, than the traditional benefits organizations offer.
The labor market is in territory that hasn’t been traversed in nearly two decades. As a result, HR and organizational leaders will need to head on to land as equally ill traversed to attract, retain, and engage employees.
Skyler is an HR Generalist & Consultant with The Employer Group providing guidance to organizational leaders and business owners on concerns related to compensation, employee relations, and benefits.