Emerging Employers are Eclipsing Traditionalists in the War for Talent

156984646A new class of employers is emerging in the post-recession market, and they have their sights set on top talent. These “emergent” employers are hyper-focused on recruitment and retention of workers because they view them as the critical element in building and growing their businesses going forward.  They also recognize that they have to create the right employee-focused programs that can set them apart as the war for talent increases. According to Spherion’s Emerging Workforce Study (EWS), 31 percent of employers cite recruiting workers as one of their top two human resources concerns for the next two years.  Companies are clearly struggling to find the right workers, even as our research shows that almost a third of workers (29 percent) say they are likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months.

Companies need to ensure they are not only effectively recruiting the right workers but they must retain their valuable workforces as well. Staffing companies are especially equipped to identify the ideal fit between a worker and employer, and for companies that embrace the emergent work style, they are more likely to appeal to the recruiter and job seekers. Traditional employers often have trouble gaining an edge on emerging employers because they don’t understand what sets them apart, and why workers are more likely to commit to these next generation companies.  Spherion defines emerging employers as those organizations that have refined their employee engagement and retention strategies to focus on the needs and expectations of workers. In essence, these companies have put the employee in the center of their business in order to drive loyalty, productivity and results.

PREMIUM CONTENT: 2012 Staffing Company Survey: Employee Incentives

Through 15 years of conducting our EWS study, we have determined three key activities that distinguish emerging employers from the rest of the pack in creating greater recruiting and retention successes. In understanding these best practices, other employers can better assess their own employee programs and modify their initiatives to better compete for the right workers.

Career development. According to the EWS findings, emerging employers are nearly twice as likely to offer online career development tools (64 percent of emergent companies versus 33 percent of traditional employers).This has become an important factor for many workers considering a new employer. Likewise, more than a third of workers say that career development and training are extremely important considerations for remaining with their current jobs. This gives emerging employers who do offer programs such as continuing education and career development a competitive edge over traditional employers vying for the same talent. In order for traditional employers to begin building an emerging workplace structure, they need to listen to workers’ requests for career development and offer programs that support employees’ growth and earnings goals.

Formal work/life balance programs. Another initiative common among emergent employers is to offer more formal work/life balance programs than traditional companies. For example, more than half (53 percent) of emergent companies offer flex time, compared to just seven percent of traditional employers. Our study shows that this is a top priority for today’s worker, both when seeking a new job, and when deciding whether to stay with the current one. An overwhelming majority (93 percent) of employees ranked work/life balance programs as the most attractive job characteristic and 80 percent report these options have a positive or very positive affect on retention. Although some organizations worry that work/life balance programs can negatively impact  productivity, many studies support the converse and claim flex time has positive impacts such as increased morale. Formal, prescriptive initiatives and inventive organizational strategies that cater to workers’ desire for greater work/life balance programs are no longer just “nice to have,” they are essential for recruiting and retaining the top-performing workers.

Social media efforts. Finally, emergent companies are nearly twice as likely as traditional employers to use social media. Many businesses consider social networking tools frivolous and have banned their use in the workplace. Asserting that social media wastes time, many companies frown upon employees who spend any part of the workday on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the like. In reality however, social networks can deliver significant benefits to corporations if used properly. They can enrich and enhance business processes and significantly increase employee satisfaction, engagement and productivity. Companies striving to keep pace with emerging employers should leverage social platforms as an opportunity to connect with existing employees and build brand ambassadors both internally and externally.

To effectively design and deliver programs that successfully engage, retain and recruit world-class talent, employers need to fully understand the perspectives, needs and expectations of their employees.  The best way to know what your workers want is to continuously take their pulse. Through formal employee surveys, but also frequent informal check-ins and conversations, employers can develop and deliver programs that focus on the employees and their goals. When employees feel their goals are understood, supported and encouraged, they are more likely to support and drive the goals of the business. And that’s the ultimate win-win for both employee and employer.

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Sandy Mazur
Sandy Mazur is division president of license and franchise, Spherion Corp. She is responsible for the strategic leadership and support of an extensive base of Spherion franchise and license offices, as well as expansion into new U.S. markets.

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