Attracting and retaining top talent: a growing obstacle for South Florida businesses

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By James S. Cassel
July 12, 2015

Cassel pictureMaintaining a strong workforce is becoming an increasingly significant barrier to growth for South Florida’s middle-market businesses. Finding, attracting, and retaining quality talent is a tricky proposition in a region with a limited labor pool and low unemployment rates.

Deloitte’s newly published “Mid-Market Perspectives: 2015 Report on America’s Economic Engine” identifies employee turnover as a major concern for middle-market companies.

Clearly, there is more value in cultivating existing talent than having a revolving door of employees. So, how can you build a strong, loyal team in South Florida?

First, have the right perspective. Do not feel overwhelmed and assume that sweeping corporate changes will be required. Often, we can achieve a great deal by making a series of small adjustments, and continuing to make other adjustments as we build on our success. Develop a practical plan and identify realistic, attainable goals and objectives.

At all times, keep a close pulse on your employees. It can be easy for business owners to get so consumed by day-to-day operations that they lose touch with their teams, a costly mistake. Are your employees engaged, motivated and happy? How can you maximize engagement? If you have good employees who are unhappy in their current positions, can you find other opportunities within the company so you can keep them around? If not, outplacement may be best for all parties.

Your compensation packages, including cash and benefits, should be competitive. While many companies in recent years have tended to avoid raises, increased competition and poaching of employees is making it critical for employers to become more generous. Competitive compensation packages can reduce your exposure to turnover too. Even Walmart is having to address the need for wage increases.

Usually, employees will reject job offers for lateral moves unless they perceive significant disparities in working conditions and compensation. Keep your eyes and ears open so you know what other businesses in your industry are doing. Websites like PayScale and Glassdoor can help you assess average compensation data about different industries and job roles.

Working conditions, benefits and flexibility also are important. While it is important to offer 401(k) programs (ideally with matching contributions), these benefits will not support retention if your employees do not use them. This is often the case with younger employees who opt not to contribute to their 401(k) plans (although they should). Ensure that your employees are educated on the importance of contributing, no matter how entry-level their salaries.

It also helps if your office has a “cool factor.” Every generation of employees has different needs and wants. Trendy-looking, modern offices in desirable neighborhoods and touches such as free gourmet coffee and snacks in break rooms appeal to millennials and Gen X-ers.

When recruiting and hiring, conduct as much due diligence as possible. Personality tests can help, as well as meticulously following up with references. Your current employees can be great resources for recruiting. Leverage them when appropriate, as they probably know your company better than outsiders and would be more engaged to stay at companies where they are surrounded by colleagues they helped recruit.

Routine evaluations can also boost employee loyalty and performance. Embrace the opportunity to let your team members know how they are performing, praise their strengths and achievements, and provide guidance on how to reach their career objectives. At the same time, use the opportunity to solicit their thoughts and feedback, take good notes, and follow through on their comments.

Encourage employees to interact in structured social environments, such as barbeques, movie nights or whatever tickles their fancy. While many companies have stopped providing annual company picnics, it may be time to resurrect them. The more your employees enjoy each other’s company, the more apt they are to work well together. Consider employee recognition initiatives too, and perhaps pair them with these social activities. Corporate community involvement projects can help increase job satisfaction and engagement. Identify organizations your employees would be most inclined to support.

Career development is critical. Employees who feel challenged and believe they are learning are more likely to stick around. A current issue with the millennial generation, for example, is that most recent college grads will have four or five jobs in their first decade of employment. Bearing that in mind, many companies are offering less training and investing fewer resources to advance employees out of fear of wasting time and money. This can be a mistake: Bored employees are more likely to begin looking elsewhere for stimulation.

Attracting and retaining quality employees is no easy task. By taking the right steps to build a strong team, you can gain a competitive edge and position your business for maximum growth and success.