You’ve either been experiencing it first hand or heard about it on the news — It’s tougher than ever to hire and retain staff. Employees are in high demand and many companies are experiencing worker shortages, staff unwilling to come back due to enhanced unemployment benefits and even situations where staff quits mid-shift to accept a more attractive offer.
Hiring and retention has always been a key aspect of running a successful business and the post-COVID struggle for employees makes it more important than ever. So what can you do to try and fill those spots and keep employees happy? Below are nine considerations as you navigate this new challenge:
1. Be honest about the market – One of the largest mistakes employers make is not being honest when it comes to evaluating their potential pool of employees. Oftentimes you may think that individuals would be clamoring for a position whenever you put out a “Help Wanted” sign but situational changes in the workplace have made that outlook dangerous. Demand for employees is high and you need to consider that you may be hiring someone who would not be a potential candidate previously or may need more training than past employees. Be prepared to put in the work to get new staff up to speed.
2. Use what you have – If you find yourself losing new hires or existing employees to competitors offering a higher salary, look at your arsenal of offerings to sweeten the pot. Are you a restaurant? Give new employees a credit line for meals both on and off shift. Do you operate a hotel? Consider throwing in room night(s) or other amenities such as day resort passes as a sign on bonus. Whatever industry you are in, you likely have an incentive attractive to new hires that don’t necessarily have a hard out of pocket cost.
3. Think beyond the paycheck – This is true for both new and existing employees. With many employers offering incremental hourly and salary increases to stay competitive, the temptation might be to do the same. But what if you can’t? Adding additional PTO or personal leave days or increasing health insurance contributions can make a slightly lower income more attractive.
4. Talk to your staff – As a follow up to the item above, regularly seek input from your staff about the issues most important to them when it comes to job satisfaction. Regular anonymous surveys or external audits can help you pinpoint where to spend your retention budget. Do employees regularly talk about a desire for overtime hours if available or a need for child care assistance? Listen to what they are saying and look for ways to add those changes to your work environment if possible.
5. Talk to your peers – Regular networking opportunities and association meetings are great ways to get a pulse on your industry. This holds true also when it comes to retention. Is your business located within an industrial park or warehouse district with many different individual companies? Spend some time getting to know your fellow owners and managers and try to compare notes about what has and has not worked when it comes to retention.
6. Get creative with scheduling and staffing – More than ever employers need to re-think the way they structure their workplace and shifts. If remote working became the norm during pandemic shutdowns and your team has a desire to have some (or all) of that functionality continue, look at ways to make it permanent and address any access or technological issues encountered along the way. Employees may also have had to develop new work-life balance schedules based on schooling which could continue through this year and next. When it comes to staffing, examine ways to schedule around employee needs where possible as a retention tool.
7. Look at growing existing employees – Growing and promoting an existing employee is always cheaper than securing and training a new one. Now is a good time to talk with your HR team or consultant regarding opportunities to staff up via training or education options within your existing employee base. Instead of hiring outside the company for a General Manager of your newest restaurant location, look within your organization for strong candidates that might be ready for a step up with a little mentoring or coaching.
8. Use word of mouth and referral programs – Your happy employees are the best recruiters you have! If you don’t already have one in place, create a bonus program for existing employees that refer potential new candidates. Existing team members know the most about your work environment and are likely to recommend it to like-minded associates and friends, so use that resource already at your fingertips.
9. Don’t forget about social! – You may only think of your social media channels as traditional sales, marketing or branding tools. But don’t forget you can also “sell” your workplace and unique benefits to a wider audience as well. Intersperse workplace snapshots or endorsements in your feeds as well as any accolades such as a ‘best places to work’ honor – this powerful and free tool can grow your talent pool without any additional advertising.