It is no secret that retaining current employees is more cost-effective than hiring new ones. But when you do have to staff up in today's increasingly competitive job market, how does your small business stand out from the rest?
Over the course of a year, we connect with hundreds of candidates at BOWEN. I also spend a lot of time talking with our clients, including top Canadian companies, about what keeps their employees happy, loyal and engaged. Based on what employers and employees say, here are the top three things that employees want:
1) Flexibility: We live in a 24-hour workday world. Finding the right work/life balance is becoming increasingly important for Canadians. There is a wealth of reasons why employees rank flexibility high on their list of must-haves. Baby boomers are retiring, Generation Xers are opting out of long hours and Generation Yers are technology savvy, looking for "give and take" workplaces. Flextime can be a powerful incentive that will keep current employees happy and attract new ones. Telecommuting, offering a condensed workweek and encouraging job sharing will help to build a balanced workforce.
It's also important to note that in 2013, 50% of the Canadian workforce is eligible for retirement. Many of these individuals are not ready to completely exit the workforce and will be looking for ways to remain engaged, albeit on a flexible basis. For some, this means the option to "go south" for the winter and telecommute. Others may be looking for contract or project work. Employers who are willing to be flexible will benefit from continuing to tap into the talent and experience of this valuable employee pool.
2) Meaningful work: Many employees, Generation Yers in particular, are looking for more than a paycheque. They also want to know that the work they are doing is meaningful. This not only applies to their chosen profession and industry, but to their community, whether local or global. Employers with a strong corporate social responsibility focus have a hiring advantage. A Deloitte survey conducted a few years ago found that more than half of workers in their 20s prefer employment at companies that provide volunteer opportunities.
Some organizations dedicate a portion of their revenue or profits to charitable giving. We do this at BOWEN, and also offer employees time off throughout the year to volunteer with the charities we support. I've personally found that these opportunities build our team and increase employee morale and loyalty. Giving back not only makes a difference to those who need it most, it is also an excellent way to enhance your corporate reputation by showing your customers – and community – that your company cares.
3) Development and learning opportunities: Learning opportunities are endless and, to stay competitive and current, employees want the opportunity to participate in webinars, seminars and conferences. Investing in building your employees' leadership and management skills, increasing their capacity in their chosen area of expertise and putting a plan in place to learn new skills are all part of creating dynamic and engaged teams.
When budgets are cut, professional development is often the first expense to go. Yet, in the long term, it can help increase productivity, improve quality and empower managers. As an employer, invite employees to show you how your professional development investment is helping them improve their work performance. You might even want to ask for an action plan after attending a course or conference that highlights how that employee will incorporate his or her new learnings.
As you begin your workforce planning for 2013, ask your employees what truly matters to them and then take action by offering opportunities that reflect their values. In time, you will reap the results of a more cohesive and loyal workforce.
Shannon Bowen-Smed is president and CEO of BOWEN Workforce Solutions, which creates customized solutions for businesses, such as flexible workforce management and transactional human resource services. Read her company blog at Bowenworks.ca.
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