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How to attract and retain employees as we exit the pandemic

Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on November 15, 2021.

Due to the effects of the pandemic, 2021 will be known as a year of immense employment disruption. This is especially acute in the restaurant, hospitality and other service industries, where employees now have higher-paying employment alternatives. 

The cause of the Great Resignation is not limited to dissatisfaction with pay. Many employees who are nearing retirement have decided to leave the workforce earlier than they had planned. Other employees have reevaluated their lives and decided what they were doing was not for them. 

Some employees are burned out dealing with hostile customers and working to meet pent-up demand. Others have left the workforce because they cannot afford childcare. There are those who point to governmental assistance as the reason people are not working, but that assistance ended in September.

Some of the causes of the great employment disruption of 2021 are beyond the influence of employers. However, there are a number of initiatives that can be implemented by employers to retain employees and attract those who are looking for a change in what they do. So, how do you retain and attract employees? 

Employees come before customers

In my columns for the Philadelphia Business Journal, I have emphasized the importance of delivering a great customer/client experience as a way to become the preferred provider in the marketplace. It’s your employees who deliver a great customer/client experience. 

Quoting Sir Richard Branson, co-founder of Virgin Group, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Treat your employees well. They will help you become a preferred employer.

Nurture a culture in which your employees develop a sense of ownership in what they do. Listen to their ideas. Value their contributions. Never micromanage. Set expectations, empower them and cut them loose to do their thing. 

Compensate employees so your company is an attractive employment alternative

For years, many have advocated raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hour, with little success. Today, many businesses need to pay $20/hour or more to attract employees. Why? Employees have alternative employment opportunities not only within the same industry, but also within other industries that are rapidly growing. For example, an employee working at a restaurant can quit and go to work for Amazon instead. Pay employees competitively with their alternatives to keep them and attract others.

Will increasing the compensation of employees require companies to raise prices? Yes. The economy will adjust as it did after the dramatic increase in oil prices during the 1970s. 

Differentiate your company and its culture 

Just as you differentiate your company so customers/clients want to buy from you instead of your competition, differentiate your company so employees want to work for you rather than their alternatives. 

Treat all employees as important to your success. Show your appreciation for what they do. Where practical, depending on the job, institute a hybrid model, giving them flexibility to work remotely or at the office. There are companies that have been operating 100% virtually with great effectiveness for many years without adversely impacting employee collaboration. Saved commuting time is spent working on business issues, as well as taking care of personal matters, which reduces employee stress and increases morale.

Differentiate your company from others. Treat your employees as you would like to be treated. Make it part of your brand. Your reputation will attract the employees you need to run your business. 

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.

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