When it’s a seller’s market for talent, how do you attract and retain employees?

Article originally published in the American City Business Journals on March 14, 2022. Revised 12:30 pm.

Since mid-2021, millions of people have left the job market or changed jobs in what is being dubbed the Great Resignation. We face a perfect storm created by:

  • Overworked employees due to an inability to hire staff to replace employees who have left.
  • Aggressive customers who take out their frustrations on burned-out employees about masking and other issues.
  • Tone-deaf bosses who don’t value their employees and ignore their complaints about poor working conditions.
  • Opportunities to earn higher pay elsewhere.
  • Toxic corporate culture.

Prior to the pandemic, employers wielded the power in the employment market. Today, employees wield that power. We are in a seller’s market for talent. How should employers adjust to the new reality?

Employees come before customers

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.” In order to retain your employees, you need to treat them well.

Differentiate your company by nurturing a culture in which your employees develop a sense of ownership in what they do. Listen to their ideas. Value their contributions. 

Don’t expand the scope of an employee’s job responsibilities without increasing the resources needed to get the job done. The result will be employee burnout which is a sure-fire way to lose them.

Some employers continue to offer insufficient pay, sick days, vacation time or other benefits needed to attract employees. Why won’t employers improve what they are offering? Are they tone deaf?

A recent post on social media site Tik Tok describes a company policy at convenience store chain Buc-ee’s, which prohibits the use of cell phones during employee shifts, even when an employee needs to be reached in an emergency. An employee said, “[You] will get fired on the spot if a manager can see your cell phone through your pocket. They will fire you if they see you on your phone. Even on your breaks.” Even on your breaks? Not a very enlightened management!

Recognizing the disruption to the business caused by cell phone usage, the company and its employees could reach a compromise that text messages could be responded to during employee breaks. 

Toxic corporate cultures in which poor managers are tolerated contribute to job dissatisfaction. Quoting Elon Musk. “If your boss is an awful person, you’re going to hate coming to work.” Leaders, do not tolerate poor managers in your organization!

A study published in the MIT Sloan Management Review on Jan. 11 stated that “a toxic corporate culture is by far the strongest predictor of industry-adjusted attrition and is 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover …. The leading elements contributing to toxic cultures include failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; workers feeling disrespected; and unethical behavior.” Ensure your corporate culture is not toxic.

Photo credit: Getty Images (AdShooter)

Adopt a hybrid office/home model 

At some companies, bosses are insisting that all employees will need to return to the office once the pandemic ends. They need to be more pragmatic and recognize that technology has changed the landscape.

Where practical, give employees flexibility as to where they work, perhaps Mondays and Fridays working from home and Tuesday through Thursday working in the office. Managers need to develop a new paradigm about a hybrid work environment.

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.

Compensate employees so your company is an attractive employment alternative

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 employment alternatives to keep them and to attract new employees. 

In order to attract and retain employees, recognize that they are your most valuable asset. Treat your employees as you would like to be treated.

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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