In today’s “What Can Your Employer Do For You” segment, the question is…well…what CAN your employer do for you?
Today’s small and mid-sized employers face significant challenges in finding…and KEEPING quality employees. The days of luring prospects with promises of big money and benefit packages are quickly fading into memory. Typically, a small or mid-sized limo service in Chicago as an example might be able to pay a competitive wage or be aggressive with bonuses. However, the game changes once you get into the “quality” perks. Retirement and health insurance, two benefits that have the power to make people relocate, are getting harder to provide. Health insurance premiums alone have doubled (at least) in the last ten years, and the traditional pension plans of our parents and grandparents are – for the lack of a better description – gone.
So what can you offer people that will make them want to be part of your organization? Well, believe it or not, the slumping economy has actually helped strip unreasonable expectations from some people’s mindset. In Illinois, a state that “boasts” that half of its employers no longer offer health coverage, people are no longer making that perk a priority. A decent wage, a pleasant work environment, and a steady pay check are much more important than they used to be.
In the current state of (employment) affairs, the term “employer’s market” applies. This means that there are plenty of people looking for work, so the focus has shifted from how to get and keep employees to how to use the advantage to leverage the “best” employees. Unfortunately, this is a shortsighted approach that is bound to backfire. At some point, the tables will turn, and employers will no longer have the upper hand. In the late 1980’s and through the 90’s, we experienced an “employee’s market”, where it seemed all of the good employee candidates already had jobs, and the leftovers were demanding unreasonable compensation packages. Again, I can only relate as it applies to our Chicago limo service, but entry level turnover was ridiculous. New hires openly talked about how they were still actively looking for a better job. We had difficulty holding on to anyone, but especially skilled individuals, who were often offered more money and benefits from companies outside our industry.
It makes sense for a small company to establish a culture that encourages participation from all employees. There is value to employees when they are made to feel that they are an important part of the organization, just like there is value in job security. Today, someone may be less likely to leave an established company for a start-up just because the money is better. Leaving a regular paycheck in today’s environment is a risky move, even for “in demand” professionals. There are simply too many unemployed professionals out there. Looking at every aspect of employee relations is a good idea. Whether it’s a small limo service or a small accounting office, the fact is you need good employees, and should be looking under every rock to find ways to keep them coming back day after day. Office lunches, small monetary rewards for achievement, 401K plans, anything and everything must be constantly reviewed for relevance to your company and employees.
Finally, look upon your employees as more than a mere commodity. People are not just interchangeable parts. They represent you, your organization, and the personality of your company. Treat them well, and they’ll likely treat you well in return.