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How to Retain Talent in Today’s Market

retain talent

Experts | Shana Barrett, Salem Branch Operations Manager

In today’s job market we are at an all-time low unemployment rate – 4.6 percent in Oregon, the lowest it’s been since at least 1976! When I started in the recruitment industry seven years ago, it was more than doubled, at 11.6 percent.

The lost value of employees

Back when the market crashed in 2008 and unemployment skyrocketed, employers had the luxury of having a vast number of unemployed talent to choose from, and these candidates needed to feed their families and therefore were willing to accept less than what they were ultimately worth. There weren’t enough jobs to go around, and employers not only got their pick of the litter, but they got to choose the value of each worker. Because it was an employer’s market, they chose to pay their employees less, and the value of employees dropped drastically.

Now we are back on the upswing and our job market is booming – which is great! But employers must shift their thinking to retain talent. Most people are employed and they have the option to leave their job at any time. Employers are fighting over qualified talent and if employees are underemployed or dissatisfied within their current position, you can bet they won’t stay long – especially the younger the employee. Longevity is no longer a trend in the workforce.

Top shelf talent for bottom shelf wages

To keep and attract top talent, you must be willing to pay. You can no longer believe that your positions “require no skill” or that “anyone can do them.” Because, especially in skilled positions, not everyone can do the work. You can’t expect to pay bottom dollar for top-shelf talent.

Luckily there are plenty of ways to show that you value your employees and their unique contribution to your organization.  A great package including benefits, PTO, flexible schedules and a work-life balance are all vitally important, just as significant, is the culture of your business. Core values that your employees align to, such as operating with integrity, being competitive and having fun are all things that keep employees loyal and engaged.

Forget traditional expectations

Inside their jobs, employees want to have an opportunity to have variety and be able to learn new things. They no longer want to stay in one position and allow their skills to become stagnant. Let your workers contribute to other teams and projects, or try out a new role on the production line. Allow them to feel valued and as if they are bringing something new to the table. They don’t want to feel stuck in one position that is no longer fulfilling.

Don’t confuse this with moving up the corporate ladder. This is often not the main objective for many employees and they look for other ways to be recognized. Recognition through small monetary gifts such as bonuses or gift cards, and especially acknowledgment for a job well done can do wonders for an employee’s morale. Occasional parties, lunches or group activities can break up the day-to-day and help keep employees involved and contribute to the overall positive culture of a company.

In my experience I have noticed that employers who are involved in their community seem to have very good retention rates. Many people feel a social responsibility to their community and feel good by doing good – so why not give your employees the opportunity to volunteer together? It allows employees to be a part of something bigger than themselves and give back on a level they generally would not be able to do on their own. It has the added benefit of promoting good relationships within your community, which will in turn take care of your business.

All in all, to attract and retain top talent, you can’t just “put a body to work.” Treat your employees like individuals, pay them what they are worth, not just the lowest wage you can get away with, use their unique skills and let them know they make a difference. Then, in a workforce plagued with high turnover and disengagement, you’ll have a satisfied and loyal team!


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