The board’s role in employee recruitment and retention strategies

Jan 13, 2019
Labor and workforce Audit Human capital
Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.
Richard Branson, 

Workforce dynamics are changing. In a tight labor market and rapidly changing work environment, how can an organization remain competitive in recruiting and retaining talent? What role can the board play?

Trends in recruiting and retention

Knowledge is power, and understanding the dynamics of the marketplace will help inform decisions affecting a company’s workforce strategies. Following are some of the latest issues affecting workforce hiring and management:

  • Human resource integrated systems: Organizations are pulling together collaborative medians that incorporate HR, finance and technology. These integrated systems allow HR, management and the board to gain a detailed understanding of recruiting efforts, training, compensation, workforce demographics and more.
  • Retention of top talent: What millennials value can be drastically different from what baby boomers prize, so understanding how to attract and retain a multigenerational workforce can be difficult. Companies need to identify which age groups hold the talent they need and adjust their recruiting efforts and benefits packages accordingly.
  • Labor shortage and employee tenure: Low unemployment rates notwithstanding, one reason it’s difficult to find qualified talent is tenure. On average, employees who are 25 years old and under stay at their jobs for 5.1 years; those who are 55 years up to retirement age stay at their jobs for 10 years. In other words, people aren’t staying in one job for their entire professional lives.
  • Leadership development: Employees want to grow as they develop their careers. Many middle market companies are carving out learning and development tracks, making sure progress is tied to performance. This can benefit the individual professional as well as the organization as a whole.
  • Succession planning and workforce management: If a company’s potential leaders understand that they have mobility within the current organization, this can be an extremely powerful retention tool. But it takes planning to identify the roles as well as the individuals to fill them, and careful alignment of the two.
  • Individual motivators: Different people view benefits differently, and their views may change at various stages of their lives and their careers. From compensation to health care, companies are redesigning benefits to offer packages that reflect each individual’s changing needs.
  • Talent experience: How a company connects its own core values with those of its employees helps to determine the professional growth of the workforce.
  • Relevant results and data analytics: This is an area where board members can really help management. To be part of the solution, board members have to connect with HR, IT, finance and management. Understanding the demographics of the company will help management and the board make informed decisions.
  • Diversity and inclusion: More than just a program, diversity and inclusion should be embedded in the company culture. Boards can set their own goals for inclusion and work with management to meet them.

Learn additional trends in talent recruitment and retention—and the role of the board regarding workforce issues.

Your recruiting strategy

Whether they are related to people, processes or technology, common operational challenges have the potential to influence recruiting and retention. So what can management and the board do to improve the way an organization brings in new talent?

As always, change starts at the top, and companies and their boards should consider the following specific areas as they try to gain an edge when competing for talent:

  • Dedicate resources: In a tight labor market, things happen quickly. Regardless of the size of a company, there should be people dedicated to recruiting. People need to feel wanted, and how quickly a recruiter can make a connection with a candidate can make a big difference in how that company is perceived.
  • Broaden the interview process: Make sure the right people in the organization are doing the interviewing. Don’t limit interviews to upper management; get representatives from the entire team.
  • Understand what a candidate wants: Find out what motivates a candidate. What are candidates looking for? What makes them want to leave the job they have? How can the business connect with or draw on their wants?
  • Focus on total rewardsOften, there is market pressure regarding base pay, particularly when hiring from competitors. Companies may not be able to meet that base pay, but they can compensate by providing a total rewards package embedded in recruiting. In addition to compensation, benefits and flexibility can be offered. Outside of pay, telecommuting, hours worked per week, leave benefits and job sharing, among other incentives, may be offered. The board should review the total rewards package on an annual basis to ensure strategic company goals are being achieved.
  • Start the conversation early: Let people know about the company through social media. Allow them to connect with the company and its workforce.
  • Think inside the box: Before looking outside the company to fulfil a role, recruiting should look internally. Consider transitioning an employee who is progressing well in the organization to the new role. In the minds of employees, this can help reinforce the company’s commitment to employees and their career development. If it becomes necessary to look externally, management and the board should determine how the company is perceived in the marketplace by prospective employees, and then adjust accordingly.

Measuring progress

If people are a company’s greatest asset, how does management drive results to win, serve and retain them? HR leaders should work with the board and management as partners in the business. Management and the board need process definition and documentation to help win talent, ensure the recruiting process is efficient and eliminate reoccurring bottlenecks. A close look at the company’s internal structure can help identify any deficiencies.

This is where an HR integrated system can be particularly helpful. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. An HRIS handles the employee life cycle from start to finish, which allows HR to drive business decisions using real-time data. From recruiting to training, rewards to recognition, an integrated system allows HR to track the progress of individuals and programs.

Multiple aging, underutilized systems with disparate data cannot provide a full picture of what is needed, lacking or improving. There are cost-effective systems available, and management may also want to consider outsourcing some operational functions.

Making recruiting an experience

It starts with relationships and communication. People want to know that they have someone they can reach out to if they have questions or need help. In other words, take care of your employees and they will take care of your clients.

The board has a role in making this happen. Members need to be just as involved in talent retention and recruiting as they are in all other governance and board issues. While recruitment and retention can be difficult, boards need to be engaged in providing an edge when competing for talent. That means helping set the workforce strategy with management.

RSM contributors

  • Cyndi Mergele
    Senior Director
  • Jennifer Busse

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