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Investing in the workforce of the future

Middle market companies, it’s time to step it up

INSIGHT ARTICLE  | 

To attract and retain talent, many middle market companies have kept up with requisite benefits and a range of initiatives and incentives, but appear to be lagging behind larger rivals when it comes to cutting-edge offerings necessary to attract and retain the best and the brightest. These choice recruits include workers in the growing ranks of millennials, the largest generation in the U.S. workforce according to Pew Research Center.

Nearly two-thirds of middle market companies continue to have significant or moderate hiring needs, according to a recent RSM Middle Market Business Index survey. The challenge: many of the traditional benefits and incentives offered to attract recruits are present in most companies, making it difficult for middle market businesses, in particular, to stand out and compete for prized talent among their competitors. Also, important to note, not all employees value these same benefits and incentive packages. In this diverse talent marketplace, it’s different strokes for different folks. For instance, baby boomers might prefer retirement plans and health care benefits, but millennials favor other programs related to enhanced organizational culture and technology resources. In some instances, middle market companies are missing the mark.

The current struggle to land prime talent might also indicate a reluctance by some middle market companies to offer higher wages to new employees when those workers may be quickly snatched up by competing companies offering slightly better compensation packages. According to the survey, approximately 74% of executives stated that poaching labor by competitors is a real problem. Perhaps in frustration to this perceived losing battle, only 36% said that they were willing to pay above-market compensation to attract and retain employees.

Time to get creative

Given this competitive and volatile hiring climate, how can companies successfully invest in the future of their workforce, landing skilled workers as well as keeping this much-needed talent? According to Jennifer Busse, people and organization practice lead at RSM, middle market companies may want to consider the following creative approaches and workforce investments to truly accentuate and celebrate what’s special about their organizations, from strong community connections and familial environments to vibrant cultures and progressive policies. In the war for talent, it’s time to get creative and invest in people and in the future of the company. Consider the following:

  • Flexibility with a capital F. Some businesses offer flexible hours and remote working arrangements. That’s great, but how about flexibility that’s truly customized for the individual. Does the employee want to work four-day weeks, remotely, some evenings to offset child care needs during the day, whatever the case? Sometimes the best talent just needs to know you’ll work with them to help them balance their work and life.
  • Tell your story. It shouldn’t be a best-kept secret that your company provides local scholarships, has a long-standing, all-company volunteer day, or lives and breathes sustainable practices. Use public relations efforts and social media to tell your story of inclusion, stewardship, community activism, whatever illustrates the company’s passion and values. Look for ways to engage and involve prospective employees in your story via social networking, events, job fairs, partnerships and more. Bridging your values with others will provide a direct link to attracting like-minded talent that shares the convictions and passions of your business.
  • Do you know someone? Incent current employees to provide referrals, and make it count. Put some dollars behind the award so employees get real value for their recommendations. You will get what you pay for.
  • Promote wellness in big and small ways. Although medical, dental and vision insurances are useful benefits, they may not attract entry-level hires who plan to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 26. Office perks, discounts, and wellness activities and programs that make candidates and employees feel that their organization is invested in them on a personal level can attract and retain talent. Basically, do sweat the small stuff. Think: on-site gym, discounted gym memberships or fitness classes, biweekly in-office massages, meditation rooms, therapy sessions or free nutritious snacks.
  • Make people want to go into the office. While it’s important that employees have their own spaces to focus and complete individual tasks, eerily corporate, quiet work settings do not promote the collaboration work has come to mean. Consider establishing comfortable collaboration zones that communicate your organizations’ dedication to teamwork and open communication (complete with free refreshment stations). The safety these spaces provide not only incentivizes employees to be creative, but provides a feeling of home away from home. Since younger employees are increasingly opting for work-life integration, rather than separation, attractive office spaces have curb appeal.
  • Help stamp out student debt. In a time when the average recent graduate owes over $30,000 in student loans, offering new hires opportunities to decrease their debt or pay it off faster is attractive. Recent graduates are most anxious about financial stability, and especially about their student debt. Make them feel understood by helping them reduce this stressor, and they’ll be more productive in the long run.
  • Invest in your employees’ future. Whether a higher degree or certificate is required to advance, or an employee is simply interested in continuing their education, providing tuition reimbursement or offering fees assistance not only shows that your company values employee development, but is actually invested in seeing it through. You want talent—help your employees reach their full potential and watch them help you.
  • Embrace individuality. Consider offering incentive programs that offer employees reimbursement or extra paid time off for personal projects or hobbies. Do they need extra time to finish a memoir? Do they have a pilot’s license, but struggle to find time to fly? Have they always wanted to become a chef, but can’t afford culinary classes? People want to feel that the company appreciates their work and individuality, genuinely cares for them and is invested in their development and well-being, both at work and in their personal lives.

Visit our people and organization page for more on this topic and other ways to maximize your talent management and operational excellence. In addition, check out our labor and workforce resource center for more insights.

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