Want to Keep Competitors from Taking Top Talent?

"employee benefits" "employee perks" "company benefits" "company perks" "retaining top talent"

Subsidized yoga classes, flexible hours, tuition reimbursement, oh my! How important perks are like these? In a word: very. It’s no secret that top talent is your company’s most valuable asset. The question is how do you retain it? Simply offering employer-paid health insurance and paid time off no longer does the trick when it comes to staying competitive and retaining high-quality workers. Benefits are not only valuable for companies to hire and retain top talent, but they also boost company morale and assure that employees to produce their highest-quality work.

A study by Canadian Life suggests that more than 50 percent of employees would take a job with a new employer, without a salary increase, if it offered better perks and benefits. So which perks hold the most sway with employees? Of course, it’s important not to ignore the basics. Competitive pay, generous medical benefits, paid vacation and holidays, pension plans, and sabbatical options are necessary but no longer sufficient to keep hire and retain top employees. Companies need to take it a step further.

People want to work for companies that offer a variety of benefits to keep employees motivated, healthy, and engaged. According to a survey from Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., perks deemed highly-effective for retention include:

  • vacation/personal time (49%)
  • wellness-related benefits (43%)
  • flexible schedules (40%)
  • tuition reimbursement (27%)
  • telecommuting (25%)

Employees are becoming more and more interested in shaping their compensation packages to include a better work/life balance according to a survey conducted by WorldatWork, Loyola University Chicago, and the Hay Group. They are looking for companies that offer family-friendly policies, such as discounted childcare, generous maternity leave, and the option of a compressed workweek. Companies such as Dell are known to go so far as to provide college coaches for their employees’ kids!

While some perks, such as a comfortable and trendy work place, free language courses, company-sponsored community service activities, mentoring and coaching, or commuter benefits, may seem superfluous to some, they really do make a difference to employees. Happy and healthy employees are more engaged with their companies and produce higher-quality work. Furthermore, many potential employees are looking for extensive training and development programs that foster employee growth and mentoring and coaching systems.

While many companies had to cut perks during the recent recession, the situation is definitely looking up as more and more companies are recognizing the need to stay competitive to keep top talent. In fact, many companies are going beyond simply reinstating perks and are exceeding what was previously offered according to a study by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The study shows that:

  • 83 percent of companies interviewed have reinstated at least some of their perks
  • 42 percent have at least returned to pre-recession levels
  • 24 percent are exceeding the perks that were previously offered

According to Gallup data, the companies excelling at these perk offerings will maintain their edge in the marketplace. Assuming perks equate to engagement, those companies can expect 49 percent higher employee-retention, 18 percent higher productivity, and 16 percent higher profits compared to the bottom 25 percent.

All too often, small businesses and startups with smaller benefit budgets struggle to attract employees with incentives. However, all is not for loss when it comes to company perks for small businesses without Google-size benefit budgets. You don’t need to have a rock-climbing wall or a movie theater in your office to keep employees satisfied. There are benefits small companies can provide that hold significant weight with potential employees. Across the board, there is one perk that is valuable to companies looking to hire top talent: flexibility. Adidas’ motto for its employees is “as few rules as necessary, as much flexibility as possible.”

While this seems to break the norm of the typical businesses structure, it is a great way to retain top talent, encourage innovation, and allow employees produce their highest quality work. Most importantly, being flexible is free. Trust your employees to know when they are most productive and allow them to work around this schedule.

What does your company do to stand out amongst its competitors when it comes to benefits and perks? This is an important question to keep in mind when it comes to building your company’s team. Be prepared to sell the position when the right candidates come along by having your benefits “bag of tricks” packed with variety and flexibility to meet your employees’ needs.

Post written by Donna Hanrahan, Marketing Intern at Whiting Consulting.

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Guest Post: Women in Business

I have never once been impressed by the fact that I am a female entrepreneur. What I am proud of, is that I started my own business, grew it to $2.5 million and 17 employees, opened a second office in Boston and have never had a layoff in 10 years. None of those accomplishments has anything to do with being a woman.

I could be the world’s worst feminist.  I just think that we accomplish what we want to accomplish, regardless of the obstacles – real and self-imposed – we face.

There is no doubt that women and other minorities in today’s predominantly white male-dominated white-collar business world face discrimination. I just think too many of us use it as an excuse instead of finding our own, maybe new pathways.

For example, one of my clients is a venture-capital firm that was founded by three women. They were all incredibly successful in their previous jobs in investment banking because they are smart, worked extremely hard and knew how to stand up for themselves. Today, they’ve raised hundreds of millions of dollars and invest in exciting technology companies – all on their own terms. And I’ve never heard one of them blame the male establishment for their having gone their own entrepreneurial route.

Whenever I encounter someone who I suspect has defined me by my gender vs. my professional skills and strengths, I view it as a personality clash.

Frankly, I probably wouldn’t want to do business with someone so close-minded and judgmental anyway, so I instead seek out clients and partners who have the personal attributes I respect.

 

Laura Grimmer, Articulate Communications

Laura Grimmer is a communications strategist with nearly 20 years’ experience, and  Founder of Articulate Communications. Laura’s clients have included industry-defining companies like USinternetworking; leading services firms such as Sapient (NASDAQ: SAPE) and Pricewaterhouse Coopers; and enterprise software solutions leaders like CDC Software (NASDAQ: CHINA), Manugistics (NASDAQ: MANU), MAPICS (NASDAQ: MAPE) and Microsoft Great Plains.

She works closely with every Articulate client to define corporate messages and ensure the programs clearly align with business objectives. She is an active resource for every team and client for ongoing or special projects.

In addition, Laura also taps her wide network of best-of-breed service providers to deliver various counsel as needed, from investor relations to crisis communications and presentation training.

Laura leverages her experience for clients as a journalist, including positions as a reporter and senior editor with The Associated Press, the world’s largest news organization. She honed her expertise in technology at a Boston-based mid-sized PR firm in the 1990s, opening and running its Washington, D.C., and New York offices before launching Articulate in 2001.

Laura earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina.

 

The Art of Simplicity

"Keep it Simple"

In business and in life I think we sometimes make a process harder than it has to be. I for one don’t like to reinvent the wheel – I am constantly looking around for ideas or suggestions on how to make a situation or process easier. But there is something I think we have lost with all our cool technology and how we have evolved through commercialization and getting the best deal etc… We have lost sight of the fundamentals and keeping things simple.

We built our house seven years ago. And, of course, all our appliances are starting to get the seven year inch. We bought them at a “Big Box” store which will remain nameless, and when our washing machine and dryer started to go they would not come out and fix it.  Now we bought the appliances there because their price was right (cheap) and they offered extras like not having to pay for a year, no interest, and 10% coupon off for building a house… I could go on and on… But after the transaction was completed, you no longer mattered …It felt a little like “see ya later and good luck with all this stuff you bought!”

Back to the future seven years later; a lot of these appliances have decided that they are not so interested in working properly. I should mention now that my hubby and I are not the handiest of folks. You will not come to my door and have my husband answer it with a wrench in his hand!  I am talking with my Dad about the issues we were having with the appliances and he tells me to call the “guy” on Main Street, and he can probably fix it.

Sure enough after six months of having a leaky washing machine the local store fixed it.

I decided to go pay the repair bill in person. The store has not been updated probably since the 60’s. It was a hand written receipt. There were no fancy promotions or gadgets in the store… You have to pay for the product up front…(with the cost of appliances these days is not easy for everyone). But do you know what they do have? He has been in business for over 50 years, he wears a tie to work every day, he knows his products inside and out, along with what the big chains are selling. He was responsive, he showed up when he said he was going to…and by the way, he fixed our problem that no one else cared to fix!

The guy keeps his process simple…He develops and thrives on customer loyalty. He wants to earn your business and wants you to be a repeat customer. He used to be one of the only games in town for years, but he has been able to survive the “Big Box” invasion because of his ability to focus on his fundamentals and never forget that a delighted customer is a customer for life!

So the lesson here to my fellow business owners is: look for the simplicity in business. Sometimes we make it harder for ourselves than we need to…

Discounts are cool …gadgets are fun…but to me, true fundamentals don’t change!!

 

Employee-Customer Interaction Starts with Engagement

The focus of building a trusting relationship with customers takes time and patience…but what else? In a recent post from Brian Solis, he says that changing your company’s focus to the quality of the customer experience should be top-most on your list of company priorities.

Listen, Customer, Customer-centricity, "Employee-customer relationship", "customer service", custome rfocus

Once in a while, we come across an experience where an employee might not seem 100% customer focused. Sure, they might be interacting with the customer…but are they listening? Hearing the input and feedback carefully, and having the employee interpret it properly will ultimately build a longer valued relationship with the customer. A process similar to this one takes some training and practice for employees, but it’s a great way for a company to change their tactics in grasping what is most valuable…not necessarily the product, but the people and the brand.

Similar to Tony Hsieh’s WOW customer experience…listen and give back 105% more than what they’ve expected. This will create a brand that is solid rock. My favorite quote in Brian Solis’ post that fully represents the real employee-customer relationship is:

“Customer-centricity begins with internal transformation and the willingness to adapt or create processes and programs that break down internal silos. It’s not just about communicating with customers; it’s about showing them that listening translates into action within the organization to create better products and services and also foster valuable brand experiences and ultimately relationships with customers. It’s also about empowering employees to improve those experiences and relationships in the front line and to recognize and reward their ability to contribute to a new era of customer engagement and collaboration.”

His words are powerful and completely true. What are some of your successful customer experience stories?

 

Post written by Julie Skowronek, Assistant Marketing Manager at Whiting Consulting.

Photo credit: Allbizanswers.com

Why I Became an Entrepreneur

“What Makes a Top Performer in Business?” Series: Part I

Sitting on my shelf collecting dust bunnies since last fall, I finally decided to pick up and open the book Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin.

What suddenly peaked my interest in the talent subject was graduating exactly a year ago and where I have come in my career since then.  It got me thinking about where and what I will be many years from now.

Within the past year, I have followed, read, met, and spoken with many great business leaders in all industries, and this got me thinking about career paths and just how do people get to the top. Are they always in it to win it, or do they just go with the flow from a strategic plan?

When you see or hear the word “talent,” what instantly comes into your mind? Is it sports, a favorite game of yours, or the skills required in your job?

We might think that world-class performers in any area of interest were born with an unexplained “gift.” Geoff Colvin states that researchers found that superstars like Bill Gates, Jack Welch, or Warren Buffet are just like everyone else from the start of their careers. Anyone can reach to be world class performers in their industry by exhausting deliberate practice. Researchers found few signs of advanced achievement before the individuals started intensive training, stated Colvin.

One could argue that, well if it’s not a natural “gift,” then it has to be IQ. Yet, Colvin pointed out something I never realized before, “…IQ was of no value in predicting how quickly they would improve. Many studies of adults in the workplace have shown the same pattern.”

So, if high achievers and intelligence aren’t intertwined, then how can a company find and keep the talent to grow?

Colvin coined the term “human ability,” and he determined that it’s a company’s scarcest resource to date. Companies need to spot potential, provide constant challenges and, offer growth opportunities in order to develop an employee to become a phenomenon. This way, companies can continuously build success from their highly-developed employees, which will yield limitless potential.

Bill Gates once said:

“If you took the twenty smartest people out of Microsoft it would be an insignificant company, and if you ask around the company what its core competency is, they don’t say anything about software. They say it’s hiring. They know what the scarce resource is.”

The main message from Colvin’s book thus far: no one knows if they have or will acquire these traits to become a world-class performer. The question is: what makes some people excel more than others? Stay tuned for part two…

Photo credit: zimbio.com

Post written by Julie Skowronek, Assistant Marketing Manager at Whiting Consulting.

What’s in a job title…a lot!

Top ten 2011 jobs, top jobs, jobs 2011, job titles, top job titles, top positions

This week in my blog roll I came across a blog titled “Job Titles Matter” written by Laurie Ruettimann of Cynical Girl, a blog that I read everyday. It was right on point that job title’s do matter to candidates and are critical to the recruiting process.

Besides asking me the name of the company I am calling a candidate about, some of the very first questions I am asked from prospective candidates are about compensation, and “What is the job title?

Many assumptions are made in life based on the title a person has…. and outside of work I will fight you on the point that labels do not matter…. but when it comes to one’s job, it really does matter.

Even though companies are becoming less hierarchical, by human nature one’s job title does reflect a certain status.

When you are recruiting for a person to add to your organization, it is very important to carefully think about the title of the position and does the title reflect the position’s actual responsibilities.

In her blog, Laurie mentions that though fun titles sound great, they are impractical, and, in my opinion, such titles can slow down the recruiting process because they are confusing. You want a job title people can relate to and that can easily match the position’s roles and responsibilities.

A couple of years ago, I was recruiting for a “QA Engineer.” It was an awesome job where the person would be working on cutting edge technology and developing great code… but the client was really looking for a Software Developer for this role.

From a sociological perspective, it was very difficult to find candidates who were existing software developers and change their mindsets enough to look at this wonderful opportunity simply because of the position’s erroneous title. It took more time to recruit candidates and educate them that this would not be a step back in their career, but actually a step forward.

So when you putting together your next hiring plan, think about:

  • The words used in the position’s title… literally.
  • What the person will be doing for your organization and is that reflected in the title?
  • Is the title name a title that the outside world will understand enough to know what this person does?

In addition, when positions don’t a clear job titles, the potential exists to cause conflict for the person in their job down the line as they further try to grow or further define their job responsibilities. This can result in morale issues for the employee and for those working around them. It is human nature to make assumptions and perceptions. Try to be direct and clear and cut off any misunderstandings before they have the chance to happen.

I would love to hear your thoughts about job titles. Are you of the mindset that they do matter, or do you like more of the creative side?

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