The Great Resignation continues. Stats from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that, in August, 4.3 million people quit their jobs. In July, the number totaled 4 million; in June, 3.9 million. These unprecedented figures reflect a new reality: many people have tired of the frenetic “live-to-work” paradigm dominant in American corporate culture, and are increasingly leaving roles that don’t meet their needs.
As the balance of power tips from companies to employees, the challenge for small and medium businesses (SMBs) is clear: adjust to employees’ expectations for a more modern, engaging, and human workplace—or risk a talent shortfall that will stifle growth.
There’s no sugar-coating just how daunting this challenge is. However, by understanding and being responsive to shifting employee priorities, you can become a more attractive, competitive employer. While there’s no single silver bullet that will instantly turn the tide, consider implementing a few of the recommendations below to get on your way to creating a more fulfilling value proposition for your workforce.
1. Nurture an engaging company culture.
Few of us want to work for an organization that is unfriendly or unresponsive to our needs. People seek employers that offer an open, supportive atmosphere where they feel valued and that their efforts matter. Fostering a positive, connected culture helps businesses to attract employees, and highly-engaged businesses or business units report a 41% reduction in employee absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity.
Studies consistently confirm that engaged employees provide better service and value to customers, improving business outcomes. On the flip side, disengaged employees cost U.S. companies a whopping $450 to $550 billion a year.
Involved employees are also more likely to refer friends to their organization, which pays double dividends. People trust referrals from people they know, and having friends in the company can help boost employee morale. If you’re not already doing so, offer incentives to employees for referrals and hires—whether one-on-one or through their social networks. If you have a program, consider how to make it more enticing. It’s likely to still cost less than hiring a recruiter.
2. Support flexibility.
The No.1 ask from job seekers these days is often flexibility: In this study, 82% of employees said they’d be more loyal and less likely to leave if they had more flexible jobs.
In the wake of COVID-19, having more flexibility regarding work location has become critical to many people. Some want to return to the office full-time; others want to continue to work exclusively from home, and some want to split their time between the two. And many businesses have also learned that working from home works: 73% of respondents in SMB Group’s SMB Technology Directions for a Changing World Study say that establishing or expanding work-from-home programs has been extremely valuable to their businesses.
Aim to provide candidates and employees with flexible working policies for different departments and roles. Create parameters and set expectations about if and when they are expected to be in the office or commercial spaces, and make these policies as equitable as possible throughout the organization.
Remember that flexibility goes beyond remote working. Make sure that your plan also includes flexibility in other ways. For instance, for frontline, customer-facing jobs that can’t be done remotely, determine other ways to offer flexibility. Flextime, compressed workweeks, part-time work, and job-sharing may be just what some candidates need to accept an offer—or stay in a job.
Flexible benefits are attractive to everyone. Give employees the choice to select a bonus benefit—such as extra vacation time, commuter compensation, tuition reimbursement, etc.
Flexibility pays off for the business as well: Among the one-third of SMBs that have already developed strategies to support more flexible workstyles, 92% say that it has provided business value.
3. Think safety first.
Safety measures are top of mind for employees that are going back to work in a company location. Employees expect that you’ll provide all of the essentials, from disinfectants and hand sanitizers to masks and gloves. Spacing out workspaces, and assurance that co-workers are vaccinated and/or regularly tested for COVID-19 are other key safeguards to put in place.
4. Build strength through diversity.
Employing people of different genders, ages, races, sexual orientation, physical and mental abilities, and cultural and ethnic backgrounds and ideologies plays a critical role in creating a positive corporate culture. A 2020 Glassdoor report shows that 76% of employees and job seekers say a diverse workforce matters when evaluating companies and offers. The added plus is that people with different life experiences bring different perspectives to the table—sparking the innovation businesses need to stay relevant in the market.
5. Reimagine the “right” candidate.
Rethink your definitions of the ideal candidate. Yes, it would be great to find someone that checks off 20 boxes, but what are the odds? While skills, education, and experience are important, also consider candidates’ ability and desire to learn some skills on the job. For instance, blue-chip companies including Apple, IBM, and Google have removed requirements for a college degree for many jobs—and hired some very successful employees.
Explore talent pools that you might be overlooking, such as parents who need to work while their kids are in school; older and/or retired people who want to work part-time; freelancers and contractors; people from other locations that want to work remotely; and possibly rehabbed former convicts in search of legitimate employment.
6. Streamline the application and hiring process.
What’s the hiring process like at your company? If its time consuming and cumbersome, it’s time to streamline things. Candidates are turned off by outdated or redundant application and hiring practices and systems that waste their time: 52% of job hunters say a lack of response from employers is their biggest frustration.
Refresh outmoded aspects in your hiring. Make sure job descriptions—and salary ranges—are clear and accurate so candidates know right away whether the posting is a good fit. Eliminate the need for candidates to re-enter the same information in multiple places, or for different job postings.
Take advantage of video conferencing for screening interviews, and for non-local candidates. Skip the trick questions, and focus instead on questions that will provide genuine insight into a person’s abilities and potential.
Get back to applicants as quickly as possible with an offer or a pass. Remember that some candidates you pass on may be a great fit for another opening in the future. Provide them with constructive feedback, treat them with respect, and keep them in mind for future openings.
7. Empower people with modern technology.
Access to easy-to-use, intuitive technology solutions in our personal lives has seeped into our expectations for the technology we use on the job. Employees expect technology to streamline work, not get in the way.
Providing staff with the right technology and equipment will go a long way toward attracting and keeping strong talent. So, it’s not surprising that the overwhelming majority of SMBs that have invested in better technology to support employees say this investment has provided value to their businesses.
As discussed in more detail here, modern cloud solutions such as Software as a Service (SaaS), Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), and Desktop as a Service (DaaS) provide sophisticated technologies as subscription services. Providers take care of managing their platforms to keep them running at optimal levels—reducing your need for IT staff.
8. Focus on skills training and career opportunities.
No one wants a dead-end job. Even if someone did want one, the fast pace of innovation in technology—from artificial intelligence (AI) to robotic process automation (RPA)—requires people to continue to advance and learn new skills.
Only one-third of SMBs have implemented new reskilling programs for employees—but 93% of those that have done so say that this change has been extremely valuable or valuable to their businesses.
Creating new opportunities for workers will increase your company’s appeal to candidates–and it doesn’t have to break the bank. Some cost-effective options include internal mentorship and apprenticeship programs; off-the-shelf learning platforms; job rotations; and simply fostering a collaborative work environment where employees are encouraged to learn from one another.
Employees are the most valuable asset in almost any company. So, while rethinking your workforce strategy isn’t easy—it’s imperative for business success.
Understanding how peoples’ expectations and requirements for work are changing, and updating your strategy to reflect this understanding will help you to attract better-quality employees, stem employee attrition, and ensure you have the talent you need to sustain and grow your business.
For more tips, see my discussion with Anita Campbell, Founder and CEO, Small Business Trends, and Matt Crawford, director of Product Marketing, Citrix.
© SMB Group
This post was sponsored by Citrix.