Take time to assess before you invest

Maximize the results of any investment in your workforce by ensuring your culture is healthy

John Vanderkin

We are five months into 2015 and one thing is clear, the economy continues to improve for many companies. I have met with numerous businesses, from a variety of industries, and all are seeing moderate to very strong revenue growth. Orders are up, customer demands are high and many organizations are working hard to keep up with the opportunities they are being presented with.

This last week I had the pleasure of meeting with two employers who hire a large number of entry- and mid-level employees. Their business has grown significantly but they are struggling to find the employees they need and a large number of the employees they do find are walking off the job or leaving for other opportunities. The sad fact is these two companies are not alone; many organizations are facing these same workforce challenges. Throughout this consultative discussion we identified several areas that were negatively impacting their workforce.

The first issue is the changing workforce. In the latter half of 2014, we were still in a period of hiring that favored the employer. Job seekers were numerous and employers could be picky about who they hired. This dynamic has shifted to favor the employee. For many industries, we are now in a very tight labor market and job seekers have a number of options when it comes to entry-level jobs. Most employers missed this shift and are still operating under the assumption that their employees have limited options for employment. This can be disastrous if your organization continues to operate under this assumption.

While most employers would look to increase pay or benefits to retain employees, our experience has shown that this approach will only have a small impact in fixing their challenges. Many of the employees we speak with, who have left a full-time job for another opportunity, have stated several key items that forced their decision. Being treated disrespectfully by a supervisor, company or coworkers is often at the top of the list.

Before you throw pay at your workforce challenge, you might want to do a little research into the heart and soul of your organization to determine if you have an environment that will defeat any pay increase you plan to invest in. Conducting some employee surveys, exit interviews and other types of research can provide significant information that you can use to improve the overall work environment for your employees.

Do you have active core values that include “respect for one another” and “working as a team to meet goals?” If not, I strongly suggest you define those values and begin to get them imbedded in your organization. If you do have core values, do your front line employees see them in action by supervisors and managers? The companies I mentioned above realized that the increase in revenue they have experienced was putting so much stress on their supervisors and managers that they in turn were taking out their frustration on the front line employees. Working with your managers and supervisors to create a respectful and supportive work environment will enhance any change you make to your hiring practices, pay rate or benefits changes.

Your Human Resources department, outside consultants or full-service staffing service can help you work through this process to ensure that you are maximizing the workforce you have and any candidates you choose to hire. Take the time to invest in what you have before you make a decision to increase your investment in pay, benefits or other employee incentives. By ensuring your culture is healthy, you will maximize the results of any investment you do make.

John Vanderkin is the president of Employers Overload. He can be reached at 503.603.2053.