Strong Economy Brings Workforce Challenges

(This article was written by Rick Dacri and was originally published in York County Coast Star, April 19, 2012 edition)

 The evidence continues to pour in that the economy is rebounding. The unemployment rate continues to decline, job growth is up, factory production and retail sales are increasing, and corporate profits are reaching pre-recession levels.

While employers may be breathing a collective sigh of relief having survived a devastating recession, a number of workforce challenges are emerging including the need to hire, retain star performers, increase wages and maintain productivity.

Recruitment: Over the last few years, employers have avoided making new hires. Many were forced to cut their workforce while others used technology and productivity gains to avert the need to hire. Now with increased demand, there is a need to expand their workforce. Before taking the plunge, employers should first evaluate their recruitment initiatives. The old ways of hiring no longer work. Employers must put in place systems that ensure they attract and hire the best candidates that can make an immediate contribution to their business.

Understanding your true needs, having in place a positive recruitment brand that will attract quality performers, trained interviewers that can identify the gems while passing on those that aren’t what they appear to be, and a compelling argument and compensation package that will get prospects to say “yes” when offered, are just some of the key ingredients needed. In this new economy, employers will need to embrace new recruitment technology and social media. Recruitment has changed and employers must adapt.

Retention: When unemployment was high and the economy teetered upon disaster, employees kept their heads down and were thankful that they had a job — any job. That’s changed. Job growth is up and employees are beginning to get restless. More and more employees will begin to look for greener pastures and employers must take steps to protect their star performers and avoid the loss of key staff.

It is time for employers to begin to assess the level of employee engagement and morale. Individual employee meetings and employee surveys are great tools to immediately put in place. Strong front line supervisors must have their ears to the ground and have the pulse of the organization. No business can survive or thrive when key employees are quitting.

Wages: Wages staggered or remained level over the last three years. We are now seeing an uptick across the board. Before reacting to this, employers should be surveying the market to assess their competitiveness. Where wages are low, adjustments must be made. At the same time, simply raising wages will not automatically put you at a competitive advantage. Employers must receive a return on every payroll dollar. Performance based pay systems and focused incentive pay, properly administered, will ensure that productivity increases at a faster rate than payroll dollars. A balance must be struck: employees must be paid competitively, with star performers receiving the larger share, and employers must realize higher performance while still enjoying increased profits and growth.

Productivity: Productivity is the key. But one element essential to this is strong front-line supervision. Employers can hire the best, retain their stars, and pay top dollars, yet without great supervisors, everything crumbles. Supervisors can either be the leaders that drive your organization forward or an obstacle that cripples your company. Invest in the development of your supervision. Supervisors are essential to employee engagement and that translates into higher productivity and customer service, increased retention, lower levels of absenteeism and injuries and increased quality.

We have emerged from the dark side of the recession. Now is the time to invest in your workforce to ensure your continued viability, growth and profits.

Rick Dacri is a workforce expert, management consultant, and author of the book “Uncomplicating Management: Focus On Your Stars & Your Company Will Soar.” Since 1995 his firm, Dacri & Associates has helped organizations improve individual and organizational performance. He can be reached at rick@dacri.com and www.dacri.com. Readers are encouraged to send comments, questions and ideas for future articles to Rick Dacri at rick@dacri.com.

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