By Maureen Werther
Finding and retaining good employees is a challenge in today’s business world. As the unemployment rate continues to drop and the economy continues to improve, the demand for qualified workers continues to grow.
“Recruiting is about as competitive as I’ve seen it in a long time,” said James Marco, president of Saratoga Human Resource Solutions. He said for companies to attract and retain the best workers, they must offer more than just a competitive wage and benefits package.
“You’ve got to have a value proposition. If you try to buy loyalty through pay raises, you’ll eventually reach a point of diminishing returns. You have to incorporate a ‘cultural’ component into your work environment,” said Marco.
He said people are looking for a “safe” workplace – one that fosters a culture of problem-solving rather than assigning blame. He stressed the need for managers and supervisors to develop positive relationships with their staff.
“The command and control models just don’t work anymore,” said Marco, citing as an example one of his clients, who greets everyone one of his employees each morning. While that may seem like a small, even trivial gesture, it goes a long way toward creating the kind of culture of trust and teamwork that is so important in today’s workplace.
As workers become increasingly more mobile, establishing the culture of mutual respect and teamwork is more critical to getting and keeping the best people.
John Kuznia, CPA, SPHR, and owner of Truman Solutions in Saratoga Springs, said his clients are finding it hard to get the right people in the right seats.
“The demand is there, but the supply is lacking,” he said.
For Kuznia’s clients, who are in the construction industry it has been especially difficult to find people who are qualified to fill the role of project manager. Kuznia attributed this shortage to the relatively few college students who graduate with the right skill set to make them viable candidates.
Kuznia and his clients have worked to rectify the situation by creating co-ops and internships with schools like Hudson Valley Community College to establish a construction management program.
By engaging with students in their junior and senior years and offering opportunities to gain valuable on the job training, Kuznia said that students are far more likely to come to work for that company following graduation.
He said recent grads are starting at entry-level positions and there is still a shortage of more seasoned employees, something he is seeing in both his construction and accounting clients.
“There are definitely generational gaps in the workforce,” said Kuznia. Many companies continue to value a culture of loyalty and long-term commitment from their employees, something which causes them to struggle with a younger and more mobile generation of workers.
At the same time, younger workers bring a technological intelligence and more sophisticated capabilities to the job, which can prove invaluable. Kuznia said younger applicants’ resumes may not seem, on the surface, to be accurate indicators of their actual depth of knowledge and preparedness for certain roles. That can be a welcome surprise to employers who are willing to take on less seasoned workers.
Even so, many of Kuznia’s clients will not consider candidates who move from job to job after only two or three years, and he noted that millennials have higher expectations for more rapid advancement than older employees.
“They are more about instant gratification,” said Kuznia and, therefore, more likely to move on after a relatively brief time in the job.
Kuznia said that the recruitment and retention of good workers will continue to be competitive for the foreseeable future. He suggested that employers may need to commit to more in-house training in order to achieve the skill levels that they need on the job.
Rose Miller, SPHR and president of Pinnacle Human Resources LLC, sits on the board of the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce, which recently conducted a survey of its membership to assess the number of job opportunities available in the Capital Region.
She said of the 2,500 members surveyed, 185 companies responded. Those 185 companies had 2,622 job opportunities listed on Indeed, with nearly 13,000 additional jobs that were not being advertised on a job search site and that are still unfilled.
According to Miller, 40 percent of those jobs were classified as requiring “soft skills,” such as reliability, ability to work as part of a team, strong written and verbal skills and other desirable traits.
The other 60 percent of those jobs required “technical” skills. Miller said that the term refers to having the necessary skills required to do the job, whether it is an administration position where proficiency in multiple computer programs is required, or one requiring an engineer, scientist or programmer.
She said the results indicate a labor shortage and more comprehensive training will be necessary to fill jobs with qualified candidates going forward.
She said that while many people point to the shortage of skilled workers in digital and technology jobs, the healthcare industry has surpassed technology in having difficulty finding enough people to fill all the positions that are open.
She also noted that such shortages will continue to be an issue, and both institutions of higher learning and employers will have to re-think how to prepare people for the demands of the workplace.
“The real answer is re-thinking how we approach education and training,” she said. Employees cannot consider themselves as being “done” with their education after receiving a degree.
“We need to move away from a mindset of ‘one and done’ and go toward the direction of being constant learners,” said Miller.