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Emma Roberts of White Horse Employment

Attracting and retaining staff – benefits are the key

Let’s be honest with ourselves – an organisation is only as good as the employees who are engaged to remain with it – simple. So why, time and time again, do we come across those who are struggling to not only find, but keep, those key staff members who will take their organisation from being good to being great?

The answer, I believe, is simple… benefits are the key.

“Surely I cannot leave it there?” you may say, but let’s be honest again; employees who have remained with an organisation for a number of years have weathered recessional pay freezes, redundancies and budget cuts, so I’d say they have stayed where they are for a lot more than just the money – they’ve stayed for the whole package.

Let’s go back to wanting to take your organisation from good to great – I see a need to implement an employee incentive idea or benefit package that will keep employees engaged with the company, motivated and eager to achieve your goals – but also eager to join the company and eager to stay with it.

Attraction and retention remain serious issues for all employers, and should be treated as one and the same thing – if you attract the right applicant, listen to their needs and engage their opinions, retention will be less of a gamble.

The workplace has changed dramatically, not only in the past 50 years, but since the beginning of the recession.

For many individuals, their jobs now involve longer days, more responsibility and increased stress.

In a time of skill shortages – and with only a glimmer of hope in the growth of the economy – companies not only have to market their services and products, but also themselves if they want to attract recruits who can drive growth.

In the recruitment business, these changes have been especially pronounced.

Recruiting used to be a relatively simple task – advertise the vacancy in the press or ring an agency, applicants apply, and interviews are set up and appointments made.

Today, with skill shortages all the more apparent, and seemingly endless internet options like social media and “touch of the button” applications available – it is often typical that employers experience a deluge of unsuitable applicants in response to adverts.

The associated work this creates can mean the whole process is anything but cost effective, generates little or no response, and causes excessive time and money to be wasted.

‘Hooking’ the right applicant has become harder, and keeping them is even more of a challenge.

When the excitement of a change in salary, new location, new vacancy and new people wears off for a new recruit, the real analysis of the position begins.

The benefits that an employer offers are the ‘deal-breakers,’ and they hold the keys to the age-old issue of retention. Benefits are the key.

We, as employers, have to ask ourselves – what does my ideal applicant actually want? What do they look for in a package? And, more importantly, does this match what we are offering?

Are we making our vacancy and ultimately our company attractive enough for people to want to join us and ultimately stay?

Are we as local employers ‘missing out’ on what could be the future of our companies because we have a ‘motivational mismatch’? Recognising that we have to understand this fundamental change in market demand to operate an effective recruitment campaign is essential.

Benefits needn’t cost the earth either – have you looked at flexible working as an option, by allowing an employee to start two hours later, for example? This can improve their work-life balance and keep them engaged, meaning you can keep your office open longer to give an ‘edge over your competitors’ at minimal cost.

Being aware of your competitors’ packages, plus market rates for salaries, is critical in such a tight and candidate driven market.

As a company you need to ‘stand out’, ensure your packages meet demand, focus on your local ‘brand awareness’ and ensure your company and your vacancies are promoted to an extremely high standard.

Attraction and retention are the main hurdles a company needs to straddle and to succeed at.

A company needs to think outside the box in terms of benefit provision, and by getting creative and operating laterally , you may find the results may surprise you, and effect your bottom-line for the better.

* Emma heads support services team of the commercial specialist recruitment agency, White Horse Employment, and is vice president of Trowbridge Chamber of Commerce.