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Article | The strategies and challenges of managing an evolving workforce

The strategies and challenges of managing an evolving workforce

Generally speaking, employees fall into one of three categories. The “go-getters” are superstars who strive for greatness and are looking to advance within the organization. The “reliable” employees work hard and are valuable, but they do not tend to go the extra mile. Finally, the “no thanks” employees are unengaged, unaccountable and often unproductive.  

With the average tenure at an organization being about four years, companies are doing everything in their power to retain talent. Given the amount of time, energy and money that it takes to hire someone and to onboard that employee, not to mention the hassle of finding their replacement if they eventually leave the organization, it is as important as ever to hold on to “reliable” employees – and especially “go-getters.” 

In many ways, though, managing an evolving workforce presents challenges for organizations looking to retain their best people. Baker Tilly director Caitlin Humrickhouse and senior manager Jada Kent recently led a discussion on this topic at the Crossroads of America leadership summit.  

Some of the key aspects of the conversation are highlighted below.  

Where things stand today 

People leave jobs for a variety of reasons, of course. Salary, stability and growth opportunities are three of the main reasons, but workplace environment and culture are also common motivators. 

While those themes have existed for decades, there are elements of the American workforce that have evolved in recent years. A couple of noteworthy ones include: 

  • 68% of American workers say the ability to work both remotely and at the worksite is the ideal workplace model 
  • 87% who have been working remotely want to keep working remotely at least one day a week 
  • 33% of workers, approximately, would not want to work for an employer that required them to be on-site full time 

From an organizational standpoint, it is important to understand the key reasons why workers are attracted to their jobs, stay at those organizations, and feel engaged with their careers. And as noted earlier, it goes well beyond salary. When organizations focus solely on salary and ignore factors such as company culture, they end up in constant bidding wars with their competition – and you’ll never win all of those. Organizational culture is much easier to control and can be much more consistent over time. 

As part of the presentation, Baker Tilly simplified recruitment and retention using three general guidelines: 

  • Compensation and health benefits will attract employees 
  • Health benefits and career development will retain employees 
  • Career development and good culture will engage employees 

One of the silver linings of the Great Resignation has been that it has placed a renewed focus on employees – how to attract, retain and engage quality workers. Over the last several years, organizations have refocused on the factors that truly matter to employees. Still, attracting, retaining and engaging employees can be easier said than done. 

Creating reasons to stay 

Certainly there is some variance between industries, but generally speaking, the top reasons that employees stay with an organization are culture and satisfaction.  

More than ever, employees are motivated to do their best work when they feel valued. They want to know what is happening at the organization and they want to be involved in decision-making. In short, they want to make an impact. They also want communication about where they stand professionally and how they can grow within the organization. Compensation and rewards are a factor, of course, but they usually are not the biggest factor. 

When it comes to talent development, some of the leading practices include: 

  • Provide comprehensive onboarding upon an employee’s offer of acceptance 
  • Share information on the organization’s future talent needs and available opportunities 
  • Use an online, centralized learning management system 

From a talent retention standpoint, we recommend best practices such as: 

  • Develop a formal, detailed succession management plan for senior and middle management 
  • Train managers on how to support employees’ wellness and work/life balance 
  • Design compensation plans to reward key behaviors that support the organization's goals 

And of course it’s impossible to have this conversation today without discussing remote and flexible work opportunities. Virtually everyone is dealing with this situation on some level, but it’s important to acknowledge that there’s no singular solution for everybody. However, if you go department-by-department and maybe even employee-by-employee, your organization’s leadership team can find solutions that work for people on an individual level.  

In addition to offering flexible/remote work, some common marketplace solutions that we’ve seen include: 

  • Consistent advertising of perks 
  • Employee recognition 
  • Pets and kids at work 
  • Relaxed dress codes 
  • Community space to connect 
  • Culturally valued reimbursements 
  • EAP programs 
  • Privacy rooms  
  • Tuition reimbursement  
  • Class and comp studies 

That leads into a discussion about compensation, which as stated earlier, isn’t necessarily the most important part of attracting and retaining employees. It is, however, the most easily digestible part of the equation. 

Every organization has to decide for itself what position it wants to hold in the marketplace. Does it want to lead, lag or lead-lag in terms of compensation? And with that in mind, who exactly comprises the market? The organization must determine who it competes against for talent and who it is typically compared to when it comes to compensation.  

Once your organization has defined its competitive labor market (by looking at bigger and smaller organizations), determined the market value for the positions in your organization, and decided whether you want to lean or lag in terms of compensation, then it is time to implement the results of a market study. 

For more information on how Baker Tilly can assist with this process, feel free to contact us. 

Caitlin M. Humrickhouse
Jada Kent

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