Management Articles


Low-Cost Steps to Keep Employees from Job Hunting

By: G.A. (Andy) Marken

In his nearly 25 years in the advertising/public relations field, Andy has been involved with a broad range of corporate and marketing activities. Prior to forming Marken Communications in mid-1977, Andy was vice president of Bozell & Jacobs and its predecessor agencies. During his 12 years with these agencies, he developed and coordinated a wide variety of highly visible and successful promotional campaigns and activities for clients. A graduate of Iowa State University, Andy received his Bachelor's Degree with majors in Radio & Television and Journalism. Widely published in the industry and trade press, he is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

I recently read an on-line newsletter from a communications recruitment agency that said because of the continual thrash of people, even non-tech oriented companies were beginning to offer signing bonuses, salaries approaching $100,000 and stock options for middle managers. A newspaper career counselor also advised a reader that unless you had an employment contract, nine months was long enough for a job.

The counselor did note that if the reader moved it should be for more than just money. It should be for a better company fit, for skills enhancement and that the move should fit the individual's career plan.

Today's employment rules are that there are very few rules. There's no longer a stigma attached to people having three – four job changes in the last few years. That's good news for people who want to “shop.”  It's bad news for companies.

But if you're the head of an agency or responsible for public relations in a company, you know that 60 - 80% of your corporate inventory leaves thru the front door every evening. Every time part of that inventory doesn't return it is expensive to replace the individual.    Since no one has unlimited staffing budgets employee retention is the best way to keep your largest cost under control.

The primary motivation for people job hunting is seldom simply a bigger paycheck. There are low-cost programs you can use in your department and other areas of the company to improve staff retention. They include:

1. Flexible Hours

2. Telecommuting
Department heads and corporate executives are realizing that flexible hours and telecommuting are the most cost-effective ways to hire new people and retain present personnel. The combination of flex time and flex place are both inexpensive and convenient.

Telecommuting and flextime often makes better use of a firm's physical and fiscal resources. Management can focus on finding the best person for the job – regardless of where he or she currently lives. The company can eliminate the high cost and personal disruption that takes place if the individual must consider relocating for the new position. This is especially true in areas like New York City or California where people may like the firm but the housing costs and commuting hassles are more than they want to confront.

With telecommuters, companies don't have to pay for office space and commuting costs. These savings can be substantial.

More than 60% of the Fortune 5000 firms have increased the number of telecommuters over the past two years according to a recent Gallup business survey.  According to AT&T's National Survey of Teleworker Attitudes and Work Styles, 60+ % of the respondents felt telecommuting was positive for their careers. Sixty-two percent of the respondents found no difference when they worked at home and 15% felt more connected. Seventy-one percent were more satisfied with their jobs after they began working at home.

In implementing telecommuting programs firms must spell out the location and hours of work, who owns the equipment and who's responsible for repairs.  Many organizations are finding Internet connected people are not only more productive when they work off-site but actually put in longer hours.  This could be because the individual's commute is only 15 steps rather than 15+ miles. In addition, people focus their attention on the task at hand rather than routine office interruptions.
 3. Praise
It sounds simple but with today's reduced staffs, increased workload and compressed time schedules it is easy to forget compliments. Some people are completely self-reliant and self-assured. But it is amazing what a few well-chosen words can do. People need to know that their efforts for the company are recognized and appreciated.

This is especially true of junior people who tackle projects or activities for the first time. Each success has to be acknowledged. It helps the individual grow and gives them the confidence they need for their next project or goal.

The key is not to overdo it and don't spread praise around so much that it becomes meaningless. 
4. Employees Training Employees
Firms spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year sending people to formal training sessions. For some skill sets formal training is a must.

In many instances it is not only more cost-efficient but also more effective to have employees teach each other. If your most valuable resource is your people; leverage their experience, capabilities and technical/work expertise. They can share not only theory but also “real world” experience, which is far more valuable than classroom and textbook education. 

It helps both the trainer and the trainee. The trainer gains recognition for his or her technical or business expertise. The trainee gains insights into practical applications and knowledge so they can put the new information to use immediately and confidently. 
5. Clear career paths
 Let employees know the company's and department's plans for the next one, three and five years. Identify opportunities for employees and outline what will be required for them to move forward in the organization.  Without a clear-cut understanding of their advancement potential people can quickly become demotivated. When that happens they begin looking for “better” opportunities.
6. Work with cutting-edge technology
Every organization, including PR firms and departments, advocate letting people work on special or new technology implementation projects.  But often these programs and projects are given to the same few “stars.”  The high-potential types get the projects because company and department heads need to make certain the programs succeed. As a result some members of the team never get the chance to stretch themselves and grow.

If you find this occurring, use the team approach with teams made up of senior and junior personnel. Keep in mind that even your best staff members aren't good at everything. Sometimes they can learn from new members in the team. As individuals develop a broader range of understanding and expertise moved up to team leaders in new projects. This keeps people from being pigeonholed or left out so they cease to grow. 
7. Shield your people
Whether clients are internal or external, one of senior management's most important jobs is to manage and control client and staff relationships and communications. Sitting at the top, the senior managers should be the lightning rod that shields people so they can focus on their work. 

Because management is an inexact science at best, things occasionally go awry despite the best plans and individual efforts. When this happens, its the manager's responsibility to not only defend staff personnel but also take the heat. Once the problem is solved, the individual(s) involved can be counseled on how the situation could have been avoided so the correct actions can be taken in the future.
8. Emphasize benefits package value
If your company offers good benefits, make certain employees know the value of those benefits above and beyond their weekly or monthly paychecks.  Depending upon the company, benefits are usually 20-30 percent of their total compensation.

In addition, add benefits that cost the company very little or nothing.  Noncash incentives can be a key to retaining people. The right mixture of these incentives often keeps people from leaving just for an increase in his or her salary. Days off with pay at the completion of a major project, paying for attending industry conventions and educational conferences, flex time, childcare, wellness credits, corporate or departmental healthclub sponsorship and similar benefits can do a lot to keep people from considering job offers.
9. Supportive Culture
Recognizing birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions as well as impromptu parties for the completion of a major project is a cultural activity that says to an individual “you're important” and “you matter.” The little things that can build big loyalty.

However when this cultural support comes down as a corporate edict it is often ineffective. Keep them at the local or departmental level.
10. Small gifts, Cash Prizes
Small gifts such as sporting event tickets, free meals, theater tickets and on-the-spot cash awards of $25 - $50 is a way for department heads to recognize an employees' accomplishments or contributions. But since incentive awards have become commonplace they often lose their effect.  When the awards are given, combine them with public recognition. 

The football tickets or dinner aren't really important to professional staff members and won't keep them from taking a better job offer.  However, receiving the recognition for their efforts and activities in front of their peers can build loyalty.
When the big offers come they can force people to consider a move. It's up to corporate and department managers to use as many of the low-cost incentives as possible to show people they are important to the firm.  The incentives should be part of your organization's total compensation package.

Take them for granted and you'll continually be on the hiring and training treadmill. That ends up being far more expensive than the incentives.

© Copyright 2000, G.A.Marken, Marken Communications

Other Articles by G.A. (Andy) Marken

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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