Why is it important for a company to be an Employer of Choice®?

With the pervasive labor shortages throughout our country, employees are now in the driver’s seat. They are making choices about where, when, and how they will work.

Without good people, employers cannot manufacture products or serve their customers. Thus, it just makes sense for organizations to want to be the employers that people choose to work for. In fact, in the future, being an Employer of Choice® will be a matter of corporate survival.

What caused the labor shortages we’re experiencing now?

The labor shortages were caused by a combination of economic and demographic trends. The unprecedented prosperity in our economy has created thousands of new jobs, which now compete for workers. The Generation X population group (born 1965-1985) is only about 90% of the size of the Baby Boomer Generation (1946-1964)–fewer people available to fill more jobs. With more open jobs than qualified workers to fill them, we have a shortage. The problem is complicated by the increasing number of people who want to work for themselves, instead of filling open jobs in corporate America.

When will the labor shortages end?

This high demand for workers will continue for at least another decade, giving workers all kinds of choices about where they’ll work. And, this means serious employer challenges to find, engage, and keep good, experienced workers.

Is there any relief?

Enlightened employers will hire older workers, who are now being recognized as a treasure instead of a burden. Aging Baby Boomers will not choose to retire the way their parents did. Many of them will continue to want to work–albeit part time. This is good news and bad news for employers. The good news is that they will have experienced employees who know their businesses. The bad news is that these older workers (55+) will want to begin some sort of slow-down or modification of work design in their later years.

What’s happening with people making choices?

The abundant opportunities have created a situation where workers have lots of choices–about where they work, how engaged they will be as employees, and how long they’ll stay. They can decide whether they will work full-time, part-time, independently, or not at all. The labor shortage has created a seller’s market for employees; workers at all levels in all fields are in the driver’s seat.

To complicate matters, we’re seeing a trend on the part of highly educated affluent young women who have married high-earning young professionals. Rather than having children and returning to work right away, these young women are choosing to stay home with their children. This lifestyle choice pulls these women out of the labor pool, unless employers find more ways to encourage and support tele-working.

Will employers ever be in the driver’s seat again?

Yes, employers will be in the driver’s seat again, but not for many years to come. It won’t happen until the Baby Boom Echo (the Millennial Generation) hits the labor market in earnest in 2008 or 2010. Around that time, we also expect the economy to cool off a little, reducing the red-hot demand for people. This reduction in jobs available will be offset by retiring Boomers.

How is this seller’s labor market affecting leadership styles?

Today’s employees are no longer accept the old styles of autocratic management. Today’s workers want to be led. We call this new style of leadership, facilitative leadership. Briefly, this new style of leadership is characterized by empowerment of employees to get the job done and pushing accountability down to the lowest level. Today’s workers want higher levels of responsibility and accountability.

What are the major attributes of an Employer of Choice®?

The major attributes of an Employer of Choice® are:

  1. A conveniently located company that provides a comfortable safe work environment and has a good reputation in its community.
  2. An employee-centered culture that values internal customers as much as external ones.
  3. Non-authoritarian enlightened leadership that provides vision and direction, along with being open and accessible.
  4. A demonstrable caring for the health and well-being of its people by looking for ways to make employees’ lives easier and less stressed.
  5. Opportunities for growth and development are provided by the company in the forms of education, mentoring, cross-training, and cross-experience.
  6. Meaningful work is provided to the employees and they have ample opportunity to understand how their work contributes to the bottom line of the company.
  7. Competitive compensation and a variety of benefits that have a high perceived value to the workers.
  8. Making a difference in the community and in the world, an Employer of Choice® is a good corporate citizen, whether supporting local causes or reaching out to the global community in need.

Are different regions of the country being affected differently?

Yes, different regions of the country are being affected variably, based on unemployment rates, types of employees needed, and transferability of skills. In some areas, the market for top talent is considerably more competitive. Employers must be more aggressive in their drive to attract and hold on to the people they need. With today’s mobility, workers can easily move to work anywhere. Additionally, with technology, many people can accept telecommuting jobs in distant locations without leaving home. The world of work has lots of flexibility and choices.

In order to recruit workers, what are some of the unusual methods some employers are resorting to?

One company seeking Information Technology professionals sent recruiters to the parking deck of its competitor. Others have resorted to advertising on the backs of grocery cash register receipts and on pre-feature movie screens to find the right people for hard-to-fill jobs. We’re seeing a blossoming of referral programs. One company even rewards its vendors and customers for helping find good workers.

What will the corporation of the future look like?

The corporation of the future will have a core of highly valued, full-time, permanent employees. To this nucleus will be added groups of contingent employees who will work on specific projects or perhaps just fill in during busy periods. These temporary, contract, and part-time workers will stay with the organization only for as long as they’re needed, then they will leave to work for another corporation. The structure will be flat, ever-changing, and highly responsive to the market environment.

What should employees do to position themselves for future success?

To position themselves for future success, employees must strive to stay marketable. This activity does not mean that they will necessarily change jobs often, though we are forecasting that people will jump from job to job every 2 to 4 years. We recommend that workers seek employers who offer the most opportunities for growth and development. Employers of Choice® offer these opportunities to their employees, realizing that the more training they offer, the less likely they are to lose their valuable workers.

What seems to be most important to employees in making their choice of an employer?

Each of us has our own set of criteria to evaluate and choose employers. Most prevalent seem to be training and development–both professional and personal, the opportunity to see how one’s work affects the organization’s bottom line, and the sense of making a difference in the world. An increasing number of people are concerned about flexibility, life balance, and working with people they like.

What kinds of unusual perks and benefits are employers offering to their employees?

On site laundry and dry cleaning are certainly unusual, as is the privilege of bringing your pet to work. But the fun things that don’t cost a lot include buying ice cream for everybody when the temperature tops 90º, offering chocolate-chip cookie breaks at 3:30 p.m. on Friday afternoons, and having weekly recess. Another unusual perk is offered by the Wilton Conner Packaging Company in Charlotte, North Carolina. When the maintenance man who repairs company machines is not servicing them, he’s visiting employees’ homes to fix leaky faucets, squeaky doors, and other maintenance problems.

How are employers trying to make their workers’ lives easier?

Enlightened employers have realized that the more they can help workers reduce their stress, the more productive those workers will be. These employers offer concierge services, referrals to professionals for dependent care, and flexible work schedules to help employees cope with our time-crunched culture. When people feel better about their jobs, they choose to stay longer.

What’s the trend in benefit programs?

Because people have different perceived values of various benefit options, the trend in benefit programs is towards offering a “cafeteria-style” program in which employees are given a certain amount of money they may spend and they get to decide where the money is spent. We’re forecasting a movement into an era of portable benefits, where workers will design their own unique benefits package and negotiate with prospective employers to arrange payment of their costs.

Why are employers investing so much in wellness and work-life programs for their employees?

Wise employers know that their investments in wellness and work-life programs will pay off handsomely in productivity and reduced turnover. Turnover costs American business billions of dollars a year. By reducing employee turnover, these companies are saving multiples of their investments in the long run. The mistake that most companies make is expecting these programs to pay off right away. Generally, it takes 3 to 5 years for wellness programs to pay for themselves.