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Become an employer of choice

February 1, 2007
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How to attract and retain high-quality employees

Is your organization going to win in the upcoming war for talent? If you can gain a reputation for being the best employer in your geographic area, prospective employees will start seeing you as an “employer of choice.” In this short article, I will teach you how to do this.

Human resources managers know that behavioral healthcare organizations will face an increasing shortage of qualified personnel as the decade comes to a close and baby boomers retire. All companies, not just those in our field, will be competing for the attention and talents of the available pool of workers.

The old conventional wisdom around hiring was that mental health companies have a hard time hiring because of the nature of our profession. This thinking said that our employees have to possess a true passion for helping people that surpasses their desire for a great salary and significant pay increases every year. The new conventional wisdom retains that philosophy and adds the looming prospect of the shrinking U.S. workforce, especially with respect to upper-level professional workers. This broad trend of fewer workers has been predicted for some time, and private industry is already taking steps to revamp their approach toward hiring and retaining workers.

The following are some strategies you can implement immediately, at no cost, to help your organization attract workers. In the process, you will capitalize on your most important corporate asset—your people.

Cultivate an environment that encourages workers to return.Train new employees to return to your company as they progress through their careers. Reengineer your orientation process. Have the president/CEO or executive director welcome new employees, telling them about your history, your mission, and several reasons why your organization is a great place to work. Tell them you view this new employee/employer partnership as a dynamic and growing relationship, and that if they do a good job and you do a good job as their employer, you would like them to consider this a long-term partnership.

Companies too often treat exiting workers as though there has been a personal rejection, and they cut them out—sometimes on the day of their resignation—rather than viewing leaving as part of a natural growth process. People, especially young people, need a change from time to time. They may want to go back to school full time or gain new skills and experience. Maybe they think they will get a better deal somewhere else. The good news is that over time, people mature as they gain experience and knowledge. They actually can be better employees the second time around. So plant the idea of coming back into their minds right up front.

During exit interviews, ask workers if they would consider working for you again. If not, why not? As one of the leaders of your organization, make it your business to analyze the data and change some of the negatives that come up repeatedly in exit interviews. After all, if you don’t use that information to make your company a more vital, exciting place to work, then why conduct exit interviews at all?

Retain quality workers.Show them the money. If you haven’t already done so, give your employees an annual total compensation breakdown, showing what you’ve done for them lately. Employees don’t see, and consequently don’t appreciate, the costs you pay out with every paycheck. Develop a one-page itemized report detailing the following yearly costs:

  • Salary

  • Employer's share of payroll taxes

  • Unemployment insurance

  • Workers’ compensation insurance

  • Malpractice insurance

  • Employer's share of medical costs and insurance, including dental and vision (if applicable)

  • Vacation, holiday, and personal leave time

  • Sick leave and extended sick leave benefits

  • Life insurance, disability insurance, and any other insurance you offer

Total these costs. Your employees will not only appreciate the information and feel happier about themselves, they will more fully understand what you give them and how you contribute to the overall quality of their lives.

Pick up a copy of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees by Bob Nelson, PhD. It's a gem of a book that will get you talking to your managers about how they, and you, can inexpensively improve employee morale and boost productivity. Drawing from years of his research and that of other experts, Dr. Nelson presents both formal and informal forms of employee recognition. Not surprisingly, the reward employees want most—and get the least—is day-to-day recognition of a job well done. Personal praise is the most important, such as a personal thank-you note, direct verbal praise, being sought out and commended by a higher-up, and being praised in front of another person.

Hire the best qualified workers.Train your hiring managers to learn how to hire the cream of the crop repeatedly. If you don’t have a broadly used formal hiring system that works, your hiring managers will hire mediocre people half of the time. Really good hires can do things quickly and effectively, and they will enhance your organization's bottom line and reputation. Your hiring managers need to know how to identify these individuals.