Attracting Top Talent

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Business leaders across the country will tell you that their top challenge is attracting and retaining talent. Top employees are critical to company growth and can be the difference between a company succeeding or failing. But companies are having a harder time these days keeping those top employees.

Gone are the days of employees working at one company their entire career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker today stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years. But employers say the expected tenure of the workforce’s youngest employees is only about half of that.

Think about our own marketplace. Our history is dotted with stories of people that worked thirty, forty, even fifty years for local mainstay employers like Studebaker, Bendix, Uniroyal or Dodge. Few of those opportunities exist today.

In the old days, economic stability, healthcare plans, and pension plans were big factors in an employee staying at the same place for a long period of time. Couple that with limited opportunities and you have a recipe for employee longevity. 

But employees have a lot more options available to them today. A broad mix of employment opportunities give employees the chance to carefully assess those opportunities that provide them the flexibility, pay, benefits, and work conditions they desire. Technology has made it easier to work for anyone from virtually anywhere in the world.

Employees have a basic desire for better opportunities for themselves. Higher pay and better benefits make it easier to take care of those basic challenges like paying a mortgage, buying a car, sending a kid to college, or taking a dream vacation. But employees also desire a workplace where they feel valued.     

Out of necessity, employers have become more flexible and have had to find creative ways to keep those top producers or to lure new talent. That has been much easier to do in the private sector than in other sectors. The private sector traditionally pays better and is able to offer better flexibility and benefits.

Flexible hours, work from home options, a new office environment, and schedule flexibility are all things helping make a workplace a more attractive place to work. Not all employers are able to offer that, but business leaders are quickly looking at those factors that make them a preferred employer.

This is especially a challenge now for the public sector, which traditionally has been less flexible in the workplace and now is finding it harder than ever to retain top talent. Though some employees are attracted to the opportunity to make a difference within a community, fewer will make the commitment for a whole career that their predecessors did.

Locally, a number of public sector employees have come under fire in recent months for moving to a new opportunity in the private sector. Some have suggested it was improper and soon the South Bend City Council may even consider trying to limit City employee opportunities in the private sector.

We live in a relatively small community, where many companies do business with the City and depending on your field, your opportunities can be limited. The private sector also recognizes that there are many talented people in the public sector that could thrive in a new opportunity. There are countless checks and balances to protect the interests of the public sector.   

If the public sector wants to win the race for top talent, it must figure out how to pay their workers a competitive wage and offer the type of workplace and flexibility employees are seeking.

Jeff Rea is chief executive officer of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce.

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