Regardless of their industry or market, today’s employers are in the talent business. A skilled workforce is a game-changing competitive advantage; leading companies attract the best and brightest employees and create an environment where they can succeed.

While talent is a top priority, it’s also a vexing challenge. In Area Development magazine’s 2014 national survey of corporate executives, availability of skilled labor was ranked the number one concern for the first time in the study’s 28-year history. A similar poll of last year’s Inc 500 CEOs show that the leaders of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies regard recruiting talented employees as simultaneously their biggest hurdle and most important contribution to innovation.

For small and mid-sized companies, succeeding in the "people economy" means battling larger corporations for workers with sought-after skills, while retaining top employees amidst appeals from competitors. And it means doing so while keeping an eye on the balance sheet, where compensation and benefits are typically the top expenses.

So you’d expect talent attraction and retention to be top of mind for any Human Resources professional – and you’d be right. A recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management asked HR experts to list their most pressing priorities; the four top responses were managing talent, leadership development, successful recruiting and driving cultural transformation.

But another study from SHRM questioned the same members about how they’re actually spending their days, and found that 61% have devoted "significantly more time" over the last two years to managing and explaining healthcare benefits. 73% have spent more time educating themselves about health and retirement plans, so they can better communicate the details to the rest of their organizations.

Healthcare costs continue to rise, with another double-digit increase likely in 2016. But benefits don’t just consume dollars, they consume time that could be spent reaching out to prospective employees, implementing new professional development initiatives, or exploring ways to create a more welcoming workplace.

The Indy Chamber understands the importance of human capital to our business climate. As we drive the region’s economic development effort, we’ve increasingly focused on strategies to bring more educated workers to Indianapolis.

We also want to offer individual employers a strategic solution for the demands of time and talent – devoting more energy to attracting great people, not administering and explaining benefits, while controlling costs to help provide competitive compensation. This solution is TogetHR.

The Indy Chamber enlisted Tilson, a locally-based Professional Employer Organization (PEO), to deliver HR services through TogetHR — participants can delegate payroll, benefits administration, compliance, on-boarding, and training.. By outsourcing day-to-day administrative tasks to a trusted partner, TogetHR gives Indy Chamber members more time to focus on recruitment and retention.

Through TogetHR, participating Chamber members also have access to comprehensive health, dental, vision, life, 401K and disability insurance plans – a full suite of employee benefits typically available only to larger companies. By joining a pool of participating companies, businesses gain access to large group benefits and plan pricing, realizing significant savings.

Engaging a PEO is a proven strategy for business success. A recent study by HR research firm McBassie & Associates shows that companies that partner with a PEO cut employee turnover and boost overall survival rates.

We like to say that the Indy Chamber is the voice of regional business, and that’s true. But we’re not just speaking for employers – we’re listening to them.  We’ve heard loud and clear that workforce is the top priority for Central Indiana’s business community, and that executives are desperate to spend more time on big picture priorities. 

By offering new services like TogetHR, we’re empowering our members to invest time and effort on the "human" side of HR, on attracting talent and building their businesses. Their collective success will drive our regional goal – making Central Indiana a more attractive destination for people, employers, investment and innovation.

Melissa Cotterill is chief operating officer of the Indy Chamber.

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