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Updated: July 19, 2023 How To

How to attract and retain employees in today’s labor market

It isn’t easy being a boss these days. The economy is up and down, and the labor market is unpredictable. Depending on the industry, some employers are struggling to attract and retain employees, while others are thriving.

In public relations, I have seen it all in recent months: Some agencies refusing to hire, others hiring in abundance, some losing workers to their competitors, and others keeping employees for the long haul 

File Photo
Nancy Marshall, Marshall Communications

During turbulent times, it is important for employers — in PR or not — to go back to the drawing board and reevaluate their policies pertaining to employee attraction and retention. Businesses large and small cannot rest on their laurels. They need to make a strong case to employees and job-seekers to come and stay.

Here are seven general tips:

1. Change with the times: To attract and retain younger workers, business leaders need to think like young people. Millennials and Gen Zers have different priorities, and look for work accordingly. Younger generations value job flexibility, such as remote and hybrid work environments. They also expect their employers to care about sustainability and other social issues, so businesses can set themselves apart by adopting the same values.

2. Don’t forget the old guard: The labor market isn’t just young people. Older generations are still extremely valuable at work, so employers should keep their preferences in mind too. One is retirement planning — setting up people in their 50s and 60s for life after work. Another is personal time off, which allows people higher on the career ladder to spend time with their grandchildren or elderly relatives. Work-life balance is important for all Americans, but especially those with more experience.

3. Find empowerment through challenges and rewards: Older or younger, employees need to feel inspired and motivated at work. That’s how they end up being productive. But, to secure that productivity, employers must present their workers with new challenges and rewarding tasks to be completed. Challenges and rewards lead to empowerment on the job.

4. Improve access: Employers need to identify top performers who want more and more. Once we do, then it’s important to give them more, including access to members of the leadership team, key clients and broader opportunities that make them feel special on the job. You should never put high achievers in a box or silo, where they feel trapped. Those achievers need to have a sense of “ownership.” Access to influential decision-makers allows employees to own their work and keep excelling at it.

5. Create upward mobility: In the end, employees need to know that they are building toward something — whether it is higher pay, a promotion, or just greater fulfillment at work. Workers seek upward mobility. People want to climb the career ladder, so let them! Again, your employees cannot be locked out of career progression in a box or silo; they need to climb the ladder on a regular basis. “Onwards and upwards” is a saying for a reason.

6. Foster diversity: Today’s America is a diverse America, and your workforce should reflect that diversity. Employers can build a robust, healthy workplace culture by promoting the differences in cultural backgrounds and personal characteristics. Similarly, they can value the diversity of ideas, allowing people to think outside the box and bring unique perspectives to the table. From in-person interactions to social media posts, employees should feel free to express their own opinions, as long as you establish rules for what they can and cannot say about the company. Social media, for example, can give people freedom and bring workplaces together, as long as the discourse is positive. Positive discourse attracts job-seekers too.

7. Offer constructive criticism: Let’s face it: Employees will mess up. No job-seeker is perfect either. Sometimes, the boss needs to criticize workers to trigger better performance in the future, and that’s fine—as long as you do it constructively. Feedback should be geared toward allowing people to learn and grow on the job, enabling them to gain new skills based on new experiences. It isn’t about tearing people down. Constructive criticism is what builds expertise over time.

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