Non-cash perks key to keeping staff

The soft incentives keep people motivated, Chuck Martin says

When it comes to recruiting or retaining employees, the less tangible things appear to go a long way.

The majority of senior executives and managers say that culture is the number-one incentive that has been most effective in recruiting new employees.

That’s a good thing for them to know, since four-fifths of them say that recruiting new employees is more difficult than retaining valued employees, based on a worldwide survey of senior executives and managers conducted by US consultancy NFI Research.

“Even though it is difficult to find employees, we are following our longstanding practice of checking references and [having] more than one interview to ensure the applicant fits into our culture and way of doing business,” says one exec. “It can’t be all about the money.”

“The biggest challenge is ensuring that, as leaders, we live and breathe the culture of the organisation that we want to create,” another respondent says. “If you are really doing this, it shows to new recruits and those you want to retain.”

Another says: “Non-monetary benefits are becoming more important to new recruits than actual salary.”

Downsizing in organisations also has had an impact on recruiting, since some of the resources formerly used in the recruitment process have usually been streamlined.

“One of the challenges our organisation faces is the downsizing of HR services and support,” one respondent says.

“This puts a lot of added pressure on front-line managers to find their own recruits, which impacts [on] the time it takes to recruit a new hire.”

That streamlining can also play a role in retaining talent. “One effect of the ‘leaning’ of the workforce has been to reduce the time and attention we can bring to interpersonal relationships,” another respondent says. “This has resulted in increased turnover and dissatisfaction. I fear that we are not alone.”

Incentives for retaining employees differ from those that work best for recruiting. To retain valued employees, executives and managers say that, after company culture, the most effective incentives are: the stability of the company; flexibility; confidence in leadership and autonomy/challenge.

The least effective incentives, for both recruiting and retaining employees, are contracts and equity.

“The most important asset any corporation has is its people,” says one respondent. “They may join your organisation based on the hard issues, such as compensation and benefits. But what keeps them are the soft issues, such as culture, sense of contributing, being recognised and, most importantly, treating every employee exactly how you like being treated.”

“It is all about relationships,” another respondent says. “Trust, open communication and real interest in the person, not just the job.”

It is sometimes difficult to know why a valued employee decided to leave the organisation. The exit interview is too late to find out. Managers and executives should conduct regular “temperature checks” with top performers to make sure job satisfaction is high.

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