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Karen Dwyer: Companies Fail to Innovate Without Top Employees

With a focus on retention, businesses have unlimited potential for success

In what seemed like one of the most challenging times in recent history, the Great Recession left many companies adjusting to new business road blocks. Companies had to adapt and innovate — and do more with less — in order to be successful. And with a shortage of talent, employers were confronted by one of the top threats facing businesses today: the inability to innovate.

According to an Aberdeen Group study, 83 percent of companies surveyed said the No. 1 pressure felt in 2011 was having a shortage of talent.

Without your top talent, how can you respond to changing business needs without the innovative thinking and strategic planning it takes to ensure your company’s longevity? One of the most apparent causes of this threat is turnover. Retaining top talent can be hindered by the lack of employee incentive plans and benefits, competitors stalking your top talent and an overworked core staff. It takes an average company 67 days to fill a high-skilled position. By the time you hire a candidate you could be losing another, creating a revolving door of turnover. And with a constant flow of employees, how can you rely on your staff to be innovative?

Implementing employee incentive plans is vital to employee retention. One thing every business leader needs to know is top talent will always have other opportunities. With today’s employment trends, workers are less loyal to particular companies.

According to an Ouch Point survey from Opinion Research, 80 percent of employed respondents would consider leaving their current job if presented with other opportunities. In fact, 25 percent of those respondents said they have plans to leave their present employer once the job market stabilizes. The age bracket most likely to switch jobs is 18 to 34.

During the Great Recession, most companies were lucky to even keep employees on payroll. The first things cut were incentive plans and benefits. According to a recent Gallup poll, 22 percent of workers leave a job because of pay and benefits alone. And with other companies offering more competitive incentives, it will become even more difficult to retain the cream of the crop.

Another aspect that is hindering retention is the fact that other companies are pursuing your top talent. According to a Jobvite survey, 95 percent of companies plan to recruit through social media, and even more alarming, 66 percent of companies plan to recruit from competition. Cyber prowlers — recruiters headhunting through social networking sites — have changed the way companies obtain talent. Individuals not looking for employment are the No. 1 target for cyber prowlers. They are well versed in the particular industry and bring other workforce knowledge to the table.

Recruiting passive individuals is the primary strategy for contending against competition. According to Forbes, 74 percent of workers would consider leaving their employer if approached with another offer. Not only is your competition watching your corporate actions on social networks, they are also stalking your talent.

The final issue companies are facing with retention is an overworked staff. To combat the economic woes companies faced at the end of the past decade, employers were forced to lay off a large percentage of workers, leaving the remaining staff members with an increased workload. According to a Hiring Trends survey by Express Employment Professionals, 68 percent of business leaders reported higher workloads since the recession. To crawl out of such a crisis, there were certain necessary sacrifices employers and employees had to make.

Now that the economy is improving, employees have newfound skills and experience other companies will be recruiting for. According to a Deloitte survey, 59 percent of your workforce feel more is demanded from them. Without a proper balance of work and free time, employees are inclined to seek further opportunities elsewhere.

With the new economy comes a new game plan. Companies that are staying relevant see the importance of innovation. But more to the point, companies understand true innovative value is found in their employees. Jac Fitzenz, author of ROI of Human Capital, explained it by saying, “…people are the only element with inherent power to generate value … all other variables offer nothing but inert potential.” The revolving door epidemic of turnover leaves employees out of the loop and unable to lead your business to new heights.

Your company has an unlimited potential for success, but the connection between potential and actualization is found in your top talent. Not focusing on retention will only leave your company with an inability to innovate.

— Karen Dwyer is owner of Express Employment Professionals, 1025 Chapala St., Suite 206, in Santa Barbara. Click here to contact her or call 805.965.6900.

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