Retaining Key Staff – Can you afford not to?

With low unemployment rates being an Employer of Choice becomes a term heard more often with employers competing for scarce resources. While being an employer of choice might not be your main driving force, it doesn’t make sense to ignore the needs of employees. You don’t want to be the employer to avoid.

There is evidence showing that the labour market is changing globally, and the impact on our future workplaces will be considerable. There’s no reason why a workplace shouldn’t be considered a brand to help attract and retain staff.

Low unemployment rates encourages employees of all ages to reconsider their options. Add to that the restless energy of Generation Y and you have a workforce that no longer finds it inspiring to put in the hard yards at the one business in order to achieve the gold watch at the long service mark. The general lack of opportunities for advancement within the self storage industry further complicates the matter for smaller self storage businesses.

So what can you do to improve your chances of attracting and retaining the best talent in a market that is actively working against it? You can focus on improving your workplace brand and become an employer of choice.

For years, many self storage businesses have spent a lot of money ensuring that their external brand is well polished and that they engage their target customer as strongly as possible, in order to build loyalty to their product over their competitors. Yet few employers maintain the same focus on their internal brand and their internal customary, their employees. Whereas the marketing department spends considerable time and money fine-tuning the external brand in minute detail, the representation of the internal brand isn’t afforded the same time.

Why is a workplace any different? Shouldn’t we as employers want staff to be every bit as involved and engaged as our most loyal customers? The workplace is where many of us spend at least five days every week (often more time than we spend with our partners or children), the place to which our aspirations and ability to progress in life are inextricably linked, and where for many, our self-esteem and sense of self is determined.

If we think about the skills shortage and the inevitable effect this will have on organisational ability to attract and retain the best talent, then it stands to reason that a more engaged and challenged workforce will have a positive effect on turnover levels.

How do you make your business attractive to current and potential employees?
Firstly it would be beneficial to the process if you understand that your business is not offering a job, you are offering an experience; and the best workplace brands reflect that experience. As most of us have been employees at some time it shouldn’t be too hard to work out what people in that position might want. Try rating your workplace against some of the basic needs we’ve listed below.

1. Do your employees know where the business is heading?
People like to be on a winning team, one that is going somewhere. Does your facility have a vision, goals and plans? Have you communicated these to your staff? Help them get excited and feel involved in the challenges. Help them feel it’s worthwhile working with you to take the business to the next level.

2. Do your employees know what is expected of them?
How can they succeed in your eyes if they are not sure what you want? Is this written down with clear measures? How many people would watch football if no one kept the score? Actually I know many that would, bad example but you get the analogy.

3. Do all employees understand what they can and can’t do to comply with the law and your facility policies?
People need to know the guidelines within which the facility operates. They want to be on a professional team that has these – for your protection and theirs.

4. Are you accommodating to needs and flexible on working hours?
Being flexible with your employees working hours is a great retention tool, especially for mothers re-entering the workforce, single parents, people undergoing personal study or older employees with lifestyle commitments.

5. Were all your people selected for what they can bring to the organisation?
They need to know they are on a team that was careful in its selection. Let them know the skills that you want them to bring to the business mix and ask their opinion on decisions that need to be made.

6. Do you provide all the training and development necessary to do the job?
From day one, employees want to be welcomed, made to feel wanted and be given the best chance of success in their job. This does not necessarily mean expensive training courses but a planned program using existing people and information to bring new people up to speed quickly and allow them to grow and develop to take on new challenges.

7. Do they get enough feedback on their performance to know how they are doing and continually improve?
Do they get recognition when they do well? Is immediate action taken when they don’t? Employees need regular reviews and appropriate support and they will respond to it. The lack of it will almost always guarantee below par performance.

8. Do your people understand how their pay is arrived at and think it is fair?
They don’t have to be the best paid but they need to be paid fairly and want to know that pay decisions are based on some rational criteria.

9. Do you have plans for developing people for future roles?
While some people are prepared to stay in the same job there are others who want to know they have a future and that you will provide opportunities for them. This does not need to be a promotion but can be presented to employees in terms of additional training in computer skills, marketing, sales and the like.

Most employee loyalty belongs to the people they work for, not the business they work for. One of the key aspects that employees are looking for are great leaders and inspiring leadership.

Shorten the distance between the external and internal brand. There’s no point presenting an inspiring external brand but being regarded by your employees as shallow and uncaring to your internal audience. This merely emphasises that they are being thought of as an expendable bottom line cost, whilst external customers are seen as investments. Think of your employees as an investment and see how it changes your perspective.

Force yourself to focus. If you want to attract and retain the best people in the midst of a skills shortage, you have to focus on it as much as you would any other major organisational task. Force yourself to focus on building a more engaging employer brand, or it will never happen. Many owners do some of the above, some of the time. The answer is to have processes in place which provide for your employees needs but are also self-sustaining. To do this means being committed to making it work. Not working towards putting these processes in place is short-changing your employees.

It can be done and there are facilities that do it well – they may be your competition.

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