As of April 2019, the United States unemployment rate is at 3.6%, which is great news for the economy. But it reinforces the current candidate-driven market, which means it’s up to hiring managers to sell talent on their available opportunities rather than the other way around.
Tim Johnson is CEO of Mondo, a leading digital marketing, tech, and IT staffing firm, and Forbes council member who wrote this post says:
“As a result, I’ve noticed that attracting and retaining talent is proving to be a recurring challenge for companies looking to expand their creative-based talent or digital marketing teams.”
The answer isn’t as simple as increasing salaries considering that nearly 80% of respondents to a 2015 Glassdoor survey (via HBR) said they would prefer additional benefits over a pay increase. Before you Google what trendy perks top competitors are offering today, here are some tips on how to identify and provide your creative workforce with the in-demand benefits that may matter most to them, which in turn could result in improved retention rates for your organization, reduced hiring costs and senior talent capable of scaling your business.
Put Your People First
I believe the most effective element of any retention strategy is creating a culture that puts your people first. This is where you should start. When your people are at the center of every decision you make, it’s present in every function of the business. When you genuinely care for your employees, they will value this respect and treat each other and your customers with the same respect and value.
As the CEO of a digital marketing and tech staffing company, I recently implemented an employee-centric culture focused on a humble management style and an inverted pyramid model. We worked from the idea that employees want to work for (and stay with) a business they feel they have an impact on and one where they feel individually valued and respected. We started by creating a people strategy committee and sending out frequent surveys to find out what our employees value most. To do this yourself, ask: What do they want to see more of? What benefits do they wish they had? Simply asking these questions can open a dialogue between your upper management and their direct reports, which can lead to a healthier, more transparent and employee-centric culture. It seems simple, but I’ve seen many companies continue to suffer from high turnover because they provide the benefits or perks they assume would retain talent — especially millennial talent — instead of asking them directly, valuing the input and insights they provide and encouraging them to play a significant role in shaping your culture.
Provide Benefits For Creative Professionals
Once you put your people first, the next step is providing your creative professionals with the benefits that improve their quality of life most. Based on what I’ve found from the feedback of creatives within my own workforce and the latest employment and hiring studies, here are the benefits that tend to drive retention most for this niche talent group:
• Flexible schedules: When it comes to valuable benefits, nothing is more valuable to many people than their own time. Outside of quality health benefits, survey respondents ranked flexible hours as the second most valuable benefit in Fractl’s 2017 study (via HBR) of 2,000 U.S. workers — followed directly by more vacation time, work-from-home options, and unlimited vacation, in that order. At my staffing company, I’ve found expanding our flex options by implementing simple yet effective benefits for our workforce — like summer Fridays, unlimited but enforced paid time off, and work-from-home options — has drastically improved our retention rate with nearly a 40% year-over-year decrease in turnover from 2017 to 2018. Flex schedules may also be a big factor for parents when it comes to accepting a job, so this perk can attract more than just younger creative talent.
• Student loan help: There’s a reason student loan debt forgiveness is a key talking point for politicians; according to NBC News, it impacts as many as 44.7 million Americans. Yet, only 4% of HR professionals surveyed in 2017 said their companies offered student loan assistance, according to a survey of HR professionals from SHRM. Creative talent, many of whom may have opted for private or liberal arts schools, are likely to face extensive financial stressors every day as they attempt to manage the high cost of living in the most popular hiring hot spots — like New York City — while still making monthly loan payments. This is why forward-thinking companies looking to hire and retain the most qualified creative professionals have already begun offering student loan payment assistance. That includes Hulu, which reportedly provides $1,200 a year to match employee’s loan contributions. At my company, we currently match $1,000 a year for employees’ loan payments. It’s a simple and effective way to boost retention — in many cases, without impacting your bottom line dramatically.
• Expansive family benefits: Popular perks like catered meals, free yoga or beer taps are flashy and look good in PR-ready Instagram posts. But when it comes to retention, providing expansive family benefits can help keep talent around long after these trendy options fade away. Rather than providing a common option like four to eight weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave, consider how you can expand your family benefits to show your employees the value you place on their time with their family (rather than solely their productivity for the business). Extend the number of weeks you offer for maternity or paternity leave and add a clause for adoptive parents as well. Consider providing childcare reimbursement, backup daycare days for when scheduled care falls through (like Starbucks recently began offering) and include caregiver leave and family leave policies as well.
If you want to retain the most qualified creative talent in today’s candidate-driven market, you should no longer view implementing a people-first culture and providing these benefits as optional. I believe they are crucial business strategies that should be prioritized by every team looking to hire at your business, not just the HR department.
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