Attracting, retaining quality employees just part of return on investment

By: Barbara Bowes

Employers are once again concerned about a capability gap appearing in the marketplace, as it seems the gulf between candidate skills and the needs of employers is widening.

Perhaps this is due to the rapid change technology brings about and/or a perceived lag in educational training. Yet, the last time a shortage of skilled employees plagued the market, it resulted in some pretty creative recruitment strategies.

For instance, candidates were being offered signing bonuses, a free laptop even if they weren’t selected as a finalist candidate and/or the ability to bring their dog to work.

One unique situation comes to mind where a candidate requested a desk made out of Lego blocks.

Whether this request was a joke or not, the candidate was hired, and the employer built a desk out of 3,000 Lego blocks.

The capability gap appears to be repeating itself, and recruiters are once again becoming creative in their candidate search strategies. This time, recruiters are using targeted social-media campaigns, along with YouTube videos, blogs written by happy employees and slick slogans to advertise their job roles. Still others are setting up competitive candidate events where everyone is given a similar task with the winner(s) taking home the prize job.

More attention is also being paid to the work environment. For instance, more and more organizations are moving toward open-space work units that are flexible and can be moved around. Some employers are also now providing perks such as free in-house yoga classes, nap and playrooms, as well as all-day access to fruit and vegetables, healthy snacks and drinks.

Still others focus on ensuring a positive company image through creative websites and advertise their use of the latest technology as a means of attracting new employees. They work hard to ensure positive interpersonal relationships within the company and have become more informal than formal in their dress and demeanour. At the same time, most large organizations are also realizing the value of a competitive compensation and benefits packages as part of an attraction and retention strategy.

On the other hand, there are still a number of small-business owners who don’t understand how valuable employee benefits are to employee recruitment and retention. Instead, they fret over perceived costs.

This belief and/or philosophy is unfortunate because, in the long run, it may well strangle the chances of long-term business success. According to a study by McKinsey Quarterly, benefits are key to attracting and retaining employees.

So just what is the value of offering employee benefits?

Demonstrates corporate commitment — Candidates looking at an organization as a potential employer will see it is willing to invest in employees. They perceive they will have value in making the company successful.

Reduce turnover — Employees tend to stay when they achieve job satisfaction. Studies show there is a reciprocal relationship between job satisfaction and the receipt of employee benefits. Offering benefits helps to create employee loyalty, thus reducing turnover.

Enhance employee morale — Offering employee benefits that match and address the personal needs of a workforce also shows the company cares; this in turn creates a healthy environment. Once again, research shows happy employees are more productive and help create a positive work environment.

Support good health — At one time, employers felt employee health was none of their business. Now, it is realized time away from work costs the employer a lot of money. Thus, benefits support the good health of employees and help to reduce the number of sick days. Employees, too, are seen to pay more attention to their health overall.

Variety meets individual needs — Typical benefits include life insurance, short and long-term disability, dental and vision plans, paid vacation time, maternity, paternity and sick leave. However, creative companies have combined these with things such as product discounts, tuition reimbursement and/or opportunities for paid professional development.

Cost sharing creates respect — Employees want benefits and value them. In most cases, employee cost-sharing is accepted and welcomed. This creates a sense of appreciation for everyone’s contribution.

Benefits can be an educational tool — Most employees take good health for granted, and so a benefit plan and its educational component can serve to remind people of its value. Employees should understand what a plan offers, how it is managed and what the overall benefits cost. Employees should be provided with an annual statement so they can see exactly what services they have used.

While understanding the benefits of offering employee benefits, small-business owners are often overwhelmed by the complexity of service offerings. However, there are several insurance-service providers in the market today, and the services they offer are excellent: a wide roster of programs, innovative tools, educational materials, employee and employer online access and annual analytics. This enables a sense of freedom and control for all parties, yet outside support is there when questions arise.

A benefit provider can help determine the type of plan best suited to an individual company and its employees’ needs, balance future needs versus today’s needs and work with an insurance professional to implement cost-control tools.

It is a shame many small owner-operated businesses focus too much attention on the costs of providing employee benefits and fail to see the investment value received in return.

About the Author: Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She is also host of the weekly Bowes Knows radio show and is the author of Resume Rescue and Taming the Workplace Tigers. She can be reached at Learn more at

Have you ever experienced a time when your selection committee had difficulty getting past a certain bias they were experiencing in their decision making? It certainly makes for interesting discussion. Part of the challenge is that we are all graduates of our personal experience which we then internalize and establish emotional views of how life should unfold. These so called “assumptions” are very difficult to remove and so we are challenged to move forward.


For instance, many people make the assumption that one university is better than another. Therefore, a candidate from the preferred university might be perceived as a better choice than another. In other instances, I have seen selection committee’s struggle with appraising a candidate who has moved through several jobs in their career. In the view of some individuals, a candidate moving every 2.5 years is obviously not very stable while for others, a tenure of longer than five years might mean the candidate is not very open to change.

At the same time, individuals often jump to conclusions based on very little fact. This comes into play when selection committee members make inaccurate judgements based on age, manner of speech, dress, body language and/or occupation. One such situation arose when a young entrepreneur determined that he was best suited for employment in a large corporation. Yes, he got interviews, but was never offered a job. Finally, the young man had an opportunity to meet with one of the selection committee members and learned that his motives were not trusted. People believed that once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur. In other words, they were afraid he wouldn’t stay. Too bad, they missed out on a superb candidate. Thankfully, I was able to present him to a client who appreciated the skills that he would contribute.

Making assumptions is essentially an “energy block” that lets past experience seep into one’s thinking and thus prevents good decisions. It prevents a full exploration of a situation and, in terms of a candidate search, a full and comprehensive examination of the job requirements and ideal candidate credentials is essential. Assumptions and a rush to judgement have no place in this important process.

One inaccurate assumption made about candidate selection is that the interview is the key to finding a successful candidate. Not so! In fact, there are a number of process steps that must be taken far before a candidate is invited to an interview. It is these steps that make the search successful.

As a search professional, my first job is to help clients establish a selection committee that represents key decision makers who know and understand the organization and the job role. I then facilitate in-depth discussions to identify, question and validate the competencies and character traits of an ideal candidate for their organization. Throughout each round of discussions, committee members are asked to explain the rationale for their recommendations. Through this process, we tease out any assumptions that appear to exist and work to overcome them.

Once discussions are complete, the committee is confident they have explored both negative and positive past experiences and a rational decision is then made. Not only that, the discussion experience enables committee members to learn more about each other, how their experiences have impacted the way they think which in turn helps to develop teamwork at the senior leadership level.

Once the critical elements of an ideal candidate are identified, the search professional undertakes several in-depth research steps to locate and identify potential candidates and flow them through a stringent assessment process. Candidates are compared and contrasted against the criteria and against each other. Psychometric assessments are used to learn more about the candidates and to confirm earlier findings. No assumptions allowed! Then and only then are finalist candidates proposed to the committee for interview.

Without the effective guidance of a search professional in the candidate selection process, selection committee members might be allowing inaccurate assumptions to interfere in good decision making. 

By Ken Blanchard, Don Hutson and Ethan Willis
The Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group, 2008 

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At first glance, one might wonder how anyone could become an entrepreneur in just one minute, but that’s not what this book is all about. Instead, it’s a gentle reminder to entrepreneurs to stop for a moment and reflect where they are at each stage of the business cycle. It’s also a reminder to keep focused and grounded, not letting success go to their head. Written in conversational tone, the book is full of inspirations, insights, examples and advice, but is somewhat pricey for such a quick read.