Softer incentives entice employees to remain

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

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

And 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 NFI Research.

"Even though it is difficult to find employees, we are following our long-standing practices of checking references and more than one interview to ensure the applicant fits into our culture and way of doing business," said one survey respondent. "It can't be all about the money."

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

Said another: "Non-monetary benefits are becoming more important to new recruits than actual salary."

The downsizing in many organizations also has had an impact on recruiting, since some of the resource formerly used in the recruitment process has been streamlined.

"One of the challenges our organization faces is the downsizing of HR services and support," said a survey respondent. "This puts a lot of added pressure on front-line managers to find their own recruits, which impacts the time it takes to recruit a new hire."

That streamlining also can 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," said one respondent. "This has resulted in increased turnover and dissatisfaction. I fear that we are not alone."

Following company culture, our survey found the most effective incentives, in order, were an organization's reputation, stability of the company, benefits and compensation.

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

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

"The most important asset any corporation has is its people," said one survey respondent. "They may join your organization 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 recognized and, most importantly, by treating every employee exactly how you like being treated."

"It is all about relationships," said another. "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 organization. The exit interview is too late.

Managers and executives should conduct regular "temperature checks" with top performers to make sure job satisfaction is high. That

Chuck Martin is a syndicated columnist and best-selling business book author. His latest include the business fable Coffee at Luna's and the just published Tough Management (McGraw-Hill, 2005). He lectures around the world and can be reached at chuck@nfiresearch.com.

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