Key Considerations In The New World Of Work
How are companies engaging differently in an environment where the nature of work has changed and many workers are reporting they are looking for a new job? After experiencing the impact of the pandemic, businesses of all sizes across the nation are quickly adapting their workforce models to recruit and retain employees. In the most recent session of The Green Room, Delta Dental of Iowa’s virtual conversation series for Iowa business leaders, we discussed what companies are learning in “The New World of Work.” I hosted and participated in the panel which included Nicole Crain, executive vice president, Association of Business and Industry and David Leto, president of Palmer Group.
The panelists covered three main topics – recruitment, retention and innovation. While each brought their unique experience to the discussion, a common theme was a renewed definition of flexibility. As Nicole Crain stated, she has used the word “pivot” more times than she can count since March 2020. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to any one company’s workforce challenges, so flexibility is key when making decisions about employees, processes, and work/life flow. As I like to say, we are moving from an era of policies (rules) to an era of frameworks (guidelines that adjust as needed)
Recruitment of employees has changed dramatically in the months since the pandemic began. Companies are engaging differently in the interview process. David Leto stated that the size of the team deciding whom to hire has gone from 10-12 to 2-3 people. Companies are taking chances on people with less career or industry experience. He advised that offer letters should clearly define a career path for the candidate’s future.
Nicole observed that employers are getting creative about recruitment as well. She recalled one manufacturer rented a LandJet, a mobile meeting room, to hold informational interviews at a tailgate event. She said employers should be more upfront about wages and benefits with candidates and clearer about what the job entails.
At Delta Dental, we have seen our clients putting more emphasis on employee benefits, which can be a clear differentiator between job opportunities. If you haven’t examined your benefits offering recently, now is the perfect time to obtain feedback from your current employees, compare plans and fine-tune a creative and comprehensive package.
When it comes to the retention of employees, all three of us agreed that it starts with onboarding. In today’s high turnover environment, employees should have a clear idea of the company's mission, the job, and the culture they are joining. Since not all employees are in the office daily due to flexible or hybrid work schedules, employee engagement looks different but is more critical than ever.
Association of Business and Industry works with most of Iowa’s manufacturers and Nicole indicated that many are looking at childcare assistance as a retention strategy. For some, that looks like paying for spots at existing daycare centers or adding a flexible spending option to pay for childcare with pre-tax dollars, while others are considering adding on-site daycares.
Helping employees understand and talk about purpose in their role, in the company, and in the world early in their tenure can be essential for engagement. Asking about their work/life flow and emotional wellness is important as well. This is one of the reasons, Delta Dental has supported and used the “Make It OK” community campaign introduced by the Healthiest State Initiative. This campaign provides programming and resources to help reduce the stigma of mental health in Iowa companies and organizations. Nicole indicated programs like these are especially important in rural communities with fewer resources.
As Iowa’s workforce challenges continue, companies need to innovate their hiring and retention practices and challenge conventional thinking. Some of the ideas or observations about innovation included:
- Forming diversity and inclusion strategies to expand opportunities in your company and community;
- Partnering with refugee resettlement organizations and social services to identify housing, transportation, and wraparound support to bring new employees to your community – find ways to fuel rural renaissance for small and mid-size cities;
- Continuing to be flexible about work location and hours – the pandemic dismantled the traditional M-F, 8-5 in the office scenario. Hybrid is here to stay.
- Make sure that your employees and your companies have the tools and technology they need to work as efficiently as possible.
Companies that can be flexible and creative about recruitment, retention and work/life policies will likely weather the “Turnover Tsunami” better than those who refuse to make changes. Employee engagement is critical to understanding how individual wants and needs can be addressed to retain your team. Now is the time to innovate and try new strategies for your workforce plans.
Thanks to our panel participants and those who tuned in for this edition of The Green Room! If you’d like to hear more, you can watch the panel here.
View information on past Green Room conversations and sign up to receive information on upcoming sessions in 2022.