Attracting, Hiring, and Retaining the Best Employees

attracting.gifThese days, hiring people is all about quality, not quantity. In decades past, companies hired large numbers of people, especially during lengthy periods of economic growth. Then, when the economy tightened, many companies had to let people go. Then, the process started again. In recent years, most companies have learned their lessons: Rather than hire large numbers of average employees and then downsize them later on, savvy employers are now judiciously hiring a smaller number of employees, focusing on the highest quality they can get, and then working hard to retain them.

Every quarter since 2004, Gallup, in conjunction with Wells Fargo, has conducted what is called the Small Business Survey Topline. The survey polls small business owners on various elements of success and challenges in their businesses, covering areas such as jobs. One question is: Over the past 12 months, did the overall number of jobs or positions at your company increase a lot, increase a little, stay the same, decrease a little, or decrease a lot? Of course, responses have tended to mirror the economy. (Percentages listed below are for the second quarter of each year.)

In 2004, 19 percent reported “increased a lot” or “increased a little,” while 9 percent reported “decreased a lot” or “decreased a little.” With the advent of the economic downturn, hiring reflected the downward trend.

Even with the economic upturn, employers still remained cautious about hiring: 10 percent (increased) and 23 percent (decreased) in 2011, in 2012 12 percent (increased) and 21 percent (decreased), and 11 percent (increased) and 23 percent (decreased) in 2013.

It has only been this past year where the numbers began reversing: 14 percent (increasing) and 17 percent (decreasing) in 2014.

This increase is confirmed by the responses to another question the survey asks: Over the next 12 months, do you expect the overall number of jobs or positions at your company to increase a lot, increase a little, stay the same, decrease a little, or decrease a lot? In 2014, a strong 21 percent of respondents reported “increase a lot” or “increase a little,” while a paltry 10 percent reported “decrease a lot” or “decrease a little.”

Hiring the Best

bestemployees.gifWhile employers are becoming a bit more confident these days about increasing their hiring, they have (as noted earlier) learned a lesson from the recession, and one thing they want to do is make sure that the people they do hire are the “best and the brightest.” 

However, while there is a desire to hire the “best and brightest,” doing so is not always easy. After all, the best employees are limited in number. When employers are in the market to hire, finding qualified people, especially those with the requisite technical skills, can be difficult.

According to a recent report, “Bridge the Gap: Rebuilding America’s Middle Skills,” published  by Accenture, Burning Glass Technologies, and Harvard Business School, 73 percent of U.S. companies expect an increase in their demand for “middle skills” jobs over the next few years. Middle skills jobs are defined as those that require more education and training than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree. Qualified electricians and related technical people fall into this category. More than half (56 percent) of those surveyed are struggling to find people with the qualifications to fill existing middle skills vacancies.

According to the report, “While millions of aspiring workers remain unemployed and an unprecedented percentage of the workforce report being underemployed, employers across industries and regions find