How to Become an Employer of Choice
Tips for employee recruitment and retention.
BY TOM DOSSENBACH
According to the results of this magazine's Project Millennium survey of the woodworking industry (December 1998), one-third of managers list employee recruitment and retention as their greatest concern heading into the next century. Employee recruitment and retention received nearly twice as many "votes" as the second top concern identified in the survey, the economy at 18%.
Considering the strength of the U.S. economy and the nation's very low unemployment level, it is not altogether surprising that many wood products companies are struggling to find and keep good help. This issue has surfaced repeatedly over the years, especially in times when the housing industry has been booming, adding further challenges for manufacturers of furniture, millwork and kitchen cabinets to supply the increased demand.
If employee recruitment and retention is one of your problems, I think you need to consider merging your recruitment and retention efforts into one cohesive program that will better help you attract and hold on to good people. Your mission is to become an "employer of choice."
Where to Start
First, direct your Human Resource Management department to send a letter to those who voluntarily quit in the last year thanking them for their service and asking them to fill out an enclosed survey. Design the survey so it is easy for them to express exactly why they chose to leave your company. Enclose a self-addressed envelope and $2 bill (your bank can help you get them) for their trouble.
Next, begin conducting exit interviews to uncover reasons why people leave your company. There may be some sour grapes, so follow up with the mail survey six months later and see if you get the same answers. In the process, you might get lucky enough to bring a good ex-employee back into the fold who has discovered that the grass was not greener down the street. He might look at the survey as an opportunity for a second chance.
Project a Good Image
One way to find out what your community thinks of your business is to send out a mail survey to a cross section of residences and businesses. I have also found it helpful to have informal discussions with business contacts over lunch. You will be surprised how much useful information you will gather if you only try.
Improving the Workplace
Here's some of what we did:
* We started a monthly company newsletter. One person was given the job of editor as one of her primary responsibilities. The publication was not an afterthought and was published on company time and came out on schedule every month. The editor spent time taking photographs of those receiving special recognition for innovative ideas or for achieving a special anniversary, like 10 years with the company. When someone retired, it was treated like a big deal in the newsletter. The newsletter was mailed to every home so family members and friends could share the company's big "news."
Improving Your Company's Image
You probably have used the cliche: "Our employees are our greatest asset." If you really believe that, make sure it shows. Now is the time to make things happen ... to make your business a company of choice.
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.