It will happen: the economy will continue to improve and we will be looking for new people, and they will want to join a company that brings them the things they are looking for in their jobs and careers.
As I write this column, we are seeing the signs that improvement is making some small, and a few larger steps toward the economy getting back on track with where we all want it to be. Some of the signs are:
- Retails sales have been going up for seven consecutive months in spite of all of the world unrest, midterm elections, record blizzards and such.
- In January, job cuts by companies were the lowest since 1993 according to outplacement firm, Challenger Gray & Christmas (Yes, that is their real name!).
- Many businesses are sitting on lots of cash and will eventually want to invest in expansion. In a Feb. 7 speech to the Chamber of Commerce, President Obama commented, “…American companies have nearly $2 trillion sitting on their balance sheets. And I know that many of you have told me that you're waiting for demand to rise before you get off the sidelines and expand, and that with millions of Americans out of work, demand has risen more slowly than any of us would like.”
What is not happening as fast as many would like is the creation of new jobs. Politicians are pointing the finger at the president and the opposing party, and many people are blaming elected officials for not doing enough to generate job creation. We have some pledges from politicians that they will help businesses expand and thus create the need for more employees. When this happens, there will be businesses scrambling and competing to find the best new employees. The key is being prepared for the expansion times.
If you have been reading this column for several years, you have read about the “100 Best Companies to Work For.” For over 30 years, the Great Places to Work Institute has been evaluating companies in the United States and several other countries to learn what makes employees respect their employers as a good place to hang their hats. Not only have they been able to share some of the results annually through Fortune magazine, (2011 issue was Feb. 7) but also, they make other lists of companies available on their web site: www.greatplacetowork.com/best/index.php.
Here is what the Great Places to Work Institute believes:
- Trust-based relationships are at the heart of every great workplace
- Any company can be a great place to work
- Business benefits of a great workplace are measurable
- Better workplaces lead to a better society
- In our mission to help companies transform their workplaces
The bottom line appears to be that if employees trust and value the place they work, and feel that managers are being fair and consistent, employees will remain loyal, be more productive and the companies will do better as a result. An example of doing better is how long the company stays in business. The average company in the U.S. makes it about 20 years. Those companies on the list of the 100 Best have an average longevity of 85 years.
I garnered these additional points about 'best companies' from the founder, Robert Levering:
- They have a supportive environment
- They encourage learning and training
- The culture is risk free and non-threatening
- They have a clear, shared vision
- They give passionate customer service
We have been though really tough times and the 100 Best are not exempt from the economic pressures. For example, J. M. Smucker, Ohio maker of well-known food products, had to close five plants during the recent recession. They announced the closure a year in advance so that employees could better prepare. That type of family atmosphere and open communication leaves a positive impression on everyone.
Gilbane, a construction company in Rhode Island, gives a variety of workplace awards. Their 'Stop Work for Safety' prize is given to the employee who notes and takes action to address an unsafe condition of workplace activity. These examples don't cost a lot to implement and the long-term rewards of increased trust and a safer place to work are obvious.
It comes down to this: Trust is built on being fair and consistent. In many of the best companies, rewards are shared with everyone, there are clear standards for promotion and people feel they are treated fairly. When grievances happen, there is an appeal process in place that people use and respect.
Your company can learn from these companies, and become better prepared to attract talent and keep it. Relationships are built on trust and enhanced by the other things we do to make the workplace interesting, challenging and fun place to be employed. You can be better prepared; I know you can!
Sid Scott is president of Scott Consultants in Dubuque, Iowa. You may contact him by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.