Enterprise HR manager drawing a company human resources business planI’m often asked about how to get a job, which is kind of silly when you think about the fact that I’m a consultant who hasn’t had a genuine 8a.m.-5p.m. corporate position in about 7 years. In fact, while the economy was tanking, I was quickly turning full-time opportunities into part-time ones, creating consulting offers from full-time work and building a firm to encapsulate it all.

Do you want to know why I was able to do this when lots of other people weren’t? Because I didn’t need benefits and for many, according to SHRM’s latest spotlight research, they are a valuable tool to recruit and retain. Some highlights from the research include:

  • The benefits that organizations most often leveraged to recruit “highly skilled employees” were health care (75 percent) and retirement savings and planning (58 percent).
  • HR professionals also reported that the most frequently leveraged benefits to retain “high-performing employees” were health care (58 percent), professional and career development benefits (55 percent) and flexible working benefits (48 percent).
  • Very few organizations (4 percent) were using social media in their communications efforts, as indicated below, although 8 percent indicated they planned to start using social media within the next 12 months.
  • Organizations reported health care (80 percent of respondents) and retirement savings and planning (63 percent) were the benefits most frequently leveraged (that is, used strategically) to recruit employees, and that these benefits will increase in importance for recruiting employees in the years ahead.

With healthcare in this country rapidly changing, let’s talk for a moment about why these benefits are so important to getting and keeping skilled workers. Unless all these companies and their associated HR pros are mistaken, there are a large portion of highly skilled workers to whom affordable health care and retirement savings are crucial.

While salaries throughout the nation (specifically entry-level salaries) have stagnated over the last decade, benefits have become a tool with which recruiters can entice new hires, particularly if those benefits are not only comprehensive but enacted as early as possible. The latter is especially attractive to workers looking to make a switch now that the economy has stabilized somewhat.

But while retirement benefits seem to be a factor in attracting new workers, they seem less of an issue when it comes to retaining them, suggesting that while a great 401k program might create a nice bullet point in your job ad, it’s less of a factor than, say, a flexible working schedule when it comes to keeping that high-performer on your team.

One of the most interesting findings in this entire research spotlight is the communications piece, the part tucked way at the bottom. For all of this research that shows precisely which benefits are attractive to recruiting and retention, very few are communicating these benefits to the “target markets.”

For example, if you are working in recruiting, or using any sort of social media in your efforts, a scant 4 percent are conveying specific benefits (like the aforementioned healthcare and 401k) to potential applicants via those channels. In the next year, that number will double but it’s still less than 1 in 10 companies who plan on using social media to communicate these benefits that applicants hold dear!

On the flip side, internal communications should be thrilled with the idea that retention can be affected by simply letting employees know what their healthcare costs are and investing in flex scheduling as well as professional learning and development. So what’s the lesson here? Benefits can be used to recruit highly skilled workers but, since communication is half the battle, put yourself ahead of the game and start adding this easy-sell info to your job postings and social media. Have a career site? Make sure the top benefits for candidates are front and center. And don’t forget about entry-level positions either or getting that information out to internship applicants.

For those of you trying to affect retention efforts, if you have development programs, ongoing educational courses and flexible scheduling, for heaven’s sake, tell your employees! Retaining high performers should be on every HR professional and hiring manager’s mind during this tumultuous time and using your internal communications channels to do that makes perfect sense.

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