Column: Upbeat job market is boon for workers, potential bust for inflexible employers

John Navin, Ph.D. - Guest Column

The current upbeat job market is a boon for workers and a potential bust for employers who do not change with the times.

The relatively low unemployment numbers have created a buyer’s market in which workers have options and the burden is on managers and human resource professionals to both recruit and retain top employees.

In this environment, those charged with hiring and managing employees cannot have a single page in their playbook. Rather, they need to be more cognizant of what workers value and more flexible in terms of meeting those needs.

The economy has changed, workers’ needs are different, and those calling the shots also need to adjust. Managers need to be more aware that different employees have different needs, and they cannot use recruiting strategies from the 1990s.

This economic landscape calls for a different, more finessed management style and a higher level of emotional intelligence. Simply put, if you are a boss, being a jerk simply will not work these days.

While the current job market applies upward pressure on wages, many workers are focused on issues that go beyond the paycheck. As a result, more attention needs to be placed on non-monetary compensation to attract and retain top producers in the workplace.

What matters most to employees depends largely on their generation. Veteran workers largely are focused on monetary compensation, such as bonuses and paid time off. They entered the job market at a different time and are at a different stage in their careers than new workers. Their younger counterparts, on the other hand, tend to be more interested in the social component, and it is wise to place more emphasis on endeavors such as community outreach. Services days with the Humane Society or Habitat for Humanity resonate with these individuals, who want to make a difference.

The younger generation is also more interested in having a work/life balance. Consequently, being more flexible in allowing employees to occasionally work from home and having a less rigid daily schedule are crucial considerations for members of those now entering the workforce.

Workers’ perceptions change with the economy. In a down economy when jobs are more scarce, employees tend to place more value on having a job and are less likely to leave their current positions. The two factors that most prompt change in a down market are compensation and security as survival is key and employees crave stability. Conversely, in an upbeat job market, when there are more options and the workers hold more sway, employees tend to get restless.

No matter the stage of their employees’ careers, it is good business for managers to focus on fostering an upbeat workplace where workers feel valued and enjoy coming to work. Those who feel their input is not valued will tend to start looking for other opportunities. It is more efficient, in terms of time and money, to retain good employees rather than to continuously recruit and train new workers.

In these shifting economic times, managers who do not adjust may find themselves working for a new boss.

John Navin, Ph.D.

Guest Column

John Navin, Ph.D., is the dean of the Dicke College of Business Administration at Ohio Northern University.

John Navin, Ph.D., is the dean of the Dicke College of Business Administration at Ohio Northern University.

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