CXO

How managers can advocate for top talent

Working to acquire and retain top talent should be at the top of managers' to-do lists.

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Image: iStock/Ivanko_Brnjakovic

LinkedIn reports that, in 2017, 58% of U.S. recruitment firms are experiencing major challenges with talent acquisition. In this battle for talent, CEOs and chief HR officers discuss "competitive edge" factors for recruitment like an attractive company culture, but on a daily basis, these individuals are far too removed from company operations to witness the first-hand impact of a talent gap that their line managers are experiencing.

Because managers see these workforce talent gap issues, they can't afford to operate in a "heads down" fashion. Instead, managers should be advocating for talent recruitment or enrichment when they see the first signs of workforce talent shortages—and they should be doing their part to retain the talent that they have.

Here are five major factors in talent attraction and retention that managers should be paying attention to:

Compensation

If you're trying to hire or retain systems infrastructure, database, data scientists or applications developers and you're planning your budget, it's critical to research the job market. Payscale is a good salary research source to start with.

If your research reveals find that your compensation packages aren't keeping pace, you should plan meetings with your superiors and HR to advocate for upgraded compensation packages in advance of your budgetary planning cycle. Managers should also make it a point to review job descriptions of the people working under them at least annually (this is a task that many managers fail to keep up with). Even if your management role is over a function where you don't need highly skilled specialists, your best employees are going to be in demand, and a superior compensation package could lure them away.

Time off

I once found myself competing for a database administrator with a much larger company that offered a better salary. This individual was perfect for the job, so I advocated for the hire with my superior and with HR to make an exception with a higher salary offer. However, not every manager has this kind of flexibility, especially if the organization is in the public sector. In these cases, companies must be creative. In place of highest salary, they might offer paternity leaves, or sabbaticals, or more vacation days, or stock options. These are the elements that managers need to be selling when they interview hot job prospects.

Company culture

Companies that offer pleasant surroundings, purposeful work, highly collaborative and upbeat team cultures, and support for work-life balance tend to attract and retain good people. Mid-level managers play pivotal roles in creating and sustaining this culture because they are the ones who are managing work teams and creating the work culture. Examples of companies that have a done a good job in creating employee-friendly work cultures are Google, which offers haircuts, laundry services and great parental leave policies that encourage moms to come back to work; and Reebok, which motivates its employees to get on their feet and work toward their personal fitness goals with an onsite gym featuring CrossFit classes—sometimes in the middle of the day.

SEE: Video: 3 tips for hiring Millennials (ZDNet)

Employee turnover, and reasons behind it

"Employees don't quit companies, they quit managers." No one knows where this adage originated—but a 2015 Gallup poll revealed that 50% of employees were leaving their organizations because of their managers. Those reasons for leaving can range from managers being inaccessible and poor at communicating work direction to autocratic leadership styles and insensitivity to employee concerns. It is up to the manager to provide purposeful, challenging and engaging work, to treat all employees fairly, to recognize and praise employees by letting them know that they are valued, and to help employees develop their careers. "Heads down" managers who focus on project tasks and timelines alone risk neglecting the health of their staffs.

Opportunities for leadership

In 2017, management team "bench strength" continues to be a major concern.

To help address the problem, managers should assume a more proactive role in developing new layers of leadership.One step that they can take is to recognize their top performers, who are already leading by example, and to give these individuals increased levels of autonomy, regularly soliciting inputs on project progress and direction.

Final remarks about the managers as advocates

It is people who make projects and departments successful, and without the right kind of talent, the going can get rough. Consequently, managers can't afford to forget about their people. Advocating with upper management and HR to acquire the right talent is one approach. Respecting and rewarding key contributors and developing new talent internally are other approaches that talent-savvy managers can use.

Also see:

About Mary Shacklett

Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President o...

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