With the job market as strong as it has been at any time in the last seven years, gone are the days when employers had the upper hand in the hiring process. Job seekers now have the advantage.
As a result of this shift in power, employers need to put a greater emphasis on attraction and retention efforts in order to hire and keep top employees, found new research from The Execu|Search Group, a recruitment, temporary-staffing and workforce-management solutions firm.
The first step in bringing in quality employees and holding on to the ones you already have is understanding what they are looking for. The study discovered that having an opportunity for professional development was the number one factor influencing an employee's decision to accept his or her current, or most recent, job.
Despite that, the employers surveyed ranked opportunities for career growth pretty low when asked what they think candidates are looking for. Instead, employers ranked salary and benefits much higher on their lists.
The study's authors said this implies that many companies aren't going into the hiring process with the right mind-set about what employees want.
"We're seeing a disconnect between what employees want in a job and what employers believe they want," Edward Fleischman, chairman and CEO of The Execu|Search Group, said in a statement.
In addition, employers need to speed up the hiring process, the research found. In the survey, 40 percent of employers said their hiring process, from start to finish, typically takes longer than five weeks. However, the vast majority of professionals surveyed said this was too long.
"All too often, an employer will make an amazing offer, only to find out that the candidate already accepted a different position a couple weeks earlier," the study's authors wrote. "To shorten the process, try reducing the number of interviews, by having candidates interview with multiple parties in one day, covering more ground in each interview and introducing them to the team earlier on."
Job candidates also want more updates. The majority of the employees surveyed said a lack of updates through the interview process was most frustrating to them. The researchers said failing to keep candidates in the loop may lead them to accept offers from employers who keep them informed of where they stand. [5 Fast Fixes to Jump-Start Your Hiring Strategy ]
Employers also need be able to explain to job candidates how they will fit into the company's overall goals. In the study, 29 percent of professionals said that their last interviewer was unable to articulate how the individual's role would fit into the organization's overall picture.
The researchers also said hiring managers should look beyond candidates' ability to hit the ground running and instead pay closer attention to their soft skills, such as flexibility, the ability to learn quickly, adaptability, personal accountability and resourcefulness.
"By prioritizing a candidate's potential as opposed to their past when making a hiring decision, businesses will find that they are creating more loyal employees in the long run," the study's authors wrote.
Attracting top employees is only one piece of the puzzle, however. Once a company has a quality worker, it needs to ensure it can hold on to that individual.
"An employer can do everything right to attract candidates throughout the hiring process, but if a professional feels undervalued once they're an official employee, it's likely in today's market that they will take their talent elsewhere," the researchers wrote.
The professionals surveyed gave the top reasons that would convince them to leave their current employers:
- Lack of advancement opportunities
- Lack of salary growth
- Negative work-life balance
- Poor corporate culture
In order to keep prized employees, employers need to start their retention planning as soon as the new hire starts, the study authors said.
"It can begin even earlier, in the interview process, by discussing career growth and other future plans for the role in question," the authors wrote.
Too many employers believe extending a counteroffer to a top employee who is considering leaving is a good strategy, the study said. However, that is often too little and too late in the employee's eyes. Nearly 30 percent of the professionals surveyed who took a counteroffer resigned within the next year anyway, with the majority saying that accepting the offer negatively affected their work relationships.
Some of the retention strategies researchers suggest employers put into place include offering coaching and mentorship programs, providing rotational programs that give employees exposure to different areas of the company, supporting additional academic training, and giving opportunities for colleagues to collaborate on key projects.
"With a bit of foresight and a greater focus on retention strategies, employers can prevent top talent from leaving and ensure they have the proper steps in place for succession planning to prepare for the retirement of older employees," the study's authors wrote.
The research was based on surveys of 226 employers and hiring decision makers from companies across a number of sectors. In addition, the report incorporated findings from a survey of 591 job seekers and working professionals.