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Utah Business

We discuss what it takes to hire and retain the best talent in the most competitive industries, and how you can get your company there.

Winning Top Talent In A Tight Market

Business is booming in the Beehive State. Over the past year, Utah has grown faster than all but three states in the country, thanks to a diverse economy, a population that continues to rise, and a low unemployment rate hovering around 3 percent. While that’s great news for the state, that growth can be a bit of a challenge for businesses. For most companies, growth is dependent upon hiring more workers to develop or deliver their products and services, and that can be tricky in such a tight hiring market. 

“We’ve certainly seen fewer candidates when we have open positions,” says Mark Tenney, director of compensation and benefits at Intermountain Healthcare of the current hiring market.  A tight labor pool also means that job candidates have more leverage in negotiating their starting salaries, making it harder to hang onto new employees. With the deck stacked against them, what can employers do to hire top talent in a tough market and make sure they stick around? 

Keeping salaries competitive for new employees and existing staff

When employers are in desperate need of a certain skill set, it can be tempting to overpay a qualified candidate. Though raising salaries may result in landing the new hire, it could also cause resentment among tenured employees if the starting wage exceeds their pay. 

To avoid this sticky situation, Mr. Tenney recommends keeping an eye on the big picture. “It’s less about the individual [offer] and more about the defined process that you stick to throughout the year as you go through your compensation analysis cycle,” he says, “and more about making sure you have your salary ranges set appropriately and then having a defined approach to how you move [employees] through those ranges, making sure that it’s fair and equitable so that you can bring in new hires at an appropriate level.” 

Though it’s crucial to take an annual look at factors like turnover, vacancy rates, time to hire, offers accepted, and offers refused, employers need to revisit those plans much more frequently when the hiring market is tight. 

“A lot of these jobs are moving quickly in real-time,” Mr. Tenney says. As a result, there needs to be ongoing collaboration between HR pros, hiring managers, and team leaders to bring in the right candidates, at the right level, without adversely impacting existing employees. 

Understanding what attracts and engages employees 

Salary may be what gets job candidates in the door, but it’s certainly not the only reason employees choose to stay with a company. To be attractive to new employees, employers need to be aware of the less tangible benefits candidates are looking for in a job. For example, many businesses are starting to understand the important role an employees’ connection to the organization’s purpose plays in both their engagement and their effectiveness.

“I think people are really looking for purpose, they’re looking to join an organization that is mission-driven and very clear about why they exist and how they contribute to society,” Mr. Tenney explains. Regardless of the product or service an organization provides, it is crucial for employers to help their staff understand how their individual role is meaningful both inside and outside of the company’s walls.

Workplace flexibility is also near the top of most job seeker’s list of must-haves, Mr. Tenney says. “People want to work in a way that meets the needs of their particular lifestyle.” To make that happen, he encourages employers and employees to have an open dialogue to find arrangements that work for both parties. 

Employers also need to be better about making sure their benefit packages meet the needs of their teams. “Beyond just the dollars and cents on the paycheck, the total rewards package needs to address a lot of the basic needs such as some form of retirement program, education benefits, and time off policies,” Mr. Tenney explains. 

But companies can’t stop there. To be competitive in the hiring space, Mr. Tenney says employers need to offer benefits that address the whole person — from physical health, to mental wellbeing, to financial stability, “The organizations that are going to succeed now and in the future, are looking at employees holistically — and they’re offering programs to help their [employees] live their healthiest lives possible.” 

It can seem daunting to meet a new hire’s salary requirement and also match their expectations for benefits, flexibility, and overall experience. But in a tight market, that’s what it takes to win top talent.