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In our quick news article, “get set for growth” we commented on the increase seen in the latest services PMI figures which also revealed that services payroll numbers are rising at the fastest rate since 1997. Unfortunately, as with all good news relating to the economy, rising employment comes at a price. Not only is there a danger that falling unemployment may prompt the Bank of England to consider a rise in base rates, perhaps as early as 2015; rising levels of employment results in a switch in the job market from buyer to seller.
This brings two challenges to business; namely the ability to retain and attract good employees. Those businesses which have survived the recession will be emerging into the new sunlight with a workforce which is honed to as near perfection as possible. Employees will be used to working smarter with fewer resources and will be good at what they do. Not only will these highly skilled employees be just what a business needs to move it along the recovery road; they will also be an attractive proposition for other employers.
Make no mistake; other employers are out there looking to expand their teams to take them to the next level. And despite levels of unemployment still being high, there is already a shortage of skilled workers in some fields. Feedback from employment agencies says that headhunting is on the rise as businesses try to fill their vacancies with employees who offer the optimum level of skills and attitude.
For the business which is now looking to take advantage of a climate of growth, the twin challenge is to retain and attract good employees. With cost pressures still very much in evidence, the differentiator between success and failure is the company culture and the way in which it translates into engaged employees.
When we talk about employee engagement it is sometimes easier to concentrate on the headline figures such as the way in which businesses with engaged employees show enhanced levels of profitability and shareholder return. But just as employee engagement is far more than free food or games rooms, so too engaged employees are worth far more than simply bottom line numbers. Engaged employees are more committed; they look to innovate, to change processes for the better, to work together for the good of all.
This results in enhanced levels of customer service and a strong reputation as a “good” company. Investors are more likely to invest, suppliers are more likely to provide preferential terms and customers to stay loyal. Best of all, with success breeding success, engaged employees are more likely to stay with the organisation and to attract others to join them.
Businesses which have spent the last few years in fire-fighting to stay afloat may be forgiven for having taken their eye of the employee engagement ball. And in a time of rising and high unemployment those businesses may have managed to retain the staff which they needed. But with the tide turning it is time to take a good look at the company culture, to refresh it and to renew the emphasis on engaging employees in the aims and values of the culture. Organisations which act now will be in a strong position to take advantage of the climate of growth. Those which don’t may find that their best employees slip away to pastures new.