Top performers call the shots

The
war for talent is far from over in the US, with high-profile organisations
searching for suitable top performers with key interpersonal skills to lead
them into the future. Liz Simpson reports

There’s
a basic business principle that says if you want to be successful in today’s
marketplace you have to give your customers what they want. This is being
applied to the issue of employee compensation and benefits. In order to attract
and retain talented individuals, the trend in the US is moving away from a
one-size-fits-all approach, towards an individual contract environment. An
environment that includes important "intangibles" like strong company
vision, great management and the chance to work with top-quality teams.

Savvy
HR professionals in the US know that despite recent widespread and high-profile
layoffs, there are still more jobs than suitable people to fill them and this
situation is not likely to change soon. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics
predicts a 26 million shortfall between the number of jobs vacated and created
in the US economy over the next 10 years (an estimated 55 million) and the
total potential employees available (29 million).

The
war for talent is therefore anything but over, with the greatest demand being
for individuals who are technologically literate, commercially astute and
attitudinally agile. These individuals have the bargaining power to demand more
of what is personally motivating and valuable to them.

"We
have been personalising compensation and benefits packages for years for CEOs
and the people who report directly to them, but as the talent issue becomes
tougher and tougher we are starting to see lower-level executives request – and
get – perks that fit their personal goals and objectives," says Brent
Longnecker, vice-president of Deloitte & Touche subsidiary Resources
Connection. He has 17 years’ experience in consulting, design and
implementation of innovative performance programmes and is a compensation
expert for the US Department of Labor.

"It’s
not just about high-tech experts any more but people with key interpersonal
skills who will lead organisations into the future. As demand for such
employees outstrips supply, we’re going to have to set a premium on attracting
and retaining them," says Longnecker,

Liz
Ryan, an HR professional and consultant for the past 18 years, agrees. Until
recently she was vice-president of HR at Ucentric, a home networking company
based in Boston.

Says
Ryan, "We are going to see a big distinction between two types of
employees, with the top performers treated very differently and more
individually rewarded than unexciting place holders who do little to add to the
success of a company. One of the key ways to reward key individuals is with
non-tangible compensation and benefits. Having a great mentor as a boss,
inspiring leadership, an appreciation culture – all of these things are
increasingly important."

To
get a better understanding of how varied employees’ desired deals might be, a
recent Towers Perrin Talent Report sub-titled, New Realities in Today’s
Workforce asked respondents about their priorities. Of the top answers, 42 per
cent said work-life balance is a priority and 28 per cent were most interested
in long-term skills development.

"Research
we have conducted shows that, for three years in a row, personal and
professional development come out high on the list. Yet less than a third of
companies have career development programmes," reports Linda Pittenger,
president and CEO of People Cubed, a Gartner HR consulting firm.

"I
separate benefits into two categories. Concierge services and daycare are
employee satisfiers that make people happy but are not the reasons why they
join or leave a company. What’s really important to people today – and what
drives turnover – are things like career development, leadership vision and
mission and having a great boss."

But
what if you work in a multinational corporation where pay and perks are
designated by a higher power and the HR function is just to administer them?

"If
HR professionals want to make an impact on the issue of retention they must use
whatever compensation and benefits leverage they do have," implores Ryan.

"It’s
always possible to exert an influence with regard to intangible rewards – it’s
just a question of finding out what’s important to a person. Maybe it is
arranging for their manager to give them more stretching assignments, or have
more flexibility in the hours they have to be in the office."

Linda
Pittenger says the HR community needs to have a greater appreciation of the
importance of employee life-cycles. "The average IT professional used to
stay with a company 48 months; now it’s more like 34 months. It’s time to blow
up the HR boxes and understand that each employee contributes a different level
of worth to the success of the organisation during their engagement – and
reward them accordingly."

Brent
Longnecker believes HR professionals who resist the tailored approach are
missing a golden opportunity for their own professional development. "If
HR professionals want to be invited to the strategic round table, it’s on this
issue they will shine. Tailoring compensation and benefits according to an
individual’s talent and value is challenging and involves much more work and
creativity than a one-size-fits-all approach. But now is the time to stop being
so tactically reactive and show the CEO, board and shareholders how much HR
accounts for a company’s revenue."

Further
information

www.towersperrin.com

www.kpmg.com

www.deloittetouche.com

www.watsonwyatt.com

www.pwcglobal.com

www.wmmercer.com

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