Some recruiters feel the term “war for talent” has been grossly overused—implying that we’re literally at war with other companies to attract talent, while this may be true in some cases, we’re actually at war with ourselves trying to figure out what attracts workers to our companies, and what keeps them sticking around.
While the “war” wages on, 73% of recently surveyed U.S. business leaders say the outlook for their own business is strong. To bolster their competitiveness, business leaders say they are focusing on three top priorities—evolving the technical skills of employees, focusing on cash management, and preparing for potential mergers and acquisitions (M&A).
Furthermore, nearly half of the surveyed employers (46%) are highly concerned with attracting and retaining talent, and 93% are taking active steps to hire and keep qualified employees.
“Companies are becoming more employee-focused as the talent war continues and the unemployment rate remains at an all-time low,” says Jason Cagle, head of Commercial Banking for SunTrust—in a press release. “Not only are they focused on attracting employees, but also on empowering existing talent. This starts with training employees to address the rise in emerging technologies. This is key to ensure businesses are able to compete for talent and are better positioned to handle changes in the economy.”
Business Actions Taken by Companies to Attract/Retain Employees
According to the annual Business Pulse Survey by SunTrust, businesses are taking the following actions to attract and retain talent, in order to “win the war”:
- Increased wages (45%)
- Increased benefits (43%)
- Offering more flexible work arrangements (36%)
- Training current employees to fill vacant positions (31%)
- Hiring more employees that take upfront training (24%)
- Offering additional recognition programs (23%)
- Offering college loan repayment and/or college savings programs (17%)
The Business Pulse Survey also found that 60% of middle-market companies offer or plan to offer a financial well-being program. A 2018 PwC survey of U.S. employees showed that financial wellness is the most desired benefit they don’t currently have, exceeding even the desire for student loan repayment. “People want to work for companies that care about their employees’ total well-being and bring purpose to the work,” says Brian Nelson Ford, Financial Well-Being Executive at SunTrust Bank and an expert on workplace financial wellness programs—in an e-mail to Recruiting Daily Advisor. “It’s important for recruiters to highlight offerings like financial well-being to potential hires to illustrate the company’s strong culture and commitment to invest in employees.”
In fact, financial wellness is so important to Ford, he created Momentum onUp, which is a nonprofit program SunTrust offers to employers. This program is more than just financial education. It’s designed to inspire, educate, and equip employees by helping them manage their money based on what’s most important to them. As we continue to see, offering competitive salaries and benefits remain key in attracting talent. However, for talent retention, employers are beginning to realize that flexibility and training remain absolutely critical.
“Recruiters should pay particular attention to the increased need to invest in training and development for new hires,” says Cagle—in the same e-mail. “It’s not merely about a candidate’s current skill set but also their potential for future career growth and aptitude for learning new skills. A company’s willingness to show a commitment to ongoing talent development and career conversations is essential to building and retaining a strong team, especially at a time when talent is in such high demand.”
Emerging Technologies Make Training Increasingly Important
The survey also found that the pace of technological evolution is driving leaders to make technical training a critical priority in 2019. More than half (54%) cited a lag in technology as a top barrier for achieving business goals, a 14-point increase from last year.
To adapt to the rise in automation and leverage emerging technologies, more than three in four business leaders (77%) plan to invest heavily in learning and development programs that will empower their current workforce to acquire new skills and fill new roles as their companies grow.
Financial Growth and Long-Term M&A Strategies
SunTrust also found that cash management will be a feature of the short-term strategy of many companies. Financial decision-makers anticipate an increased need to build cash reserves in the upcoming year, with 37% planning to use excess cash to pay down debt and 35% planning to use excess cash in 2019 to build up their cash reserves. Already, 50% of survey participants say they have invested excess cash from Federal Tax Reform back into their businesses.
When looking at their long-term growth strategy, businesses are increasingly turning to M&A. The survey found that 28% of middle-market leaders have identified M&A as a top growth strategy, up from 26% in 2018 and 20% in 2017.
“While companies are continuing to focus on organic growth in the short-term, their leaders are planning to increase M&A activity over the next five years,” says Cagle. “They see that as a key way to accelerate growth in the long-term. Given the impending wave of retirements of Baby Boomer business owners, we see this as a critical moment for business leaders to look at M&A.”
Decision-makers representing more than 500 U.S. small and mid-size businesses participated in the SunTrust/Radius Global Market Research survey fielded January 22, 2019 through February 1, 2019. Survey results have a maximum margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.