Viscusi's New Guide for Employers for Hiring and Retaining the Best Talent.

Questions from my FOLLOWERS.

Dear Stephen,

I am an executive at a major furniture manufacturer. I am writing to you about a problem my company is having in getting great candidates to a “yes”. This seems quite common across the furniture industry, but I’m really more worried about us. We simply cannot reliably attract the best people. We pay competitively, have offered sign on bonuses, have a great work environment, and our cafeteria even has a highly subsidized lunch with a great chef (I told you we are one of the major manufacturers). We get plenty of good candidates, some from our internal searches, some from headhunters, and some who seek us out, but we struggle to get them to actually take the job!

I noticed that in between speaker sessions at the last BIFMA meeting most of the CEOs and Presidents of companies who attended were talking about only one subject. It was not whoever the last speakers themselves, it was about how to get the best people! It is a real problem and doesn’t just pertain to the ever transient sales force. We have found it just as difficult to get managerial and executive level candidates to accept our offers.

I have read your answers to similar versions of the same question in this column before. More money, more money, more money! That seems like the only advice you give. Thank you, genius. I figured that one out on my own and although it helps, I find that money is definitely not the only factor here. Even if we offer a salary past our budget, we can’t guarantee the hire.

Can you give me anything else, Guru?! What are we all doing wrong?


A Man Without A Plan


Dear Man Without A Plan:

Now, I don’t think you’re being totally fair. If you’d actually read my answers to this question, you’d know that I’ve given varying advice, but it does evolve as I think of new solutions. I’ll play along though because you seem to be desperate and because you’re not the only one. I’ve had clients all but cry to me about this recently. And so, I have gone back to the drawing board.

I have been researching, soul searching, and carefully observing all of our recent searches in order to find you a panacea because if there’s one thing we know, it’s that the old ways won’t cut it anymore.

As I looked more carefully, I noticed a relatively simple pattern. The truth is that most of my European clients don’t struggle as much to attract and maintain talent. One common feature that they all share--and that most U.S. companies don’t--is that they offer their employees (even those in the U.S.) 100% paid medical insurance coverage. This unique benefit is usually extended just to the individual employee, while their families contribute to a subsidized insurance plan through the company, similar to standard health benefits. Let’s be clear, this means full Medical, Dental and Vision coverage.

To be able to tell an employee that you are willing to give them 100% medical will give you a tremendous leg up on the competition. Medical insurance is often valued even more than a higher salary. Why? Because it is our health! Potential employees feel like their company is physically and emotionally protecting them, like the organization holds a real stake in the individual. And they do!

If you want to get more candidates to “yes,” the shrewd move would be to transfer some of your salary budget into paying the employees’ entire medical coverage. Yes, 100%! It may sound like a gimmick, especially to those companies that already cover 75% or even 90% of medical insurance costs. But those are the companies who have even less to lose! The marketing benefit of saying you pay 100% of medical coverage is incalculable. Gimmick or not, it has real results.

Offering medical insurance like this will not only attract the best people, it will incentivize employee retention and contribute to a greater camaraderie within the company. At the very least, it will create a buzz around your company within the industry and set you apart from your competitors. Employees will tell their friends and you will become known as the company that offers this benefit. Just think about how it will look on your Glassdoor<> profile!

While I am going all European on you, why not offer three weeks of vacation a year rather than two? A salesperson working on commission will likely not even take a third week, so as long as you don’t let the vacation days roll over to the next year the new policy won’t cost you a thing.

The lesson to learn is that when you are trying to hire someone phenomenal, you really should be thinking like a salesperson. Your product is your company, and you have to do whatever you can to make that product sound appealing.

If you’re offering me catered sushi for lunch or free medical coverage, I’ll take the medical any day of the week. Wouldn’t you?

~ Stephen

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