As a boutique IT Staffing Firm, finding and engaging rare matter experts is our business. Needless to say these guys and gals are hard to win over in today’s market. Employers who hire us take different routes to attract exceptional talent. Some companies are trying to one-up each other with perks and others dangle substantial salaries in front of desired candidates. Which approach is better? What works long-term?
I have known Janet Godbey for many years, back from working with her at Newell Rubbermaid and to her current role as a Human Resources Director at Peacock Foods. She has always been a big advocate of a healthy work environment and has made a world of difference in talent acquisition and retention of the best talent throughout her career. I wanted to get her perspective on some of the hottest HR topics and see how Peacock Foods deals with these issues.
Maria: Do you feel that allowing people to work from home, have flexible hours and not requiring them to be online at all times might create a culture of chaos and poor productivity? Or are you a proponent of motivating employees through offering work/life balance in the work place?
Janet: I believe that every employee is motivated by different things and if you find that motivator then employee productivity will sky-rocket. Some employees are motivated by money, some by work/life balance, and some by title. It is up to the manager to find that motivator and reward strong performance. Managers have to be more creative when retaining and rewarding top performers; there is no one-size-fits-all solution. I work primarily in a manufacturing environment and the philosophy I follow is this – if I am online every day, all day, I am not on the plant floor working with employees.
Maria: So does your organization believe in flexibility and work-life balance?
Janet: When I interview candidates and they ask about work hours, work/life balance and flexibility, my immediate answer is “performance equals flexibility.” Poor performers will receive less flexibility in hours and a manager will feel a strong need to micro-manage his/her work, limiting the ability to work remotely. Strong performers will earn the ability to work remotely. I always tell my team, I don’t care where you work from, so long as you are getting your job done and your performance is to my expectations. If I have a poor performer on my team, I see this as the quickest invitation for me to play in his/her sandbox.
Maria: Another critical part of being a great place to work is having great benefits. I know the “standard” benefit package has changed over time. Companies no longer offer pensions, some stopped matching 401k contributions, the healthcare benefits are becoming more and more expensive and employers struggle to subsidize those premiums enough to make them affordable. What is your philosophy on these? How did you solve a healthcare issue at Peacock Foods?
Janet: Yes, you are correct, the standard benefit package has changed significantly over time. I am very lucky to work for Peacock Foods where the philosophy is to grow the company through success and growth of our customers and our employees. This includes providing robust employee benefits. We spend a lot of energy in our recruitment efforts around showcasing our benefit offerings as a tool for both retention and reward. Part of my role, with the help of my VP of Human Resources, is to review our employee benefits on a yearly basis and each year we find that we have to be more and more creative in our thinking and spending.
Maria: I always thought that having a solid career path plays a big part in retaining your best players. What role do you play in making sure that this aspect doesn’t get overlooked at Peacock Foods? Are there any policies and tools in place for leadership to develop their staff?
Janet: At Peacock Foods we have a mid-year and annual performance review process. With his/her manager’s help, at the beginning of the year each employee sets SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Based) objectives for the upcoming calendar year. This is a living document; meaning it can change frequently as the needs of our business and roles and responsibilities change. Managers are asked to review performance with each of his/her employees twice a year and there should never be surprises when it comes to performance feedback. Good managers provide on-time and on-target feedback.
Maria: So we have been talking about how employers can build a happier healthier work environment, so my last question is a little tricky. How can employer do a real health check of their organization? Sure you can look at your turn-over rate, but by then it might be too late. What are some of the criteria they can use to see if their staff is generally happy to work there?
Janet: This is a tricky question! I recommend an Employee Survey of all levels of the organization. This will help leaders and Human Resources drill down into each aspect of the employee experience. If someone is dissatisfied, they are more likely to tell an anonymous survey than walk into HR and complain about pay, benefits, work hours, etc. Once you receive the survey data you can drill it down to review the top three areas of strength and bottom three areas of opportunity. Each year we conduct an employee survey using an external resource. We poll each level of the organization and I compare year -over-year results to see where our leadership and HR team’s actions have moved the needle and where we need more work.
Well, here is Peacock Foods approach to attracting and preserving the best players. I have known Janet a long time, and I could just tell by the look on her face, she is genuinely on board with her employer’s philosophy! Janet is always open to helping others, If anyone wants to ask Janet for HR advice, please reach out to me firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will put you in touch with her!