Total Rewards 2012Corporate Voices for Working Families’ member companies tell us that what “keeps them up at night” is how to retain top talent and ensure the future workforce, particularly hourly employees. Corporate Voices’ recent report, Across the Great Divide, reveals that more than half (53%) of business leaders say their companies face a major challenge in recruiting non-managerial employees with skills, training and education their company needs.

Connecting the strengths and needs of talent development with the visibility and influence of workplace flexibility can help solve companies’ recruiting and retention challenges. A commitment to align business strategies across the total reward spectrum, from talent development to recruitment and company benefits, can synergize mutual goals of growing and retaining a skilled workforce while having a positive impact on individuals and communities.

Last week, I was in Orlandopresenting at the World@Work 2012 Total Rewards Conference to discuss how businesses are merging workplace flexibility and benefits with talent development strategies meeting mutually reinforcing goals. I moderated a panel with Bright Horizons Family Solutions and Ryan, Inc. who described their use of flexibility to improve recruitment, retention while increasing productivity.  They each described flexibility as a key component of their best-practice work-life and talent development programs.

Partnering with an educational publishing company, Bright Horizons developed an online Child Development Associate credential which provides a high tech, e-learning venue for its teachers to obtain the mandatory credential. By using these learned skills in their everyday work, teachers receive a nationally recognized credential which can be articulated into college credit. Employees see the value of their education as they use the classroom skills learned in their everyday work environment and Bright Horizons gains the important distinction of having one of the most educated staffs in the childcare sector.

Ryan, Inc. offers flexible options such as increased maternity and paternity leave, military leave and flexible work schedules. As a result, they have seen retention rates among employees increase from 80% to 94% in the span of three years. These options not only allow employees to pursue their education, but have also resulted in greater job satisfaction and better client service.

Peggy Walton, my colleague at Corporate Voices, recently led a panel on a similar topic at Working Mother Media’s National Conference Supporting Hourly Workers which honors the Best Companies for Hourly Workers as determined by Working Mother and Corporate Voices. Employers spoke on how they are using accredited internal training as a way to jump start educational attainment of hourly employees who might not consider themselves “college material,” but are encouraged once they have credits on a transcript.

Peggy said during her panel that, “Partnerships should be forged, wherever possible, that leverage strengths of institutions served by companies and education/training providers, such as community colleges, to serve hourly employees.”

Through Corporate Voices’ Learn and Earn case study series, we identify how businesses are using flexibility and other employee benefits, such as tuition assistance, career navigation, etc, as drivers to enable working learners to have the latitude needed to both work and continue their postsecondary education. These Learn & Earn models help businesses retain talent while building and enhancing the skills of their workforce. By expanding and successfully implementing flexibility, businesses can engage a powerful means to improve the financial and human capital results.

Merging talent development with flexibility is just one Lean and Earn model that Corporate Voices has documented. In our upcoming research paper, to be released this summer, A Talent Development Solution: Exploring Business Drivers and Returns in Learn and Earn Partnerships, we explore the various Learn and Earn models best practice companies are using to meet their bottom line. The Early Findings of the document was released earlier this month at our annual meeting.

Only by strategically connecting business investments across departments, such as human resources, benefits, recruitment and talent development, can companies make such significant impacts on the educational attainment and skill levels of current and future employees.

This post was contributed by Stephen M. Wing, President of Corporate Voices for Working Families.

Sparking an economic revival and creating new jobs has no higher national priority. Yet as a national business membership organization representing companies who employ millions of Americans, Corporate Voices for Working Families grapples with a related and urgent imperative: A widespread “skills gap,” which leaves many employers struggling to fill job openings even as millions of Americans search for work. We regard this skills gap as one of the most pressing issues facing business competitiveness and the economic security of working families today.

In Across the Great Divide, a report Corporate Voices published this year in partnership with Civic Enterprises and others, 53 percent of business leaders surveyed said their companies face a “very or fairly major” challenge recruiting employees with the skills, education and training their business needs. Those at smaller companies, who were responsible for more than half of new jobs created in recent years, felt the skills gap most acutely: Fully 67 percent said it was difficult to find and hire the right employees.

In our view, addressing this crisis—the skills gap that limits the opportunities and dreams of too many Americans—is a necessary condition of success within a much needed economic revival.

We know America’s greatest resource has always been the talent of its people and the innovation of its businesses.  That’s why we are proud to be part of Opportunity Nation, an unprecedented broad-based non-partisan coalition of public, private, civilian and military organizations creating and advocating for better skills, better jobs and better communities.

We believe that only by including employers as true partners and utilizing their expertise can we meet Opportunity Nation’s campaign goals of promoting opportunity, social mobility and the American dream.  Businesses know best the skills needed in employees and are the importance lynchpin in the creation of enterprising pathways that connect, cultivate and sustain previously untapped talent, or disconnected youth, with the skills needed to succeed on the job.

Corporate Voices’ partner in the New Options Project – a multi-year initiative that seeks to connect more than four million young adults with no high school diploma to meaningful career opportunities that match their talents and skills – Year Up is assembling a panel at the upcoming Opportunity Nation Summit being held in New York City November 3-4.  The panel will highlight the community and education partnerships and business best practices that are working to connect the needs of employers with the skills development of the nation’s workforce. The panel entitled, “Opening Pathways to Prosperity: Expanding Options for Job Training and Success” will include the following innovative and inspiring individuals:

  • Rana Foroohar – Assistant Managing Editor for TIME Magazine (Moderator)
  • Gerald Chertavian – Founder and CEO of Year Up
  • John Galante – Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at JPMorgan Chase
  • Mike Jennings – Director of IT, LinkedIN
  • Jane Oates – Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration at U.S. Department of Labor
  • Dorothy Stoneman – Founder and President of YouthBuild USA
  • Stuart Thorne – President and CEO of Southwire
  • Kern Williams – Year Up Boston Alumni, Working at State Street Bank

By highlighting the community and education partnerships and business best practices that are working to connect the needs of employers with the skills development of the nation’s workforce, these business leaders and young adults will share their thoughts on how such programs, if adopted on a larger scale, could bridge the nation’s growing skills gap.

Corporate Voices for Working Families is the leading national business membership organization shaping conversations and collaborations on public and corporate policy issues involving working families.  A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, we create and advance innovative policy solutions that reflect a commonality of interests among the private sector both global and domestic, government and other stakeholders.  We are a unique voice, and we provide leading and best-practice employers a forum to improve the lives of working families while strengthening our nation’s economy and enhancing the vitality of our communities.  For more information, please visit http://www.corporatevoices.org.