Study shows flexible hours critical to employee retention

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:08 am

Close to half of Wisconsin business owners and executives believe that offering flexible work hours is among the best strategies to retain top talent.

The finding was detailed in a BMO Harris Bank study released this month. The study, conducted at both state and national levels, consulted business owners and executives about their thoughts on effective employee retention tactics – other than salary increases.

As companies face a “talent war throughout our economy,” BMO Harris Bank set out to learn what factors employers see as most critical in recruiting exceptional employees and keeping them on board, said Jeff Ticknor, managing director and head of commercial banking for BMO Harris Bank in Wisconsin.

“The Wisconsin marketplace is a fiercely competitive one, and there is a real battle for top talent,” Ticknor said. “Business owners know that an effective employee retention strategy is as important as ever.”

The survey found that flexible hours are an effective employee retention strategy, in addition to professional development opportunities, increased health and dental benefits, and increased paid vacation time.

Forty-seven percent of survey respondents in Wisconsin acknowledged flexible work hours as “critical to an effective employee retention strategy,” the study reported.

Jeff Ticknor

Nationally, 53 percent of respondents shared this perspective.

The finding reaffirms what BMO Harris Bank has seen in the market and what its financial professionals continuously hear from clients and prospects, according to Ticknor.

“It’s really reflective of employees wanting that work/life balance and how important that flexibility is to their wellbeing and to their happiness with the job,” he said.

It’s also a hallmark of the Generation Y workforce, Ticknor said.

“It’s not that they work less hours,” he said. “It’s that they work different hours.”

And while many millennials have taken on reputations as job hoppers and opportunity seekers, Ticknor said BMO sees millennials as quality employees who are looking for a reason to stay with a company and looking for leadership.

“They want to understand their piece of the bigger picture,” Ticknor said. “They want to understand their role in the big picture of what companies do.”

BMO’s survey also gauged employers’ hiring plans and revealed the traits they seek in young job candidates.

When asked how prepared they believe college graduates are as they enter the workforce, almost half of Wisconsin business owners and executives showed little confidence. Forty-seven percent indicated that they feel graduates are less prepared to join the workforce today compared to 20 years ago.

National results swung in a more positive direction as 57 percent of business owners and executives surveyed said college graduates are more prepared or equally prepared to jump into the workforce today, compared to 20 years ago.

Ticknor attributes that discrepancy partially to Wisconsin’s manufacturing and industrial base and the state’s reliance on skilled trades.

Many employers in Wisconsin are looking for trade skills that can’t be polished at colleges and universities, Ticknor said.

In the search for qualified junior employees, surveyed Wisconsin executives said they seek proven skillsets and take personality traits and work experience into strong consideration. Those traits outweigh the value employers said they find in the degrees candidates have earned and schools they have attended.

Specifically, 40 percent of respondents look for skillset, 35 percent value personality traits, 28 percent value work experience, and 12 percent strongly consider degrees earned and schools attended.

Those results also underscore Wisconsin’s manufacturing and industrial base, Ticknor said, as employers pursue workers who are well versed in trades over academia.

Nationally, employers’ value placed on degrees and schools mirrored the state’s feedback. Only 17 percent of respondents across the county indicated that degrees earned and schools attended are important considerations in their hiring process.

Additionally, the study noted that more than 25 percent of national survey participants reported plans to hire this year.

“This is a very positive sign for our economic recovery,” said Dave Casper, executive vice president and head of commercial banking at BMO Harris Bank.

The BMO Harris Bank Survey of Business Owners and Executives, conducted last November, collected feedback from more than 600 business owners and executives nationwide, with a minimum of 60 respondents located in Wisconsin. The study is part of the bank’s ongoing efforts to keep pace with how executives feel about key business topics, such as their economic sentiment and their business investment plans.

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