Economic Development and Human Resources

More firms expecting to add staff

West Michigan market will be solid for highly qualified candidates.

January 17, 2014
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Companies looking to hire this year might find they are up against some stiff competition for the area’s best candidates.

That’s because more companies are likely to be looking to increase their staffs in 2014 due to an improving business climate, giving the area’s top talent more offers from which to choose.

“From a general standpoint, we are hearing from many of our clients that many of them are hiring,” said Lynn Jekkals, resident managing director, Aon Risk Solutions. “Highly qualified candidates, I think, will remain in very high demand.”

Aon, which provides human resources solutions and outsourcing services to a number of clients, in addition to other services, said companies could set themselves apart in several ways that will help them win the talent attraction and retention game.

She noted that Aon does several things that have helped it attract and retain talent, particularly recent college graduates.

“We have to, as an employer, have a very good environment, culture and career path for that individual to first of all attract them, and then obviously to retain them and have them commit to the firm,” she said.

Jekkals said that while some companies might think money is the driving factor, the reality is that candidates are likely weighing several other factors just as highly, if not more so.

“Research shows that (money) is actually not that big of a part of it for many,” she said. “It’s more ‘is it the right fit, am I being challenged and am I being given opportunities to further my career here,’ and work life balance and other issues that really play in more so than the money, oftentimes.”

Getting top-notch talent to sign on the dotted line is just the first step. Then companies need to make sure the newest hires decide to stay, Jekkals said.

“From a retention standpoint it’s just very important to invest in the people you bring on board, invest in having a career path and a development plan, a formal mentoring type program and connecting them to the firm and the community,” she said.

“There are a number of organizations for young professionals, and those of our colleagues who have become involved in those, I think, have gotten a lot of value out of it and are more likely to stay in the area because they are more committed to it.

“I think that it is important to evaluate all of those things as we look to retain people not only in our specific firms, but more in the community as well.”

Jekkals also suggested not ruling out former Michigan residents who have moved to larger cities.

“We have had great experience with getting people that had roots in Grand Rapids and moved away for a couple of years after college and then wanted to come back to West Michigan to establish their own family and roots again,” she said. “We are seeing a lot more of those young professionals coming back home.”

Jekkals noted that retaining and attracting talent to the area is beneficial to the entire community, not just to the company that is doing the hiring.

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