The Conference Report: The Great Resignation

5 min read

Applying Client Advice for Employee Retention

Like many industries, affordable housing market analysts have felt the effects of the tight labor market, forcing both firms and their clients to look to flexible work schedules, increased pay and non-monetary support to retain talent, industry representatives said at a panel discussion during the National Council of Housing Market Analysts (NCHMA) annual meeting.

In August 2021, 4.3 million employees left their jobs, while another 4.4 million left their jobs in September, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Panelists discussed their personal experiences with turnover and steps they are taking to improve retention.

Flexible Jobs
While panelists want new employees to come into the office, companies are trying to give experienced employees flexibility. 

“We have seen, over the past year, trouble keeping up in the market and had to be really creative about whether our consultants could do more remote work, have more flexibility,” Jason Géno, president & managing principal at human resources, technology and strategic management consulting firm, Human Capital Initiatives, said.

That applies to his clients as well, Géno said.

“They’ve had to try and find ways to be a little more flexible, whether it’s creating incentives or allowing for a little bit of flexible work options, if possible.”

That’s not always possible though, Géno added. For example, it’s really difficult to give maintenance positions that type of flexibility.

“That’s been the key this last year,” Géno said. “Try to deal with less options in the workforce and allowing that flexibility throughout the jobs if possible.”

For many employees, working from home during the pandemic has blurred the lines between work and home. Employees find themselves answering emails late at night and working odd hours, which leads to burnout.

At market research firm Signal Group, management has tried to ease the burden by allowing employees to take a day off without recording it if they had to work late more than one night in a row, Jennifer Dionne, president and partner at the market research firm, said.

“We’ve been giving quarterly bonuses to keep people engaged, and we’re understaffed this year, so people have been working really hard,” Dionne said.

In addition to finding qualified employees, companies are also trying to prevent competition from luring good employees away, Ed Steere, senior managing director of market studies research firm Valbridge Property Advisors, said.

“We’re getting other companies, big companies [that] can offer incentive deals to some of our experienced staff because they need people too,” Steere said.

 Companies are offering complex salary packages and commissions, Steere said. These packages include a combination of salary, commission and potential bonuses in exchange for a certain amount of productivity.

“What we’ve had to do now, at the management level, is start to educate ourselves on what these opportunities that are coming through the door to our staff are,” Steere said. “So that we can counter those with something reasonable or at least educate our professionals to say that it’s not everything it looks like it is.”

Nationally, employers are increasing compensation about 4.2 percent overall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which can be a challenge for companies, Géno said. A large chunk of his firm’s business is compensation planning for its clients.

“Unfortunately, for our clients, it’s not paying less, but paying more,” Géno said.

Inflation, which is currently around six percent, is not covered by these compensation increases, Géno said.

“I only have two of my clients talking about going above four percent,” Géno said.

Géno predicts nationally, compensation increases will be about four to five percent.

“That’s what we’ll do in my company in addition to bonuses for their work,” he said. “We’re a small company. We want to make sure we can attract, retain and develop those people.”

Job Training, Advancement
While a company may not be able to give employees a six percent wage increase, they can invest in their workforce in other ways. At Human Capital Initiative, employees are offered professional development, more opportunities to consult and more training, Géno said.

“I’ve tried to double down on investing in our people,” Curvin Leatham, founder and chief executive officer at real estate advisors firm AreaProbe Inc., said. “So, spend more on education, getting them exposure.”

At a recent team call, Leatham asked each of his employees to identify five areas they would like the company to help them with during the next year.

“We support that up to a certain cap, of course,” Leatham said. “It shows that we’re behind you, we’re investing in you for your growth, and we want you to be part of the team.”

That strategy, Leatham said, communicates to employees that while they might be able to get more compensation at another company, [it] might not give employees the same support and environment.

“We’re pretty intentional about letting you know we want you here and we’re going to invest in you,” Leatham said.

The panel, “Navigating the Great Resignation: Preparing Your Business for Opportunity and Challenge,” was held on December 8 during the virtual NCHMA annual meeting. Jennifer Atkinson, principal market analyst at Mitchel Market Analysts Inc., moderated the discussion.

Nushin Huq is a Houston-based freelance journalist. She has worked as a reporter covering energy markets and regulation, business and government – both federal and state.