Making a Difference in the Contest for Top Talent
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Making a Difference in the Contest for Top Talent

March 11, 2020
Photo credit: Getty Images/Radachynskyi
In the current job market, in-demand professionals know how valuable they are; and if a company doesn’t market itself effectively, it could lose the best potential employees to a competitor. It’s important for companies to note that for many employees, a career is about much more that the size of their paycheck. In the midst of a job market that is more competitive than at any time during the past half-century, companies are pulling out all the stops to attract, and retain, top talent. In this environment, there are several ways to win the war for talent.
 

Edward Pittman serves as vice president of communications for Carrington Mortgage HoldingsSocial responsibility is essential

Employees of all ages, Millennial and post-Millennial workers in particular, express a greater need to not only feel like their work makes a difference, but also that their company has a conscience and is dedicated to improving the communities where employees work and live. One study found that 75 percent of Millennials would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company; 83 percent would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues; 88 percent say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues; and 76 percent consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work. Stories of good deeds shared on social media reinforce a company’s commitment to doing the right thing, and provide important recognition for the employees who volunteer to help non-profit causes with which they have a personal connection.
 
One such cause is Carrington House, one of the Signature Programs of Carrington Charitable Foundation (CCF), the non-profit organization of The Carrington Companies. Carrington House builds custom, adaptive homes for catastrophically wounded veterans. To date, Carrington House has built 22 homes for deserving veterans and their families, and two more homes for veterans are planned for completion in 2020.
 
“Carrington House gives wounded military veterans who have returned from service, and who need support, a home they deserve and can call their own,” said Shelly Lawrence, executive director of community relations. “CCF is a big part of associate life at Carrington.”
 
In addition to joining in on company-sponsored charitable initiatives, employees often choose their own non-profit causes to support, based on their personal beliefs or because causes have a personal connection. Rob Petruska, vice president of retail lending for Carrington Mortgage Services, has coordinated his company’s support of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s annual Light the Night Walk for the past three years. Petruska’s connection with Light the Night is very personal: His son Ross was diagnosed with large T-cell lymphoma at the age of 17, just before his senior year in high school. Fortunately, after treatment, Ross is in remission. After Ross' chemo, Petruska says he asked two family friends who had lost their son how he could get more involved to help beat blood cancer. They referred him to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Incidentally, Petruska says that after graduating from Ball State in 2000, his son enrolled in a 16-month accelerated nursing program to become a nurse, so he could give back in his career.
 
“I became a board member in late 2016, and still sit on the board today," he says. “Carrington and CCF have been great supporters of Light the Night–from providing publicity for upcoming events to grant matching. That means a lot to me and to my family.”
 

Continuous career improvement

Corporate social responsibility is only a piece of what it takes to attract and keep top talent. Ongoing career development and lifelong learning are more important than ever, and companies that provide opportunities for employees to learn and grow stand out from the corporate competition. These opportunities can include comprehensive internal self-training education programs, tuition reimbursement, or sponsorship of speaking opportunities. A 2007 survey by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research identified two key findings: Tuition reimbursement programs reduce turnover and general skills training increases retention. When it comes to retaining top talent, education and career development are important components of a company’s benefits mix.
 

Tuition reimbursement

Many companies, as part of the benefits package, include some type of tuition reimbursement program that supports education for employees who take classes or enlist in courses of study that are relevant to their job roles. Better educated employees, equipped with knowledge of the latest methods, are very often considered better able to contribute to company goals.
 
“For each of the past two years, we’ve issued almost $100,000 in tuition reimbursement to our associates,” said Ginger Crawford, senior vice president of human resources for Carrington Mortgage Holdings. “Because we take an interest in the careers of our associates, they take more of an interest in us as a company.”
 

Photo credit: Getty Images/LeoWolfertSelf-paced training

In addition to tuition reimbursement, some companies create comprehensive libraries of training materials that extend far beyond obligatory compliance courses. Company training libraries are often available on-demand, so employees can learn and grow whenever they want. Training can encompass courses to build essential software skills, such as MSOffice, as well as company- or industry-specific programs. And some companies offer much more, with courses of study that include sessions devoted to personal development, customer service, sales and management.
 
“Our online portal offers management courses on coaching employees, managing conflict, effective communications, interviewing and more–and they’re open to everyone,” said David Morris, vice president of training and HR operations for Carrington Mortgage Holdings. “And our sales and customer experience classes are great tools for getting new associates up to speed fast, so they can drive business and create great interactions with customers.”
 

Singular benefits

Most companies offer diverse benefits to employees. In addition to paying part of medical, dental and vision benefits, some companies offer profit sharing and 401(k) contributions. In addition, many companies may offer such diverse add-ons as discounted fitness club memberships; discounted event tickets; legal assistance packages for such things as wills, trusts and apartment leases; and more. Some companies go further, developing unique ways to give back to employees. Many retail companies and big box stores routinely offer discounts on merchandise to employees. Other companies create unique opportunities to benefit employees and create customers at the same time. A mortgage company, for example, might offer loan program incentives to employees to help them purchase a home.
 
“Our Employee Loan Program gives associates a discount off the rate, or the waiver of some processing and underwriting fees,” said Greg Austin, executive vice president of lending for Carrington Mortgage Services. “We have an associate who is the primary contact for all mortgage loans to employees to make sure our people are always well taken care of.”
 

Recognition programs with cash rewards

Most companies who care about retaining talented employees include employee recognition as part of a well-rounded internal communications strategy. But some companies go further with cash incentives–and not just for employees in sales-related roles. From financial rewards for performance, or just for submitting great ideas that benefit the business, companies that reward employees with cash stand out from the rest.
 
“Our Fish Tank program rewards associates for great ideas that drive business profitability or improve the customer experience,” said Jeff Gillis, executive vice president of operations for Carrington Mortgage Services. “We’ve had employees suggest process changes, system improvements, and ways to better serve our customers–and every month we reward them with recognition and financial incentives for their suggestions. The bigger the idea, the bigger the incentive. Employees bring us their best ideas, and they take home cash as part of our thanks.”
 

What it takes

To attract high-quality applicants and retain the best employees, it’s critical for organizations to differentiate themselves from other companies within their industry. It is also imperative that companies demonstrate to in-demand professionals how joining a company, and staying there, can help them reach their goals–all of them. Employers who encourage doing good and becoming better, and who offer unique benefits, are more likely to attract and hold on to top talent, and are creating legions of happier, more fulfilled, employees.

Edward Pittman serves as vice president of communications for Carrington Mortgage Holdings. Edward is a creative and strategic communications executive with more than 20 years of experience driving global communications strategy for such high-profile international companies as JCPenney and Brink’s. He may be reached by phone at (469) 344-4465 or e-mail Edward.Pittman@CarringtonMH.com.

This article originally appeared in the January 2020 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.

 
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