With the unemployment rate hitting the lowest level since 2008, even the happiest employees are deciding to investigate their career options. Three in 10 employees regularly search for new job opportunities even though they are currently employed, according to CareerBuilder.com.
Lately, companies have begun luring top talent via a novel incentive: the newly created position.
In the last few months, Horizon Media introduced the first Chief Invention Officer; DigitasLBi created a Chief Data Scientist; Ogilvy & Mather unveiled a Worldwide Chief Strategy Officer; Hearst Magazines introduced the first Managing Director of Brands and AOL nabbed an industry veteran with the newly created Head of Independent Agencies.
But are these companies really developing innovative new positions — or are they merely making superficial name changes to appeal to egos? After all, Disney is famous for referring to its front desk representatives as "guest relations," yet that title elevation doesn't really fool anyone, particularly employees.
Is Horizon Media switching "innovation" to "invention" just to land its intended target? "It's a good first step [to address employees' needs]," says advertising executive Jeff Fromm, Barkley U.S. "But [newly created positions] are easier than really developing meaningful programs that matter in the long run, like a good work-life balance. It's just trying to be cool. It's better than nothing at all, but it still is a short-term fix."
Yet, others say these jobs are designed specifically to meet today's executive in today's workplace. In order to land currently employed top talent, employers must offer entirely fresh top-level positions with no pre-existing instruction manuals and the ability for new executives to hire their own teams. Formerly top perks like half-day Fridays and in-house chefs are no longer unique or sufficient.
Many of the executives attracted to these new roles say they weren't specifically looking for a new job, but once approached by these companies, they cited the excitement about new opportunities. For instance, advertising veteran Suhaila Suhimi Hobba jumped to the media side of the industry as AOL's Head of Independent Agencies after conversations with key AOL executives made her realize that she could leverage her skills in a new manner at the Internet platform. Likewise, DigitasLBi nabbed Scott Donation from rival Interpublic Group with the hefty job title North America Chief Content Officer (as well as a full fleet of responsibilities).
Indeed, these customized positions send a powerful message: We're building this role just for you (even if we are also talking with three other executives).
For companies hoping to keep current employees, the key to counteracting this trend is to follow their competitor's lead. Although it is difficult for current employers to counter-offer when a competitor is willing to underwrite an entirely new adventure, companies should suggest a customized new role and work with their employees to set the parameters. Again, it is important not to inflate titles without reworking specific responsibilities. Some 52 percent of workers feel as if they have a job, not a career, according to CareerBuilder, so this trend is an opportunity for employers to help their employees find their passion.
While the majority of these new positions are for mid- to high-level roles, the trend is likely to filter down to even entry-level workers. Ultimately, customized positions speak to the desire to be appreciated. And everyone likes to feel wanted by their employer, from C-Suite execs to the people at the front desk. Er, guest relations.
Photo: Can Stock
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4 Ways to Expand Your Social Media Recruiting Strategy
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The Latest Office Benefit Is Tackling Student Debt
Modern companies are more than just employers — increasingly, they are also gyms, cafeterias and even laundromats. As perks like yoga class, free lunch and complimentary dry cleaning become the norm, companies continue to push the boundaries on ways to attract and retain top talent by providing much more than a paycheck to employees. The latest in the slew of new workplace benefits? Student loan assistance. In April, Chegg partnered with Tuition.io to give full-time employees extra cash for student loan reduction. Then in September, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers announced it would provide up to $1,200 to help employees pay off loans annually. As a benefit, student loan assistance programs are certainly still in their infancy— one survey found that only 3 percent of companies offer such a benefit. But experts say that may soon change as companies seek to differentiate themselves in a competitive hiring environment. "We think student loan benefits are poised to be the next big benefit; similar to what 401(k) matching was when it was first introduced," says Dana Rosenberg, who leads employer and affinity group partnerships at Earnest, a lender that offers student loan refinancing and works with companies to create loan pay-down programs. The Burden of Student Debt Such programs could be extremely attractive to debt-laden Millennials. Around 40 million Americans collectively carry $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and the graduating class of 2015 was the most indebted class in history with an average debt of $35,000 (a superlative they won't hold for long come May 2016.) For employers looking to adjust benefits to correspond to the changing demographics of their employee base, student loan programs hit the mark. "In 2016, our employees will be 80 percent millennials, and we also hire close to 11,000 employees directly out of school each year," says Terri McClements, Washington Metro managing partner of PwC. With student debt often preventing young people from participating in 401(k) plans and reaching traditional life milestones, the benefit could potentially make a large impact on employees' financial and personal well-being. A study from the American Student Association found that 73 percent of people with student loans reported putting off saving for retirement or other investments due to their debt, 75 percent reported delaying a home purchase and 27 percent reported it was difficult to buy daily necessities. "Student loans can be a very stressful thing to deal with, so if we can give our employees peace of mind, that's great," says Caroline Gennaro, corporate communications manager at Chegg. The Allure for Employers Student debt assistance programs aren't just attractive to employees, either. Rosenberg says there are significant benefits for the organizations that offer them as well. "Employers that offer programs to help their employees get out from under their debt load are seeing big benefits: increased retention, more competitive recruiting and, perhaps most importantly, happier employees who have additional cash flow to put towards their life goals," Rosenberg explains. Rosenberg says happier employees are more engaged employees, who tend to be more productive. Studies show that companies with high employee engagement experience lower turnover and have double the rate of organizational success than their less-engaged counterparts. Student loan benefit programs may also lead to a more diverse workforce, attracting employees whose financial backgrounds meant they had to take on more debt for their education. "Diversity and inclusion are also very important to us, so the ability to offer this benefit can help minorities who come out of school with a higher debt burden," says McClements. A Promising Response Companies say the response to their student loan assistance programs have been overwhelmingly positive. Chegg has had more than 80 people sign up since they started their program this summer, and they've already eliminated roughly 86 years of collective loan repayments for their employees. Companies are also finding these programs are a way to differentiate themselves from organizations that may offer more generic benefits. "As a company in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are always looking to attract the best and brightest in the industry, and this benefit is a big draw," says Gennaro. Photo: Shutterstock