Magazine article Policy & Practice

Employer Resource Networks: Improving Job Retention through Private-Public Partnerships

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Employer Resource Networks: Improving Job Retention through Private-Public Partnerships

Article excerpt

The reality of ongoing turnover and recruiting costs to businesses and organizations affects the bottom line on a daily basis. It is something that human resource departments and organizations as a whole must address if they are to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Ruth Weirich sites in her book, Workplace Stability, that research in 2004 predicted "the value of hourly and lower-wage employees to many organizations is only expected to increase in the future ... In order to stay competitive in an increasingly global economy, employers will need to hire, train, and retain entry-level personnel." (1) The results of this environment not only affect the bottom line due to the costs of turnover, but also the degradation of morale and corporate culture, which is negatively affecting the workplace.

Companies that are able to retain the best employees in this market set themselves apart as "the best places to work," improving productivity among employees, and significantly improving their bottom line. In addition, human resource departments that are able to retain employees are then able to direct their attention to training, development, and continuous improvement efforts among the companies' most important asset: people.

Understanding the realities of the targeted workforce, which primarily affect the entry-level positions within a company, results in Employer Resource Network (ERN) members significantly improving the retention of employees. When an employee is living in daily instability outside of the workplace, their work may not be their primary focus. Instability is caused by a number of things, depending on the individual, but the most common issues are related to child care, reliable transportation, stable housing, family crises, and food scarcity. "Studies show that stress and dissatisfaction at work negatively impact relationships and parenting style. At the same time, stress and concerns at home can negatively impact work performance. Both need to be addressed by attaching families to necessary work supports including transportation, child care, and ongoing job counseling and case management." (2) Employers need their workforce to be focused, engaged, and "present" in order to maintain productivity, excellent customer care, and workplace safety. Additionally, employees that are distracted by extra-work issues are less likely to develop into long-term assets to the company because their focus is not workplace success but daily survival.

For any individual in the community, a host of resources needs to work together for positive results and impact to happen. Often, for those who come from under-resourced communities and live in daily instability, just having a job and showing up to work is a major victory. Employers, on the other hand, cannot grow their company on "presenteeism"; they need fully engaged, loyal, and developing employees to grow their business in this competitive marketplace. Adding to this dilemma is the reality that individuals coming from this environment are entering into a workplace that functions on different social norms (hidden rules) and expectations. Where survival in a particular neighborhood leans more on relationships and "who I can respect," the workplace is built on systems, procedures, formal language, and policies that are designed to build the company as a whole. These differing paradigms about how the world works result in "collisions" that inevitably leave under-resourced, unstable employees terminated or on the verge of losing their job. No one wins when this happens--not the employee, the manager or supervisor; the company, the neighborhood; nor the public human service system.

What is an Employer Resource Network?

Consortium of Businesses

Employer Resource Networks (ERNs, see chart above) are a solution to the ongoing problem of workforce retention and productivity. The ERN concept originated in Michigan as an innovative, employer-based program that establishes consortiums of small to mid-sized businesses or employers (often diverse in both size and industries) to provide job retention services, help with barrier removal, and offer work supports and other opportunities for employees to help them succeed at work and at home. …

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