Help Wanted! Attracting and Retaining Top Talent in a Tight Labor Market

December 02, 2016

Hear attendees at this session discuss the current talent marketplace, their hiring plans for 2017, and the innovative approaches they’re taking to retain talent.


Dave Plaskow: This is audio for podcast for our website…
Adam Berman: Great.

DP: … so we have your permission to…
AB: Yes. You get the release.
DP:… put that on. Ok. Why don’t you start by telling us your name, your company, and what you do.
AB: My name is Adam Berman and I am the senior director of talent management at a small boutique management consulting firm called TayganPoint Consulting Group.
DP: Ok. You’re based in Jersey here?
AB: We’re based just over the Delaware river in Washington Crossing Pennsylvania.
DP: Great, great. The first question I have for you is kind of the state of employment right now. Do you… are you finding it’s a buyer’s market, seller’s market – what’s, what’s the state of the, the employment landscape?
AB: The majority of our, of our talent has twenty, thirty and forty years of experience, so we are going after a very seasoned talent base…
DP: Ok.
AB: … and yes, the pendulum is definitely swung in the talent base’s favor.
DP: Ok.
AB: I love using the quote, “the war for talent is over and talent won.”
AB: It is… it is always a challenge to attract and retain the best out there…
AB: … and we struggle with that because we are our people. We don’t have a commodity. We are our people.
DP: Right. Ok, and for your constituents and clients, where do you see hiring going for 2017? Same? More or less? What, what, what’s the…
AB: We’re…
DP:If you’re looking… looking into your crystal ball a little.
AB: … we’re, we’re a small entrepreneurial company. We’re poised for aggressive growth. We’ve been going through aggressive growth for the last seven years…
DP: Ok.
AB: … and we anticipate more of that in the coming year which provides a great challenge for us in terms of attracting folks.
DP: What’s… what would you say the biggest unknown for HR? What, what keeps you up at night?
AB: Keeping our folks engaged. Keeping the… we, we hire and attract some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever worked with in my life, and giving them opportunities – someone with thirty or forty years of experience…
AB: … to stay engaged…
DP: Ok.
AB: … is, is, is a big issue for us.
DP: Ok. So, so are, are you on any level dealing with kids coming right out of school, or…
AB: No.
DP: … just, just seasoned…
AB: We’ve hired, we’ve hired a couple of interns.
DP: Ok.
AB: But…
DP:My, my, my questions there is – and maybe you maybe have some opinions on it – what, you know, where are, where are the colleges succeeding and where are maybe they falling short on preparing kids for, for the professional world?
AB: I think the same would probably be said of me when I graduated way back when – I think the technical skills that, that young folks have as they exit academia are excellent. Their ability to learn now is greater than I think it was twenty or thirty years ago. Twenty or thirty years ago you graduated, you had a ton of facts. Now, they’re teaching kids how to learn because the sheer number of facts changes every day. In the old days, you know, you learned your history and that was it. Now you need a lot more than that. What they struggle with I think is the, the soft skills. I think as…
DP:I get that a lot.
AB: … all of us did early on in our career. So it’s not, it’s not a fault of, of the colleges. It’s not a fault of that students but it’s something that we as professionals who hire and develop people, we need to be… we need to make that investment in our, in our team.
DP: Perhaps, perhaps one the downsides of technology.
AB: Yes. Absolutely.
DP:If I, if I may argue that point. And as far as the, the retention, what are some of the innovative things that you’re finding companies are doing to retain talent?
AB: There, there are tons of great ideas out there. For, for our organization I think the thing that keeps people with us when they really could walk out the door tomorrow, be making more money at another global consulting firm, the reason why they choose to stay with us is that they matter. In a small firm, every individual matters, and they know that, they feel that, and that is one of the things that truly engages them. We’re also very active in our community, and that starts with our people, so they feel they are motivated to work for us because of their commitment to their personal causes. I sit on the board of a cancer foundation…
AB: … and, my organization not only supports that, they recognize that, they reward that…
AB: … and those are, those are big deals for our people.
DP: Ok. Well, Adam Berman here, live from the 2016 EisnerAmper New Jersey Business Summit. Adam, thanks for a few minutes of your time.
AB: Thanks for having me.

DP:Start by just, tell us your name, your company and what you do.
Bill Blum: Sure. My name is Bill Blum. My company is Alpine Business Systems. We’re in Somerset County. We provide comprehensive IT management and services to the small and medium market, as well as some large companies too. We also provide cloud services, security.
DP:So, you’re okay with us using this to put on our website for broadcast?
BB: Absolutely.
DP: Ok, great. I just had to get that little housekeeping…
BB: Yeah, of course.
DP:… measure out of the way. In the, in the, the marketplace, for talent, do you think it’s a, a buyer’s market out there now or a seller’s market?
BB:Totally seller’s market.
BB: That’s, that’s what I see. It’s a very tight labor market. We, we look for Microsoft certified engineers, people who understand cloud services, IT, at every level, from programming on up to infrastructure and, like I said, hybrid cloud services…
DP: Ok.
BB: … and it’s an incredibly tight labor market.
DP: Ok, ok. What, what do you attribute that to?
BB:The fact that the schools are not turning out people with relevant skill sets…
DP: Ok.
BB: … and the constant change in technology which you learn this year in eighteen months is either going to be built upon significantly or changed entirely and completely something different. So, people have limited skill sets in – or limited interest even – in keeping up with it.
DP: Ok.
BB: Some good technicians, good, qualified people, smart people, don’t want to stay, have that drive to, to continually learn.
DP: Ok. What do you see either at, at your firm or colleagues’ firms as far as hiring for 2017? Stable? Less? More?
DP: More?
BB:Yeah, we see the business market for us is – we had our… one of our best years ever this year, and I’ve actually dialed back on sales and marketing because I don’t want to over promise and under deliver.
DP:And what’s… what do you think the biggest challenge is now in HR. What… what’s that keeps you up at night?
BB: The biggest challenge in HR is really vetting the people. Hiring slow and firing fast is, is… not knowing what you don’t know is, is the biggest, scariest thing for us. So we do significant background checks, we have people go through our entire staff before they’re hired. We sit down at a meeting, so we get to really know them from a, a three hundred and sixty degree perspective in our office, ‘cause what I find is, I’ve had this company for thirty years…
BB:… and I’ve made all of the mistakes that hopefully I can make, and one of the biggest mistakes is, is in hiring somebody that you have a gut feeling for that you relate to, that may not be right for the job or for the organization. So, spreading that around to all the different personalities and different viewpoints on the, on the team, and have everybody come together with their ideas and suggestions and recommendations is, is, is very important.
DP: Now, we talked a little bit earlier about where you saw maybe where the, the colleges are falling a little short on, on graduating kids. What do you think they’re doing right? What are they… where are the kids out of… coming out of school doing well?
BB:What they’re doing well, and is, is, you know, the discipline – which has always been there in college – of making them accountable, making them understand deadlines, making them understand what’s expected of them, and I think students respond well to that as from what I’ve seen, and that’s, that’s a skill set that can be easily transferred through anything. So I think they’re doing a good job with that. I think they’re doing a good job of creating a community team atmosphere. The one thing I don’t like about distance learning and remote learning is that all the learning that – I wouldn’t say all – but a good percentage of the learning that we have in my organization comes from teamwork and communication, and I think that… I think those place based universities and colleges have a, a real mission to fulfill in that regard.
DP: Yup, sure, sure. Now, on the retention side, what’s… what are you guys doing? What are, what are other firms you see are, are they doing that might be innovative in keeping people?
BB:Well, what we do…
DP: Good people.
BB: … again, we communicate a lot. I mean, the one thing I found in my thirty years of doing this is that, I heard an interview the other day on, on – the Wharton Business School has a, a satellite radio channel – and they were talking about this subject, and one of the most important things is to be present at all times in every interaction with the employees. Make them feel cared for, make them feel wanted, you know, and be sincere about it and, and, and, and put yourself into it. It takes a lot of energy, it takes a lot of focus.
DP: Yup.
BB: It takes a lot of time. But, I don’t think there’s anything more innovative than being there…
DP: Yeah.
BB: … and understanding people and letting ‘em know that, you know, this is not just technology, this is not just business. We spend eight hours of… nine hours of your day here…
DP:Yeah, sure.
BB:… you know, it’s a big part of your life and we want you to feel like it’s a family, like it’s, it’s, it’s a close knit community that’s got your back in a lot of ways…
BB: … and, and here to help you and hold you accountable…
BB:… and push you forward, you know, and that’s, you know, we had a, a holiday party last year and we had the band come there and a band member was a good friend of mine and he said, Bill, this is really interesting because this doesn’t feel like a company party…
DP: Yeah.
BB: … it feels like a family party, so…
BB: … after working three or four years on that kind of a atmosphere I think that’s…
BB: … I, I felt like I succeeded…
DP: Yeah, yeah.
BB:… in some ways, you know.
DP: Yeah, yeah. Some… sometimes it’s about getting back to basics.
DP: Yeah.
BB: I mean you do a lot of innovative things – I don’t know how innovative it is to let people work remotely from…
DP: Yup.
BB:… time to time, to be very flexible for their personal lives and schedules.
DP: Sure.
BB: That’s just normal, you know, human relations.
DP: Yeah, yeah.
BB:You know?
DP:Ok. Well, well William, thank you so much for a few minutes of your time.
BB:Thank you very much David
DP: Enjoy the summit.
BB:Nice meeting you.

Have Questions or Comments?

If you have any questions, we'd like to hear from you.

More in This Series