By Jim Wilkins
As you likely have heard by now, retail-giant Amazon confirmed a long-standing rumor on Monday, July 22nd by formally announcing its expansion into the Akron metro area. It is building a 2.8 million square foot fulfillment center in Summit County to be located at the site of the now-defunct Rolling Acres Mall. Amazon estimates the Akron center alone will cost more than $100 million and will employ 1,500 local residents by the fall of 2020, mostly in entry-level, low-skill positions. Later in the week, Amazon also announced opening of a much smaller facility in Mogadore that is expected to employ an additional 200 workers.
This news marks a positive development for the Akron area as a whole and will certainly boost the city of Akron’s income tax receipts. However, Amazon’s presence is also likely to change the calculus for many employers in this labor market as they make projections about the long-term sustainability of their current workforces. Akron’s unemployment rate was most recently measured at 3.4%, its lowest in more than a decade. As a result, it seems inevitable that the bulk of the new Amazon employees will be comprised of presently-employed Akronites, allured by a base wage of $15 an hour and a competitive benefits package to leave their current jobs for a position with the “customer-obsessed” megacorporation.
Here at K|W|W, we understand the apprehension employers may be feeling in light of last Monday’s announcement. The imminent influx of available jobs could threaten to poach workers from established employers across a wide array of industries. Rather than despairing at this new development, however, we encourage you to use this as an opportunity to take inventory of what your company has to offer its employees, asking yourself “Why should people choose to work for me?”
It is a basic, unavoidable maxim of supply-and-demand economics that with economic growth comes an increase in competition among employers to attract and retain workers. As Akron’s economy continues to steadily improve, its employers may need to adjust accordingly, tweaking existing workplace policies to make them more employee-centric in light of these newer, more vibrant economic circumstances.
A knee-jerk way to immediately improve employee retention is to increase wages. However, while paycheck size is undoubtedly an important factor that drives many people to change jobs, its importance in retaining employees can easily be overstated. One study has shown that only about 9% of workers cite pay or benefits as their primary reason for voluntarily leaving an old job. More prevalent factors include a lack of career development opportunities (21%), difficulty maintaining a work/life balance (13%), and poor management (11%).
As you mull over these statistical realities in light of our rapidly-changing job market, here are a few questions to reflect upon:
Pay: Are we paying our employees fair market value? Is our benefits package in line with those offered by our competitors?
Advancement: Do we provide opportunities for low-level employees to advance within our company? Are our employees aware of these opportunities?
Scheduling: Does our work schedule allow employees to maintain a healthy work/life balance? Could a primary caregiver or a single parent realistically meet his or her family obligations while working for us full-time? Why or why not?
Recognition: Do we consistently recognize and reward high-quality work? Have we incentivized our employees to want to work hard?
Respect: Do our managers respect, value, and support their subordinates? Would their subordinates agree?
Communication: How often do we solicit employee feedback? When employees express concerns to management or HR, do these concerns get addressed in a timely, appropriate fashion?
Should you decide to make any changes to existing policy, remember that the professionals at K|W|W are available to provide legal guidance and proactive human resources support and to help resolve any legal or HR obstacles that may arise. Although the city of Akron will continue to change, our commitment to serving many of the employers who call it home will not. As always, your workforce is our priority.