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A recession looms but there is still a demand for skilled workers. The quantity of job seekers has increased over the past six months, but the quality has failed to follow suit.

A year ago, unemployment hovered around record lows of four percent. Today, it’s nudging six. Simultaneously, interest rates have plummeted from more than eight percent to just over three as business revenues continue to shrink.

While consumers may not be buying, logic would suggest it’s at least a buyer’s market for companies in one area: staffing.

Pre-Global Financial Crisis, the cry from many business owners was an inability to attract and retain skilled workers; workers who jumped from job to job on a whim with little regard for stability, longevity or loyalty. How quickly things have changed. Or have they?

There’s no question the quantity of job seekers has increased in the past six months. The quality, however, has failed to follow suit putting many employers in the same uncomfortable spot they found themselves in the second quarter of 2008 trying to do more, or least the same amount, with less.

Have recruiting techniques changed in a year? Are the best methods for retaining staff any different? Should business owners be more involved in the recruitment and retention processes? No, no and a definite yes.

Regardless of the economy’s state, the two most cost-effective recruiting methods remain employment websites and networking. As most business owners can attest, advertise a job opening this morning and you’re swamped with hundreds of applicants this afternoon.

The upside: cost, particularly if you are trying to fill multiple vacancies. A one-off online advertisement for 30 days costs approximately $165. Alternatives like using recruitment agencies save time, but rates can exceed more than 12 percent of the job’s salary package.

Don’t discount the importance of networking in the recruitment process. Filling positions with existing staff and promoting from within brings with it numerous benefits, including the employee’s familiarity with business practices and products, customers and suppliers, reduced training requirements and improving staff morale. Hiring friends or acquaintances, on the premise they possess the necessary qualifications, can also improve workplace relations and performance.

More importantly, retention of staff will save businesses from having to recruit in the first place. Understanding that the number one reason employees stay with a company if the relationship with their boss is a good foundation. As such, the onus falls on the business owner and/or manager to be more involved, regardless of the size of the business. Reckon Limited requires its managers to play a significant role in both the addition and development of employees from resumé analysis and interviewing to training and evaluation. With managers more directly involved, performance strengthens as does the employee’s feelings of value and fitting in with the company culture.

And with the good, so comes the bad.

If business begins to go south, owners and managers should be the bearers of bad news as well. It’s never easy telling an employee they’re no longer needed but by being transparent about the business’s financial position, staff will be more trusting and, more understanding should redundancies be required.

With many businesses now employing fewer staff, multi-tasking has become a necessity not an option. Some may groan about more, or at least different, responsibilities but the wise will realise it presents an excellent opportunity to add skills, improve knowledge and enhance career development. On the flip side, employees will feel justified in demanding a rise that the business may not be able to accommodate and with a host of new skills under their belt, can beef up their CVs and leave for another job.

Staff members remain a crucial, but costly, aspect to the success of every business in good times and in bad. Much more costly, however, if your business can’t keep the good ones.

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