Once employers have a strong,defined company culture, they'll be prepared to answer the questionof “Why should I work here?” during interviews. (Photo:Shutterstock)

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The stars have aligned for today's job seekers: unemployment is at historic lows and jobopenings are plentiful. For millennials in particular, the urge to seek out a new role is strong. Theirexpectations of the workplace are unlike those of oldergenerations–they want job satisfaction and work/life balance.

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If you think millennials' expectations are high, just wait. “GenZ are the ones driving the technology that is being used,” Bobbi Kloss,director of Benefit Advisors Network's Human Capital Managementteam told attendees at a recent webinar on 2019 HR trends. “These are your AI thinkers, and theywant information so much faster, so much more intelligently based.They're looking for the opportunity to shine. They want that fastercareer track progression, they want to be thatleader within an organization.”

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Related: Job candidates play resumeroulette

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What all this adds up to, said Kloss, is that “at any giventime, 50 percent of your workforce may be thinking, I'm not reallyhappy here.”

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So what is an employer to do? This is one problem that can't besolved by throwing money at it, unfortunately. “Traditionallyemployers have been looking at compensation,” Kloss told attendees.“ Now they need to be looking at work/life benefits.”

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Here are three areas HR leaders should be thinking about as theyaim to attract talented employees (and keep their existing ones) in2019.

Know what you're selling

It's not just the current economy that makes hiring sodifficult. “My competition is not just those in my industry; it'snow my industry, my geographic area, my state area, also across thecountry,” Kloss said. “Big employers are your competitors. Peoplewant to go to work for the Starbucks, the Microsofts, theGoogles.”

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There's a reason these companies are at the top of job seekers'lists: they're constantly at the forefront of competitive employeebenefits. That doesn't happen by accident. It's a shift to amore-strategic approach to human capital management, one thatrecognizes HR as an essential conduit for achieving the company'soverall goals. “It's important that HR be able to understand thebusiness objectives,” Kloss said. “What is the company mission,vision, goals? How are we going to get there, what do we need?”

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This more strategic and holistic approach to hiring andretaining employees results in a strong, defined company culture.Once you have that, not only can companies develop a rewardspackage that's more attractive to prospective employees, butthey'll also be prepared to answer the question of “Why should Iwork here?” during interviews.

Healthy employees are productive employees

A strong company culture is paramount not only to attracting andkeeping workers but ensuring their continued productivity. “If anemployee is not engaged, those are the ones calling in sick to gowork,” Kloss said, noting the impact of employee engagement onproductivity and absenteeism. “All of my costs are affected when Ihave poor employee engagement.”

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Recognizing how various health and wellness issues affectemployee productivity has driven an investment in employeewell-being. High-impact life events, such as the birth of a child,a major illness, a divorce or death of a parent affect not only theemployee but the employer. ”This is where their mind is focused,this is where their concern is,” Kloss said. “They impact anemployee financially, emotionally, socially and physically. That'swhy we're looking at how a culture can be developed around thesefour components.”

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Kloss expects 2019 to see more employers incorporating holisticwellness initiatives and building them into the culture of theworkplace–not just standalone programs.

Perks are good, communication is better

During the webinar, Kloss cited statistics from a recent KornFerry study on the shift in job seeker's priorities. Five yearsago, benefits packages and company reputation topped the list;today it's company culture and career progression. “It's no longerabout 'here's what we're giving you,' ” Kloss said of the typicalsalary and benefits offerings. “They know the competition is sotight that they're not always asking, they're assuming they'regoing to get these things.” Perks like free coffee and game roomshave developed out of the shift in emphasis on workplace culture.“We want to keep people motivated, social,” Kloss said. “These arenice perks for doing those things.”

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Those perks might make employees happier to be at work, but forthe younger generations in particular, they don't move the needleon how happy they are with the work itself. For that, Kloss said,communication is an essential factor. “I need to have my supervisortelling me, am I doing a good job, am I on the right track, wheredo I need to improve?”

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They aren't going to wait for their annual performance reviewfor an answer. Communication and feedback are an essential part intoday's company culture. “I look at onboarding and culture of theworkplace as a longer-term process. I want the employee to know andunderstand the mission, vision, how they're integral to meetingthat vision, how the organization is set up, how they engage withother coworkers,” Kloss said. “This should go from a very in-depthone week integration into the company, into their job, to thosethree month check-ins.

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“Daily conversations with supervisors are important at any timein the lifecycle of the employee, but there should also be thesespecific 3- ,6-, 9-month and yearly reviews,” she added. “Itcontinues through the performance management cycle. Aligning thebusiness objectives with the employee.”

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Emily Payne

Emily Payne is director, content analytics for ALM's Business & Finance Markets and former managing editor for BenefitsPRO. A Wisconsin native, she has spent the past decade writing and editing for various athletic and fitness publications. She holds an English degree and Business certificate from the University of Wisconsin.