Attract and Retain Your Best in Class Workforce

In today’s business environment, associates at all levels of an enterprise want to feel they will make decisions that impact the forward momentum of the organization and experience and discover new things at unprecedented rates. What’s more, as the unemployment rate hovers below 4 percent – the lowest in half a century, the competition for top talent grows and associates are especially selective regarding career opportunities. For organizations across the U.S., this presents both challenges and opportunities.

Given the cost of employee turnover at the professional level is estimated to be more than 200 percent of the predecessor’s pay for highly educated and experienced positions, business leaders should consider associate retention and a happy and motivated workforce a number one priority.

According to MaryJo Finocchiaro, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for BRE Hotels & Resorts who oversees nearly 200 Blackstone owned hotels and resorts nationwide, the chief influencer in a company’s success lies in the hands of its most valuable resource – an empowered workforce.  The most successful and admired leaders whether guiding a start-up, mid-size entrepreneurial organization, or Fortune 500 company, seek to take important steps to ensure people and culture are front and center to ensure their organizational well-being.

“Leadership sets the tone in an organization and I believe the most vital quality employees seek in a company is that it operates through a leader who possesses honesty and an unshakable moral code.”

-MaryJo Finocchiaro, Executive VP and CFO

So what can companies do to succeed in stewarding their people and company’s culture to build and retain a best in class workforce? Ms. Finocchiaro explains below that it’s about a common value system and goals that begin at the top and permeate the enterprise.

1. Ms. Finocchiaro expressed that leadership sets the tone in an organization and she believes the most vital quality employees seek in a company is that it operates through a leader who possesses honesty and an unshakable moral code. Employees link this quality to their leader’s courage in making the most difficult decisions while ensuring the enterprise operates ethically and in the best interest of their constituents. Other top leadership qualities cited by Ms. Finocchiaro that contribute to exceptional leadership are generosity, a strong work ethic, a vision for the future with an agile strategy for execution, accountability, ability to manage complex situations calling for decisions under rapidly changing environments, and fostering a culture of empowerment, critical thinking, and teamwork.

2. It’s paramount to get talent acquisition right said Ms. Finocchiaro, who has interviewed every employee recruited and onboarded into finance organizations she’s led over nearly 30 years. She says that as a C-Suite leader, you are charged with acting as the chief allocation officer of your department or division. She commented that often company management is of the mindset that they should offer recruits total compensation at the 50th percentile to market, thereby landing safely in the middle. That is counterintuitive to Ms. Finocchiaro who believes if you pay in the middle, you risk mediocrity because you’ve signaled that you aren’t wholly confident in the prospect’s value proposition. She adopted a confident strategy early in her career to pay highly qualified recruits at 110 percent of market and commented that in her experience these newly onboarded associates go on to outperform their counterparts by 300 percent based upon subscribed KPIs. When asked how a company can sustain above market employee compensation conditions, she responded that companies must think about recruitment and retention like an owner. This means you consider your workforce a crucial and undeniable asset in your investment thesis. Be counter cultural and compromise your pay in favor of your employees. This calculated risk will pay huge dividends in the way of employee performance, loyalty, top and bottom-line results and ultimate return. And she concluded, emphasizing that it’s not solely about the best people, but rather the best people that work best together. Talent acquisition measures should be instituted to ensure the prospective recruit complements the existing workforce and culture.

3. She also believes that in today’s work landscape, leaders need to continually invest alongside their people at every level and advises that non-traditional professional development often turns out to be the most powerful. As an example, Ms. Finocchiaro described a continuing education opportunity she recently led in which she she assembled subgroups of her company’s organization with each subgroup composed of multidisciplinary individuals and representing a wide range of experience. Each subgroup was assigned a set of hotels and resorts located in the northern and southern California foothold markets and assigned a situational analysis to solve for. The teams completed a SWOT analysis and presented their findings, recommendations and solutions to BRE Hotels’ leadership leading to quantifiable value creation.

4. Ms. Finocchiaro also said so many companies reach scale before undertaking the discipline of adopting core values, a mission, vision and strategy. She strongly advocates for leaders to be mindful that these initiatives should be undertaken at the start up stage to align, guide and shape the culture of the organization.

5. Ms. Finocchiaro notes that we operate in a service economy. She recommends company executives and their associated workforce recognize customers may shift their affiliation if their needs are not foreseen. What’s more, she believes that executives can count on the fact that newcomer digital giants will be a disruptor to promote their next opportunities. Ms. Finocchiaro believes a workforce that embraces and promotes high touch and superior service will benefit in this backdrop.