The Parking Brain Drain – and How to Stop It


By Kathleen Laney - May 2019

Top parking industry talent is packing up and moving on.

At least, that was a major concern among parking industry leaders during the Annual Temecula Parking Group meetup last October. Over the weekend-long retreat in Southern California, it became apparent that many of us present had noticed signs of a parking industry ‘brain drain.’ 

But should we really be surprised?

Success these days requires thriving in an increasingly demanding environment. Innovation and advancements in technology continue to accelerate exponentially. Unemployment rates in the United States have reached record lows and there are now more open jobs than workers looking for them. And, perhaps most significantly contributing to the talent pains felt among many parking industry employers, there has been high growth in sectors adjacent to parking – sectors that have a sexier image and players with deeper pockets.

Not convinced? Just look at the smart cities market.

The global smart cities market, which was valued at a mere $529.5 billion dollars in 2017, is projected to reach $1.9 trillion by the end of 2023 at an annual growth rate of 24 percent. Such economic potential, unsurprisingly, has attracted a bit of attention. Some of the key players in the smart cities market are none other than Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle – so, nobody with significant resources or anything. And for people of a more entrepreneurial inclination, the smart cities space also has start-ups galore.

Ironically, the advancements that have created growth in parking have also led to a real conundrum for parking employers: their employees have more opportunities than ever these days. As parking has become more high-tech and more integrated with other industries, the opportunities available to those working in parking have expanded in scope and numbers. In today’s tight labor market, parking employers are competing with some formidable players for top talent. 

That means employers need to start paying attention to employee retention strategies. That may sound like a lot of management speak, but retention efforts don’t have to be complex or costly. Initiatives can range from small and incremental to complete organizational overhauls.

Not sure where to begin? Perhaps with that antiquated employee manual.

If you want to make your organization a place where people want to work, start by taking a good hard look at your company’s policies and procedures. If it’s been a while since your handbook has had a revision, now might be the time. It’s not uncommon for employers to create formal processes separate from the more ambiguous core values that make up a company’s culture. 

However, the two really need to go hand in hand. The expectations an organization has of their employees are, in all reality, manifestations of its culture. If the two don’t align, it will be difficult to create the desired culture. Things such as an outdated dress code or overly strict PTO policy can be a big hindrance to achieving your cultural ideals.

For example, if you have a mission statement that focuses on the value of an agile workplace and transparency while handing your new hires a 100-page employee handbook full of technical and legal jargon, you are not aligning your business practices with your supposed desired company culture. 

The bottom line is this: Your internal structures absolutely must be reflective of the environment you are trying to create. So, when crafting your policies and processes, look for ways to encourage employee engagement and you will see your culture strengthen. Workplace policies that are inflexible and emphasize results at any cost will not foster a positive atmosphere of respect.

A strong company culture is not optional today. The workplace culture of an organization has never been more important to a generation of workers than it is to Millennials, and today, Millennials make up over 50 percent of the workforce in the U.S., which means what they think is kind of important.

Being a good place to work isn’t enough on its own. 

People also need to be able to live off what you pay them. Now, I’m not suggesting employers aren’t paying a livable wage, but, if a person can make better wages at another company, with all else being equal, why wouldn’t they take the opportunity for more money?

Which leads us to the next part of an effective employee retention strategy. 

Get honest about your compensation and benefits package. Sometimes this is a tough process, but ask yourself if your company’s pay and benefits are competitive enough to retain your best workers or attract the workers you want. In many small businesses, compensation benchmarks are made by HR managers looking at regional salary information. But in today’s connected and global world, you aren’t just competing for talent with the business down the road, especially not in a niche industry like parking where talent with specialized experience is highly valued and sought after. 

Competitive reward packages today will include a range of comprehensive benefits that will include a base salary, variable pay, retirement, healthcare benefits, paid-time off and professional development opportunities.

Start-ups and small businesses can’t always compete dollar for dollar with companies that have more resources, but that doesn’t mean they can’t offer attractive rewards. These employers can provide perks which are easier to offer to smaller numbers of people such as flexible working, focused training opportunities, casual dress codes, free food, wellness programs – or better yet, the biggest talent magnet of them all – equity in the business. Another interesting benefit that is increasing in popularity is assistance in paying off student loans.

Once again, the compensation and benefits you offer employees should be reflective of your desired company culture and enticing to the type of employees you are trying to attract and retain. Do take note, that if you don’t have a ‘pay-for-performance’ component available to all your employees, you are missing out on a real opportunity to increase engagement and productivity.

Because, after all, talent stays where talent feels wanted.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2019 issue of Parking Today.

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