In the Face of Corporate Goliath: Be an HR Hero

On November 13th Amazon announced it would split its second headquarters between Arlington, Virginia and Long Island City, New York. This will allow the company to pull from talent in both New York and Washington D.C., and, they suggest, limit their impact on these communities. While it is difficult to anticipate the impact of Amazon’s second headquarters, there is no doubt that bringing 50,000 jobs with an average salary of $150,000 will impact local employers.

Amazon employees’ average salary is 20% higher than the national average and in cities already well above average, Amazon has promised high salaries and extensive benefits. With a reputation for being extremely challenging but well worth it, Amazon attracts the best and brightest with more than competitive salaries and promises of professional success. While it is still unclear how many employees will be relocated to the area, experts agree that Amazon’s arrival will immediately impact the local workforce; creating a more competitive environment for those seeking to hire skilled labor.

Immediate implications of Amazon’s arrival seem bleak, but most agree that the long-term effects on skilled labor will be positive for businesses that remain competitive. An additional influx of new workers, some anticipate more than 80,000 over the next five years, will increase the pool of skilled workers; creating an overabundance of employable professionals in the area. While this remains to be seen, the effects on unskilled labor are inevitable. The introduction of high-paying jobs will undoubtedly increase housing costs and cost of living. Ultimately pushing low-income, blue collar workers to the fringes, making it difficult for organizations that rely on them to remain competitive.

In the face of industry change, the best way to begin is to ensure your employee compensation remains competitive. It may be impossible to offer an average salary of $150,000 but a competitive salary coupled with benefits that leave employees feeling valued go a long way to increase loyalty. Utilizing benefits such as employee assistance programs, flexible scheduling, work from home days, and increased vacation time can keep your organization competitive without unreasonable impact to your bottom line.

In fact, be careful about haphazardly increasing wages. This last-ditch effort to retain employees may do more damage than good. Instead, companies should ‘double-down’ on what makes them unique. Stress your mission, your vision, and the appreciation you feel for each individual employee. When employees feel valued and included in planning for the company’s future they are more likely to feel challenged, satisfied, and remain loyal.

In the face of Goliath, leaders, managers, and HR professionals have the unique opportunity to strengthen their organizations and their industry. While companies like Amazon may have the name and unprecedented finances, this alone is not what attracts and retains employees. Big businesses often lack the personal relationships and individualized professional development that attracts candidates to small business. Rather than fighting Amazon’s arrival, use it to stress your mission, the value you place on individual employees, and what makes your organization great.

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