Providing flexible hours is critical to retaining talented employees, according to a study.

The BMO Harris Bank study finds that, other than a salary increase, 53% of American business owners and executives see flexible hours as overwhelmingly the most important strategy for retaining talented employees.

“Implementing the right strategies to ensure retention of top talent is very important, and it’s not always easy,” says Dave Casper, the bank’s executive vice-president and head, commercial banking. “But business owners are making significant progress, adapting their operations to the changing expectations of their employees.”

Other strategies seen to be most effective for retaining talented employees include education, training and development opportunities (33%); increased health and dental benefits (27%); and increased paid vacation time (24%).

The study found that 57% of business owners/executives feel that college graduates are either more prepared or equally prepared to enter the workforce today, compared to 20 years ago.

Furthermore, when it comes to ideal attributes, business owners/executives who are hiring junior employees look for a variety of attributes when considering their ideal candidate: skill set (34%), work experience (32%), personality (32%), references/recommendations (21%) and degree earned/school attended (17%).

“While there are some concerns among business owners, it is important to note that over a quarter of those surveyed said that they had plans to hire at some stage this year,” he adds. “This is a very positive sign for our economic recovery.”

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