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Preparing for the Economic Turnaround and the Deluge of Retention Issues

February 15

Retention of top talent and sound internal programs is essential for the survival of all organizations. And, in times of economic turmoil, it is more crucial than ever to encourage current employees to extend their tenure. Currently, retention rates are somewhat inflated due to the economic downturn. However, experts say 55% of people say they will be looking for another job or returning to school once the job market expands. No doubt, some of those future job seekers are currently employed at your organization. In order to prevent a mass exodus of your current staff, employers need to begin preparing today for the future barrage of retention issues once more jobs become available.

First, accept that what's done is done. You can't take back the three rounds of layoffs that happened or your denial of cost-of-living raises for the past two years. Employees won't forget those things, but they're looking for you to make it right. Fifty seven percent of employees believe their employer is exploiting the recession in order to require longer shifts with lower wages. In fact, 49% of workers say a pay increase would most likely extend their tenure and 28% plan to ask for a raise. But salary bumps won't be enough. Start by focusing on your staff members as individuals. Even in a down economy, employees still expect to be treated fairly, be recognized for a job well done, work for a leader who coaches and collaborates, find personal meaning and connection in their work and enjoy a positive work/life balance. Be sure to keep all levels of staff members well informed. Talent is engaged and encouraged to extend their tenure when they are inundated with honest communication. Your staff should receive clear and timely information regarding both positive and negative news from management. Employees also appreciate being involved in discussions surrounding job satisfaction. Employment is about relationships and the strongest relationships are built on trust, respect, recognition and open communication.

Some employees will job-hop no matter what. And admittedly, there is such a thing as good turnover. If there are still under-performers after downsizing, let them walk; you're not losing too much. But simultaneously, identify your top performers and discuss career-pathing options for them within your organization. Companies left standing at the end of the recession may find themselves short-staffed in senior level positions. You'll be surprised how internal promotions can boost morale and do wonders for your retention efforts. Consider promoting a deserving staff member within your company during the economic upswing instead of hiring externally (you'll save money with reduced training). And besides, there will be plenty of entry-level workers to fill any vacant positions.

Consider company-wide retention efforts to benefit those not fortunate enough to receive a promotion. Employees will appreciate your investment in their training. This will convey that your company cares enough about its' staff to advance their skills, potentially resulting in employer loyalty. In the end, at the very least, you'll have a better equipped team. Alleviate staff-wide frustrations. For example, deploy best-in-class technology. No one wants to fight with a rustic desktop everyday! And for Pete's sake, bring back the coffee in the break room!

Realize that investing in or implementing a retention program will be well worth the money spent upfront. Discovering your organization's internal strengths and weaknesses while extending employee tenure during the economic downturn will enable your organization to gain more ground during recovery and surge ahead of your competitors when the economy rebounds. Employers face both hard and soft costs when staff members leave their organization. When top employees leave, they take intimate knowledge of the organization, sales and customers with them, while competitors gain an advantage by absorbing your former talent. New hires have learning curves to overcome and a lower productivity rate than their experienced predecessors, directly affecting overall business operations, revenues and customer service. Companies must expend 100% of the departing employee's annual salary, 20% for training and an additional 26% in benefits to fill a position. Organizations may also spend resources on agency/temp workers, paid overtime and sourcing costs. Therefore, retaining current employees will add to the bottom line once the economic winds change.

Finally and most importantly, be aware of how your employees are feeling. Employers are overrating morale of their employees. Eighty four percent of employers say their staff members are content to simply have a job when in reality, only 58% of their employees actually feel that way. Engage in Early Impression Surveys (sometimes called Early Intervention or Stay Surveys) to identify factors making employees vulnerable to leaving before they actually leave. By identifying points of pain in the employment experience, you can make appropriate adjustments and prevent turnover before it happens. Engagement Surveys prove useful for gauging how motivated your employees are to perform their responsibilities to the best of their ability. Conduct Exit Interviews to understand why employees leave, what attracted them to your organization initially and what could have been done to prevent turnover. Exit Interviews also provide an opportunity to capture employees' contact information for those who express interest in returning to work for your organization. Alumni or Boomerang programs are an effective way to rehire a former employee who thought the grass was greener on your competitor's side... and regrets it.

TMP Worldwide's retention offerings enable our clients to discover their internal strengths and weaknesses, compare themselves to their competitors, discover points of frustration in the recruitment and on-boarding processes, measure the effectiveness of their branding and internal communication efforts and prevent employee turnover before it happens. Our analysts also provide added solutions and recommendations that our clients can implement themselves to improve internal and external communication programs and strengthen retention and recruitment efforts. Consider strengthening your retention program today.

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