Mark Craemer No Comments

Now that the U.S. economy is beginning to show signs of life and companies are looking to hire again, it’s important to remember that this also opens the door for existing employees to explore their options elsewhere.

The last thing you want now is to lose your top talent to competitors. But if you don’t focus on the things that are important to these employees, you may find that they will indeed leave for greener pastures.

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, nearly one-third of employers (32 percent) report that top performers left their organizations in 2012 and 39 percent are concerned that they’ll lose top talent this year. And while two-thirds of workers stated they are generally satisfied with their jobs, one quarter said they will change jobs in 2013 or 2014.

More than 3,900 full-time workers nationwide participated in the survey that was conducted online by Harris Interactive November 2012. The survey explored which job factors are most important to today’s workers.

“What determines job satisfaction is not a one-size-fits-all, but flexibility, recognition, the ability to make a difference and yes, even special perks, can go a long way,” said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder. “Being compensated well will always be a top consideration, but we’re seeing work-life balance, telecommuting options and learning opportunities outweigh other job factors when an employee decides whether to stay with an organization.”

A better job title is not important to more than half of workers (55 percent), however, upward mobility is key to job satisfaction and employee retention. Other things more important than job title include:

  • Flexible schedule – 59 percent
  • Being able to make a difference – 48 percent
  • Challenging work – 35 percent
  • Ability to work from home – 33 percent

Not surprisingly, nearly three quarters of workers reported that salary increases are the best way to boost employee retention while 58 percent pointed to improved benefits. Other actions workers said employers should take to reduce voluntary turnover include:

  • Provide flexible schedules – 51 percent
  • Increase employee recognition (awards, cash prizes, company trips) – 50 percent
  • Ask employees what they want and put feedback into action – 48 percent
  • Increase training and learning opportunities – 35 percent

Three areas I want to focus on include flexibility, being able to make a difference, and effective managers.

As I’ve written about previously, the flexibility to do the work when and where people want is an important way to stimulate employee engagement.

The premise of Results Only Work Ethic or ROWE is that employees are paid for results rather than hours worked. This provides both the freedom for employees and the results for employers. ROWE is based on the assumption that employees will do more and better work when given the latitude to decide how and when it is done.

In order to do this, of course, requires that these results are closely tracked and measured. If companies can do this and also trust their employees not to take advantage of the flexibility, then they should provide an opportunity for many to work at home.

Making a Difference
When it comes to being able to make a difference, employers need to continually remind workers the importance of their individual and collective contributions. Ensure that no matter the position, every person in every company knows how their contribution leads to the success of the organization. All of us can lose sight of this the further we are from the customer or the end result of our individual efforts.

Having a boss who reminds us of the benefit of our direct contribution can mean the difference between job satisfaction and the need to look elsewhere.

Effective Managers
Another thing to keep in mind is that people are attracted to and seek jobs at companies based on their reputation. On the other hand, people leave companies because of a bad boss. Although it may not show up directly in the research due to fear of retribution, many employees choose to leave a company not because they want better compensation, but because they don’t like their boss.

This dislike could be based on many factors, but it is worth looking into before it becomes an epidemic. Many managers and directors simply never got adequate training and instruction on how to be effective at leading people.

Talented people won’t let an incompetent or unfair manager stand in their way of job satisfaction, and will move on if necessary.

Ensure that your managers and directors know how to motivate and lead people in a way that brings increased productivity without sacrificing employee engagement. This may require training, mentoring, coaching or other interventions that are vital to keeping your top talent.

Don’t let your top talent leave now that the economy is improving. Instead, determine how you can provide what your employees need to increase overall productivity while also what they want to raise employee engagement. Then they will stay.

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