Employee Retention: Program, Survey & Ideas

Good employees are hard to find. What are other companies doing to retain their staff?

Maybe it’s due to the current tight labor market. Or maybe the reason is the Internet, where information about salaries and jobs makes the market more transparent and competitive. Or maybe it’s today’s Me Inc. mindset, which holds that we’re all in business for ourselves regardless of who employs us at the moment

Whatever the reason, people are leaving jobs and accepting new ones at a faster rate – and with much less emotional travail – than in the past. Job stability and company loyalty no longer are seen as absolute virtues, and having held four or five jobs in 10 years doesn’t automatically brand you with a scarlet “J” (for job hopper). In fact, diverse experience is likely to increase your desirability.

All this worker mobility and independence, coupled with the healthy economy, has led to a new problem for employers – retention. Keeping skilled employees has become a major and costly challenge.

Financial giant Merrill Lynch, for example, is facing a turnover problem among its up-and-coming stockbrokers (called financial consultants, or FCs). Many successful Merrill brokers with three to five years’ experience are being lured away by other brokerage firms paying bonuses of $500,000 and more, depending on how much business they generate. To help combat the problem, Merrill managers are being charged with not only attracting good FCs, but also keeping them. Managers’ pay and career success will depend on slowing the broker drain.

Other companies are rearranging their compensation policies to encourage workers to stay, which often translates into bigger bonuses and higher base pay. In especially tight labor markets – places where lots of employers are competing for the same labor pool or in specialized fields such as computer networking where there is a national shortage of workers – companies are adding creative and thoughtful perks as well as money. Quality-of-life benefits like free dry-cleaning services and on-site take-out food, and more comprehensive and expensive benefits like elder care are popping up.

Some companies are even taking the most radical step of all: actually asking employees what’s driving them away, listening to them, and then taking steps to correct the problem. Of course, most employees won’t talk about what’s wrong with their work environment until they’ve secured another job and given notice. And if they’re not asked, or if they are sufficiently unhappy, they won’t talk about it then, either.

What’s driving the departures? Most times, it’s not money (although when a new job pays significantly more, money does count). The chief reason for leaving, experts say, is unhappiness with one’s immediate boss. If a manager is tyrannical, arbitrary and cannot provide a sense of direction – or simply is clueless – underlings now find it easier to vote with their feet.

Thanks to the strong economy and the demand for talented people, many workers enjoy the freedom to escape from bosses who don’t meet their standards. In the past, a not-so-great boss was the price many of us paid to receive a paycheck. Today, power is more evenly balanced between employer and employee. So score one for the New Economy.

Article – Copyright 2000 Evan Cooper. Syndicated by ParadigmTSA

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