Retention: What if 75% of Your Workers Found Other Jobs?

The bad news is that surveys are showing that three of every four of your workers are probably job hunting. The good news is that there are retention strategies to keep them.

If you’re not doing anything special right now, stick your head out the door and look down the corridor. Now imagine three out of every four offices or work stations vacant by year end … their occupants having looked for, and quickly found, other jobs. If such a thing happened, how would your organization operate? How would it survive?

It could happen, according to several surveys of jobseeking behavior.

Polling by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Yahoo HotJobs, and Kronos, Inc., all show some 75 percent of the workforce seeking to change jobs by the end of this year.

There are variations in who the jobseekers are. Younger, nonmanagement types seem the most active, as they usually are. But still, the number is remarkably high. Normally, 30 to 40 percent of workers are on the hunt for employment alternatives.

The reason is understandable. There’s been particularly good weather for jobseeking. With some exceptions, the economy has been growing, with unemployment at near-record lows.

Positions are opening as well, as 76 million Baby Boomers begin to retire. With only 44 million in the succeeding generation to replace them, that’s a recipe for employment opportunity.

From the employer side, it’s a recipe for efforts to expand retention efforts to keep or win back skilled employees who otherwise would be gone. Here are some suggestions to keep a tornado of vacancies from sweeping through your workplace:

–Understand why people leave. It’s not just about money. HR columnist Susan Heathfield, of, advises thinking about the quality of supervision. “People leave managers and supervisors more than companies or jobs,” she notes. Heathfield says be sure that bosses are clear in transmitting expectations and earnings potential, and active in creating a workplace where people can express ideas freely, use their talents fully, and be recognized and rewarded for both.

–Manage generationally. Baby Boomers were a manager’s dream, say several experts. They were workaholics, achievement seekers, and anxious to climb the career ladder. The next generations will not even admit there is a career ladder, writes Ruth Haag, author of a series of books on hiring and firing. “Many have missed the step where they understood they had to work their way up from the bottom,” she says. Instead, they question authority, expect constant feedback, believe in team over individual performance, and see work as only one component of an active life.

–Be flexible. More and more employers are not only thinking outside the box, they’re demolishing the box in terms of workplace policy. Flexible hours, telecommuting, partial-year work with full-year benefits, and even partial pensions before retiring are keeping workers who might retire on the job.

“This is really the first step in establishing a phased retirement program for the nation,” says Kyl Brown, a retirement expert at the HR consulting firm, Watson Wyatt Worldwide. “I don’t think, by any stretch, that it’s the final step.”

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