Leadership Head’s-Up: They Are About To Jump Ship

Do you know what is really going on with employee morale at your company or organization? Or are you too busy fearing for your own job to know or care? Will your company be able to avoid a brain drain when the economy improves? How can you as a manager or  human resource professional retain your company’s talent?

Take a look at these three reports

In a recent Business Week article, they reported that employees are holding on to their jobs for dear life during this recession. However, pent-up frustration within employees from their current jobs may mean that their frightened posture quickly gets a spine and timidity turns into bravado within the ranks when the economy turns around and companies begin to hire again. It will mean that there will be a massive exodus from many employers once the economy turns around where employers face a brain/talent drain like they haven’t seen in some time.

Unlike in previous times, valuable employees are not so satisfied at their jobs and their willingness to perform at high levels is waning. A Watson Wyatt survey found that the engagement or loyalty of top performers has dropped a whopping 25% in just one year. And sadly, many managers have no idea that this is happening.

Spherion Staffing Solutions found a huge discrepancy between what managers thought would be the things that would retain employees and what those employees actually indicated what they would want in order to remain on the job. Managers thought that they were the most important element in an employee’s decision to stay or leave. However in the Spherion research, employees reported that pay and benefits, or lack thereof, were the major reasons why they would jump ship when they had the opportunity to do so.

Jumping Ship

During the current economic recession, many career promotions, compensation increases, and benefit enhancements have been frozen. Employees may feel that the only way they can play ‘catch-up’ in their career desires is by jumping ship to another employer and negotiating a better package with them after today’s economic shackled are lifted and new career horizons appears to them.

But there may be something else that will help managers retain staff when the economy turns around.

Employees report they are looking for flexibility. This is the case with Millennials, new parents, those who care for elderly relatives, and those considering retirement. Perhaps the company that comes out on top when staff start looking for new opportunities is the company that provides flexible work schedules, telecommuting, or part-time job opportunities.

Employee Investment

Now is an opportune time to start experimenting with these options. It would be a great way to show your workforce that even though you cannot raise salaries, you are seeking ways to help support their personal needs. These efforts have no cost or minimal cost associated with them. Even if your entire company does not support these practices, managers can experiment with their own teams and then demonstrate to others in the company the successes they have experienced. If managers are able to retain talent, they may be a role model for other managers in the organization.

Boosting Morale

Many companies are using flexibility in another way during this recession. Companies are cutting hours in order to avoid layoffs. This strategy can boost morale. Employees who may be anxious about impending pink slips are relieved when they learn that their employer is doing everything possible to avoid layoffs. By cutting back everyone’s hours, companies save money and demonstrate their caring and compassion. Managers may need to revisit both individual and team goals to determine what is actually a priority to accomplish given that everyone is working fewer hours. Avoiding layoffs can increase employee loyalty and commitment resulting in higher retention rates.

The estimates for the cost of replacing one mid-level employee ranges from 150%-250%  of salary. This estimate does not even reflect the cost of lost institutional knowledge and the time it takes for a new employee to come up to speed.

What’s stopping you from experimenting? Have you asked your employees what they want in order to continue their loyalty? What challenges have you found with flexible work practices and how have you overcome them? What other ideas do you have for retaining talent as the economy improves? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Barbara Miller is Managing Director of Artemis Management Consultants
She can be reached at bmiller@artemismanagement.com

Image Sources: jerks.puxley.ca, infoworld.com, microstockprofit.com

One response to “Leadership Head’s-Up: They Are About To Jump Ship

  1. Dear Barb,

    Wonderful and insightful article!

    I believe the most important commitment as a manager, no matter what your retention strategy, is to openly communicate with your people. There is no feedback more awful or frightening than silence.

    Thank you for your thought provoking piece.

    Allison Conway

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