A Third Of Employees Are Ready to Quit: How To Hold On To Yours

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Take a look around your office. A third of the people you see think the best thing 2012 could bring them is a new employer. And that’s true all over the world; something that’s worrisome for multinational companies.

This year’s annual “What’s Working” study just released by Mercer, a global HR advisory firm, might be more aptly named “What’s Not Working.” Besides showing that almost a third of U.S. employees are seriously eyeing the exit, the survey found that more than half of senior managers are among them. And if your hope is to replace the retiring boomers on your staff with some of your up and comers, think again. More than 40 percent of employees 34 and younger are tweaking their resumes, too.

Who’s Leaving and Why

At the depth of the recession employees were grateful just to have a job, but now the bloom is now off the rose. The stress and strain of being tasked to do more with less, watching co-workers get laid off and worrying about their own fate, and suffering through salary freezes have finally taken their toll. Despite economic uncertainties, employees—particularly those with the best prospects—are now confident enough to make a move.

All of the demographic and labor force factors that led to the labor shortages of just a few years ago are still there. But we seem to have fallen into a recession-induced amnesia about them.

The cost of losing a trusted employee is estimated at between 75 percent and 200 percent of an employee’s annual salary. That’s not including the drain on organizational memory or the cost of customers and co-workers that may follow them.

To Keep Your Employees, Keep Them Engaged

So how do you keep from losing your best and brightest?

Mercer’s answer is engagement, something they call the Holy Grail of 21st century management. An engaged employee, according to Mercer, is one who feels a vested interest in the company’s success and is both willing and motivated to exceed their job requirements.

The 2011 study points to 13 factors that influence engagement (listed in order of importance):

  1. Being treated with respect;
  2. Work-life balance;
  3. The quality of organizational leadership;
  4. Working in an environment they can provide good services to others;
  5. The type of work they do;
  6. The quality of people they work with;
  7. Benefits;
  8. Base pay;
  9. Long term career potential;
  10. Having flexible work arrangements;
  11. Learning and development opportunities;
  12. Opportunities for promotion;
  13. Incentive pay/ bonuses.

Why Engagement Matters

Mercer and other HR experts have shown that the benefits of an engaged workforce go far beyond employee retention. Employee engagement translates into:

  • Increased productivity;
  • Greater levels of innovation;
  • Improved service quality;
  • Higher customer satisfaction;
  • Reduced absenteeism;
  • Lower healthcare costs;
  • The ability to attract talent;
  • Increased competiveness;
  • Higher shareholder value.

While employee preferences and motivating factors differ across industry and location, Mercer found the following four factors consistently have the highest impact on engagement:

  • The work itself—in particular, understanding how their individual contribution fits into the larger scheme of things;
  • Confidence and trust in leadership—managers should act in a way that’s visible and transparent;
  • Recognition and rewards—most importantly they should be internally fair and externally competitive;
  • Organizational communication—it should flow smoothly up, down, and laterally throughout the organization and recognize that not everyone communicates in the same way.

Interestingly, other research shows that merely paying attention to what employees have to say—through surveys, focus groups, and active listening—can have a marked impact on engagement, even without any real change in organizational behavior.

People want to feel like they matter. They want to have some say in where, what, when, and how they work. After all, work accounts for the largest chunk of time they’ll spend at one thing in their entire lives. They want to be treated like thinking adults. And increasingly, if they don’t get what they want, they’ll find it elsewhere.

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