Unseen employment issues

Many plant engineers are looking forward to the day when business conditions improve, and they can hire one or more people to make up for staff reductions over the past couple of years. The prospect of being able to hire again is indeed a pleasant one. Trouble is, you could be headed for some hiring you hadn't planned on — replacements for some of your present, valued employees who sudden...
By Richard L. Dunn, Editor October 10, 2003

Many plant engineers are looking forward to the day when business conditions improve, and they can hire one or more people to make up for staff reductions over the past couple of years. The prospect of being able to hire again is indeed a pleasant one.

Trouble is, you could be headed for some hiring you hadn’t planned on — replacements for some of your present, valued employees who suddenly leave for greener pastures elsewhere.

There’s been a lot of talk about pent-up demand for products. There hasn’t been much about the pent-up desire of many employees to bolt at the first chance of finding work elsewhere. I hope that’s not the case with any of your workforce, but the latest surveys would seem to indicate otherwise.

Accenture, a global management consulting firm, says that nearly half of middle managers in the U.S. are either currently looking for or plan to look for another job. Their survey, which queried more than 500 middle managers, found that 38% of respondents are currently looking, and another 10% plan to do so when the economy improves and the job market strengthens.

And, while you might think that the employees who have stuck with it through these tough times are extremely loyal, the truth may be that they simply feel trapped.

Nearly 20% of respondents to another survey, conducted by Walker Information, specialists in loyalty issues, said they are likely to actively search for job opportunities at other companies. Marc Drizin, a vice president at Walker, cautions that the rise in national unemployment levels may be lulling employers into a false sense of security.

I think most of us would be hard pressed to endure a 20% turnover in our staffs.

Of course, there’s always the flip side to any problem. A high number of people looking to find new work means there may be some terrific candidates for a spot you’re looking to fill. Even so, replacing any good employee can be a costly proposition — as much as 18 months worth of salary according to some estimates.

So, what can you do to increase the chances of retaining the valued employees you have? While money is important, it’s not necessarily the deciding factor.

“You can always buy employee retention by throwing more dollars at the situation,” Drizin says. “However, just because they stay, doesn’t mean they’re loyal. They’re just more trapped.”

While pay is a top issue, other factors, like fairness, care and concern for employees, training, opportunities for growth, and career development are also extremely important in developing loyalty.

So, until the job market opens up, you might want to put some effort into ensuring that your best performers are not the first to take advantage of it.