The Loop

How to Attract and Retain Quality Workers in an Environment Poised for Turnover

Filed under: Attraction & Retention

Just as the job market has changed significantly over the last five to seven years, so have the benefit packages used to attract quality workers. For example, a report by the Families and Work Institute reveals that 17 percent of U.S. employers provided full pay for childbirth-related disability in 2005, but in 2012 only 9 percent offered this perk.

Consistent with reducing expenses and shoring up the bottom line, companies have cut back on benefits that cost money, while becoming more generous with freebies that offer more work/life balance. For example, according to the 2012 National Study of Employers, companies have increased options that allow employees to better control when and where they work. For example, flex time has increased from 66 percent to 77 percent, flex place from 34 percent to 63 percent, and the ability to take time off during the workday when important needs arise has increased from 77 percent to 87 percent.

The study also found that nonprofits and companies with diverse leadership in executive management positions are more likely to offer generous flexibility and work/life balance benefits.

But how do these changes in company offerings – driven more by years of economic instability than response to worker requests – stack up with what today's top job candidates want from a company? Cornerstone OnDemand recently conducted a survey to track how people feel about their current jobs and company culture. The survey found that more than 19 million employees plan to leave their jobs within the next year. That's a lot of employee turnover.


When asked about employee motivation to stay at their current job, the greatest response (48 percent) said a good manager, followed closely by feeling appreciated by their employer and the opportunity for career growth. Interestingly, rather than focusing on benefits offered, employees appear more concerned with their ability to do a good job – and whether or not they feel that is hampered or encouraged by their direct manager. According to the Cornerstone survey, 6 out of 10 employees say they haven't received any useful feedback in the last six months, and only one in four reports they have established career goals with their manager.

When you consider that for many employees, their manager's position is their immediate career goal, this may be a difficult subject to broach. However, as part of a company's recruitment strategy and onboarding process, it may be useful to establish a "map to success" for each new employee. New hires could engage in this process with HR professionals rather than their hiring manager, in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest. However the process gets engaged, it's important for quality candidates and new hires to have the opportunity to communicate their career goals both at the outset and throughout their time with the company.

By combining the results of performance reviews with each employee's career map, HR professionals can help advise and guide workers to certain benchmarks of success and a higher level of productivity that perhaps an immediate manager cannot.

Towers Watson 2012-2013 Global Talent Management and Rewards Study revealed that currently, employees are experiencing high levels of stress at work. They have been working more hours than normal for the past three years and nearly half of employers say they expect their workers to maintain that pace for the next three years as well. Without career growth opportunity mapped out in a structured plan, it's hard to imagine workers will continue working more hours without a light at the end of the tunnel – particularly if the unemployment rate continues its descent.

The Towers Watson study concludes that now, more than ever, businesses need to develop a strategic employee value proposition (EVP) that balances the career aspirations and general work environment of employees with employer benefits. In other words, in addition to a strong benefit package, listen to find out what your employees really want. Work toward a more responsive corporate culture instead of just a cafeteria-style menu of benefits.

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