The resurgence of retention

Here’s an interesting trend we’re seeing: A number of companies seem to be doing a better job of keeping their most valued employees happy.

Mind you, this isn’t across the board. In too many workplaces, skilled individuals are ripe for a move and have one foot out the door, just waiting for the right opportunity. The Conference Board annually conducts one of the most important surveys on job satisfaction among U.S. employees, measuring both areas of satisfaction and factors which might influence turnover. According to their latest report, issued in 2013 (The Conference Board), only 47.3% of employed Americans report being satisfied with their jobs (compared with 61.1% when the survey began in 1987).

This might cause one to conclude that the majority of solicitations (read: recruiting) to leave for greener pastures might succeed — for more money, more flexibility, or more compatible co-workers, for example. But we’re finding this is not necessarily the case in our category of marketing communications/advertising, and more employers are paying attention to what’s truly valued by their employees. Another way to view this is that while most people were hanging onto their jobs for dear life three years ago, now they seem somewhat more likely to be aware that their employers are paying attention to what they want and need.

So, what keeps them in their jobs? It’s different for every individual, of course, but there are trends which tend to align along generational lines. Leigh Branham, a consultant and author in Kansas City who’s an expert on this subject, has written several books (Leigh Branham on Amazon) which are excellent guides to “keeping the people who keep you in business.” We see several things employers are doing which match up with his observations:

1. They align the jobs with the people. Rather than be slavishly rigid about prioritizing the job description, they adapt the responsibilities to match with the available skills and desires of the key contributors they already have.

2. They understand the difference between employee needs and wants, and they listen and respond appropriately. What four different generations need and want from their benefits, their job socialization, and their career development are varied, prioritized differently, and change over time. Employers don’t have to “give away the store” to gain a huge amount of loyalty, and more of them are realizing that.

3. They have a mission or purpose for the organization which their people understand and believe in. When this is done effectively, it’s truly authentic and goes beyond boilerplate. It can be clearly communicated, it’s a touchstone for everything the company does, and it’s both a recruiting and retention tool. An employee who’s a fan is an employee who stays longer.

We admire the companies who accomplish these things, because they’re tough! But the reward is high, and retention builds brand, saves money, and protects corporate continuity.

It makes the recruiter’s job harder. Sigh. But it’s inspiring.

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