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Human resources: Why are so many employees looking to leave?

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Thursday, March 01, 2007
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There are a lot of scary things in the world for employers. Executives can be worried about market share, price points, customer loyalty, competition and cash. They can see not-so-hidden hurdles around every corner and under each invoice that must be paid. Business gurus alert us daily about threats and challenges to virtually every industry.

So when a real danger exists, it is possible for it to get lost in all the noise. Here is what ought to be of major concern to every employer: According to a recent survey conducted by the highly credible Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Wall Street Journal’s CareerJournal.com, “Approximately three-fourths of employed respondents are either actively or passively job searching.”

The specific numbers were 41% actively looking for other employment and 35% posting resumes and browsing classifieds (passive job searching). Only 24% of those responding said that they were not job searching at all. Another scary number is that 44% of the employed respondents said that they were likely to increase or begin efforts to find other employment during this year. So it is possible that the 24% reporting no job search activity may be anticipating beginning in the near future.

It may be that executives are already apprehensive about this trend. The SHRM survey also found that three-fourths of human resources directors are concerned about the increasing number of voluntary resignations, while 61% of executives indicated a similar concern.

And lest you think that this is only one survey likely to apply to your employees, consider  what another survey just completed by Compensation Resources found: “Turnover among managers has jumped from 4% in 2004 to 8.8% in 2006; from 8% to 16% for salespeople; and from 7.5% to 17.5% for skilled manufacturing employees.”

In order to stem the departure of professionals and mid-level managers (many of the people who indicated that they were looking for other employment), organizations must understand what is prompting them to exit. The results from Gallup’s work over the past several years suggest approximately 70% of all voluntary employee departures are because of the direct supervisor. Lack of recognition, unclear expectations, little or no encouragement, no investment in development, and abrupt and harsh treatment are cited as routine. Supervisors who connect, communicate, care, and develop workers are far less likely to have a high level of departing employees. Just look at this year’s 100 Best Companies to Work for in Oregon to see how much this means.

Another cause of higher turnover is because many employees have felt they were being taken for granted. During the last few years when the economy was struggling, employees understood why they weren’t receiving raises. But now that there has been a turnaround, business is better, and money is flowing more easily, employees wonder why their loyalty isn’t being rewarded with larger increases or more responsibility.

Comments on satisfaction surveys reveal that they believe that the employer isn’t paying sufficient attention to employee advancement, training, sharing organizational information, or soliciting ideas and suggestions from employees who know their jobs best.  

Employers don’t have to offer everything that Google does (Fortune magazine’s Best Company to Work For 2007), where the perks include on-site washers and dryers, a $5,000 subsidy if the employee buys a hybrid car, and free on-site oil changes, just to name a few. But they do need to establish a positive relationship with their employees if they want talented people to stay.  

Let’s face it, if the work relationship isn’t what employees want or can have with another company, then it’s the best employees who will leave, not those who cannot interest another organization in hiring them. The best talent will say goodbye and take their skills and knowledge elsewhere. Customer relationships, valuable experience, and an understanding of how things work at the organization all depart with them. That’s sad, because it really isn’t that hard to create places where employees know they are valued.

Business success is the result of good products and services and great employees. Those who build great places to work will enjoy the benefits of innovating, energized and engaged employees. Those who believe that there is another employee where they found the last one are likely to be surprised by the turnstile at their door.

— Judy Clark, SPHR, CEO, HR Answers
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