Today’s employee retention woes: Where are all the good candidates?

Over the past few years, the global economy has undergone tumultuous changes with the looming threat of a constant recession-like situation. The environment that organizations are operating in today is one characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

In a recent survey released by, 65% of employees admitted to passively or actively looking for a new job already.

The talent retention imperative

As the recessionary scenario is still not away from people’s minds, the identification, motivation, and retention of top talent has become the biggest challenge for HR professionals, since average performers are unlikely to move out in the current economic scenario. Employees are increasingly expected to meet higher targets, while HR budgets are seeing an increasingly downward trend.

Employee retention rationale
Employee retention best practices

By focusing on the fundamentals, organizations can go a long way towards building a high-retention workplace. Organizations can start by defining their culture and identifying the types of individuals that would thrive in that environment.

Organizations should adhere to the fundamental new hire orientation and onboarding plans. Attracting and recruiting top talent requires time, resources, and capital. However, these are all wasted if employees are not positioned to succeed within the company.

Recruitment: Presenting applicants with realistic job previews during the recruitment process have a positive effect on retaining new hires. Employers that are transparent about the positive and negative aspects of the job, as well as the challenges and expectations are positioning themselves to recruit and retain stronger candidates.

Selection: There are a plethora of subjective and objective selection tools that can help predict job performance and subsequently retention. A biodata empirically identifies life experiences that differentiate those who stay with an organization and those who quit. Life experiences associated with employees may include tenure on previous jobs, education experiences, and involvement and leadership in related work experiences.

Socialization: Socialization practices delivered via a strategic onboarding and assimilation program can help new employees become embedded in the company and thus more likely to stay. These practices include shared and individualized learning experiences, activities that allow people to get to know one another, providing employees with a role model, mentor, or trainer or providing timely and adequate feedback.

Training and development: Providing ample training and development opportunities can discourage turnover by keeping employees satisfied and well-positioned for future growth opportunities. In fact, dissatisfaction with potential career development is one of the top three reasons employees often feel inclined to look elsewhere.

If employees are not given opportunities to continually update their skills, they are more likely to leave. Those who receive more training are less likely to quit than those who receive little or no training. Additionally, employers can increase retention through development opportunities, such as allowing employees to further their education and reimbursing tuition for employees who remain with the company for a specified amount of time.

Employee retention for senior talent

Everyday Blues via

Compensation and rewards: Organizations can lead the market with a strong compensation and reward package as 53% of employees often look elsewhere because of poor compensation and benefits. Organizations can explicitly link rewards to retention (i.e., vacation hours to seniority, retention bonus payments, employee stock options, or benefit plan payouts to years of services).

Effective leaders: An employee’s relationship with his/her immediately ranking supervisor or manager is equally important to continue making an employee feel embedded and valued within the organization.

Supervisors need to know how to motivate their employees and reduce cost while building loyalty in their key people. Managers need to reinforce employee productivity and open communication to coach employees and provide meaningful feedback, and inspire employees to work as an effective team.

Executive coaching can help increase an individual’s effectiveness as a leader as well as boost a climate of learning, trust, and teamwork in an organization.

Employee engagement: Employees who are satisfied with their jobs, enjoy their work and the organization, believe their job to be more important, take pride in the company, and feel their contributions are impactful are five times less likely to quit than employees who were not engaged.

Retention programs

A variety of programs exist to help increase employee retention. Some of these are:

Career development: It is important for employees to understand their career path within an organization to motivate them to remain in the organization to achieve their personal career goals. Through surveys, discussion, and classroom instruction, employees can better understand their goals for personal development.

Motivating across generations: Today’s workforce includes a diverse population of employees from multiple generations. As each generation holds different expectations for the workplace, it is important to understand the differences between these generations regarding motivation and engagement.

Orientation and onboarding: An employee’s perception of an organization takes shape during the first several days on the job. It is in the best interest of both the employee and the organization to impart knowledge about the company quickly and effectively to integrate the new employee into the workforce.

Women’s retention programs: Programs such as mentoring, leadership development, and networking that are geared specifically toward women can help retain top talent and decrease turnover costs. By implementing programs to improve work/life balance, employees can be more engaged and productive while at work.

Retention tools and resources

Employee surveys: By surveying employees, organizations can gain insight into the motivation, engagement, and satisfaction of their employees. It is important for organizations to understand the perspective of the employee in order to create programs targeting any particular issues that may impact employee retention.

Exit interviews: By including exit interviews in the process of employee separation, organizations can gain valuable insight into the workplace experience. Exit interviews allow the organization to understand the triggers of the employee’s desire to leave as well as the aspects of their work that they enjoyed.

The organization can then use this information to make necessary changes to their company to retain top talent. Exit interviews must, however, ask the right questions and elicit honest responses from separating employees to be effective.

Exit interview

Exit interview via

Employee retention consultants: An employee retention consultant can assist organizations in the process of retaining top employees. Consultants can provide expertise on how to best identify the issues within an organization that are related to turnover. Once identified, a consultant can suggest programs or organizational changes to address these issues and may also assist in the implementation of these programs or changes.


Companies that are actually recruiting now are reporting receiving as many as 1,500 or more resumes in response to an ad on the national job boards. After spending countless hours screening these resumes, it’s the same reaction over and over again: “Where are all the good candidates?”

There is high unemployment, but there is still a labor/skills shortage; plus employers’ expectations are very high given the crunch on keeping expenses down. Filling a position is not an easy task now, nor will it be when the economy picks up. The best recruitment tool is going to be retention – and that includes hiring right in the first place – spending money on keeping the employees and training them to do the jobs they need to do.

More money is likely to be spent recruiting from outside and not finding the right skills, knowledge, and commitment than what could be spent on retaining and training employees who are already there.

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