In many industries, recent years of high unemployment have shielded companies from the consequences of increased worker mobility and turnover in the modern office.
Even if a productive worker becomes restless, their boss could be confident there was a replacement ready to fill their place.
But if the recovery continues, employers will start losing that leverage and keeping good workers motivated could become a key attribute of successful ventures.
“In the recession we had too few jobs and too many people, while going forward, when the baby boomers retire, we will have the opposite: too few qualified applicants,” said Karyn Rhodes, vice president of human resources consulting at Cornerstone in Warwick. “The better an organization does at retainment, the more successful they will be.”
So what strategies are proving effective at helping companies keep workers from looking for the door?
Local human resources experts say good communication and providing new challenges are now central to good retainment practices.
“Really explain what the company’s short- and long-term goals are and let them know how important their role is in the bigger picture,” said Sarah Pontarelli, division director for staffing company OfficeTeam’s Providence branch. “Meeting once a week or quarter on production metrics, maintaining an open-door policy and asking for their input is important. If people feel they are being heard and their ideas received, and that they are part of the bigger picture, they are more likely to be engaged.”
When communication channels are open, Pontarelli said managers can then work with key employees to diversify their tasks and expand their responsibilities.
Those new responsibilities don’t have to be core operational tasks now being performed by colleagues, but can include roles in special task forces on new corporate initiatives or even committees organizing a holiday party or charity event.
Of course, paying workers more money is the simplest and most universal strategy for convincing them to stay, but handing out selective raises can erode morale for the larger workforce, and in many cases tight profit margins prevent across-the-board pay hikes.
And there is evidence to suggest that workers’ levels of interest and motivation are as significant in their decisions to stay at a company as compensation.
In an OfficeTeam survey of 869 workers released in July, 61 percent said they would likely leave their current position if they felt “disengaged.”