In the last few years, as more and more jobs have disappeared, those who have remained employed have considered themselves very lucky. No matter how much they've been pushed to do more with less, or how many benefits they've lost, many of these workers have adopted the mantra: "Just happy to have a job."
If a recent Manpower survey is any indication, you'll be hearing this mantra less and less as the recovery continues, and employers who've had little to worry about in terms of retention are in for a rude awakening.
According to the survey, employers and employees are not in synch when it comes to their expectations for attrition in the coming year. Employers may be the ones to pay the price for the disparity when the keepers of their organizational knowledge — a key competitive advantage — walk out the door.
The survey of 2,000 North American hiring managers indicated that 80 percent expect less than five percent of their employees to leave the company voluntarily in 2010. But a survey of employees by Manpower subsidiary Right Management revealed that 60 percent of people intend to pursue new job opportunities if the economy improves this year — six in 10 workers.
"'These survey results are a wake-up call to employers,' said Jorge Perez, senior vice president of staffing for Manpower, North America. 'As soon as the job market gains momentum, we will see a high volume of workers leaving their roles for new positions. Given that most companies are operating with slimmed-down staff levels, there is little redundancy in jobs roles, and that puts employers at high risk of losing critical organizational knowledge.'"
"According to a report of The Conference Board: 'Twenty years ago, some 60 percent of [the baby boomer] generation was satisfied with their jobs. Today, that figure is roughly 46 percent.' But that's not all: 'the youngest cohort of employees (those currently under age 25) expresses the highest level of dissatisfaction ever recorded by the survey for that age group.'
"There is no single reason for that dissatisfaction, according to the report: 'The drop in job satisfaction between 1987 and 2009 covers all categories in the survey, from interest in work (down 18.9 percentage points) to job security (down 17.5 percentage points).'"
Contemplating the reason for the steady decline in job satisfaction, Eisold said, "I suspect that we have all come to understand that America has gradually become a stratified society of classes with different interests and increasingly rigid boundaries. The rich are not only richer but they have foreclosed opportunities for others. The gap in corporate salaries between top executives and entry-level workers is far greater than it ever was. The political class increasingly depends on personal wealth, family connections, and special interests. Immigrants are no longer welcome. And the poor are getting poorer — even as they gain access of unemployment insurance and health care.
"And, then, workers are pressured to become more productive while accepting lower job security and fewer work place amenities and benefits."
Whatever the reasons, six in 10 workers are so dissatisfied with their current jobs that they plan to look for new opportunities.
Employers, this is a huge number, particularly if some are among your key employees. However, there are things you can and should do now to minimize the negative impact on your company if indispensible Jane and Joe decide to leave.
Cross train. Any company that doesn't have backup personnel for each key position is shortsighted and foolhardy. This is always true. Not to be morbid, but even your happiest and most reliable employees could drop dead or become otherwise incapacitated.
Look around your operation. Are there key functions that only a single individual knows how to perform? Find another employee you can train as a backup.
Document processes with thorough, yet simple, instructions that can be used by backup personnel. Yes, it can be difficult to implement cross-training with a bare-bones work force, but it's necessary.
To help you build a strategy for knowledge retention and transfer, Manpower has developed a paper and other materials (all free) that can be found here.
Employees, if you're one of the six in 10, good luck in your search. Don't let age deter you.
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