American workers are unhappy with their jobs. The number of employees who are considered to be under “high stress” has increased by 15% from just six months ago, according to a survey by ComPsych Corporation (http://www.compsych.com/jsp/en_US/core/home/), a leader in guidance resources such as employee assistance and work life. The primary cause? Several years of slow economic growth has translated into no salary increases and increased workloads. This stress is so consuming, they found, that it’s keeping many workers from performing at their best. Layoffs have also raised stress levels. The Conference Board recently reported that their most recent survey has recorded the highest level of employee discontent since the survey commenced in 1995. The bottom line is that many, if not most, employers are in deep trouble — even if they think they are not. Even organizations that have not suffered financially through the recession have overworked, stressed, and unhappy employees. Many employees are simply frustrated because they have not been able to escape their boss, make a career move, or get promoted because of the recession. Many are looking for jobs now. Use of job boards has never been higher, and I suspect that much of the activity is from those who are employed and who are looking for their “next great job.” I think it’s safe to say that virtually every employer is at the highest risk in a decade for record employee turnover. So what can recruiters do about this? After all, most of the turnover we are talking about has not been caused by bad hiring decisions. It has been caused by economic and other factors that we, as recruiters, have no control over. As in most situations, there are things you can do to deal with the issues internally, and there are ways to think outside of the traditional box. In the traditional world we work to improve worker loyalty and to find ways to stem the expected exodus. While we need to do what we can in this regard, reality says that despite all our efforts many will still choose to leave. And we need to have their replacements ready. What you have to do is to start developing a strategy to replace those who leave. Here are a few ideas on what you could realistically do to keep a few whom you might lose, but more importantly how to find the rest of the people you will need. 1. MAKE IT EASY FOR PEOPLE TO MOVE AROUND IN YOUR ORGANIZATION. One of the best ways to keep people who are thinking of leaving is to allow them to, in effect, get a new job within your organization. Do not limit transfers. Let people try out areas where they have little experience. Encourage cross-fertilization and give people the support and development they need to succeed in the new position. Never tell an employee that they are not ready, too junior, not educated enough, or haven’t worked at the firm long enough to do whatever it is they want to do. To tell them any of those things is a guarantee that they will leave you. While this will not retain everyone, it will help. 2. SURVEY THE LOCAL MARKET AND DEVELOP A TALENT MAP. Survey your own organization. Working with HR and hiring managers, compile a list of your most critical employees. These are the people who contribute to your organization’s product development, design, sales, or customer service. If many of these people left, your organization would definitely feel the pain and lost revenue. Then, using your market knowledge, estimate how difficult it will be to find these people and how difficult it will be to convince candidates to come work for your firm. You need to know your reputation and image in the local community. Are you an employer of choice? With this knowledge in hand, you can start compiling a list of all the organizations within a reasonable radius of your organization where there are people you may want to hire. Focus on the people within those organizations who you are most likely to need and who are the hardest to find. Also focus on organizations who have people likely to want to work for you. If you are anticipating a high turnover of project managers, for example, you should find local organizations that also employ project managers. You should try to determine how many of these hard-to-find people the competitors employ and then estimate the amount of turnover they are likely to encounter. This will give you a very rough estimate of the size of the talent pool likely to be available to you. Your own needs, matched against as objective an assessment of supply and your ability to attract new candidates, will be the basis for your strategy. 3. REFINE YOUR INTERNAL NEEDS AND EDUCATE MANAGEMENT. You can use this time before the onslaught of turnover and increased demands on recruiting to educate managers and work with them to refine their thinking about the people they need and the skills that are critical. Let them know what your local image and brand is. Use the talent map you have prepared in discussions with them. This is your opportunity to fill managers in on market conditions, the availability of scare talent, and on the possibility of greatly increased turnover. Anything you do at this point may have an impact on how much turnover actually takes place and on the kinds of people you are chartered to seek. 4. START A GRASSROOTS SOURCING EFFORT. This is the time for you to take a look at your current talent pool and make sure it has enough of the right kinds of people you need to meet the needs you have projected. Most likely you do not have the right mix of people, and you will need to take steps to refine your branding effort to focus on attracting those you are most in need of. Position your messages carefully. Let people know that, while you may not be hiring at this time, you are always interested in identifying qualified and interested people. Make sure your website is designed as a marketing tool and that it clearly conveys what skills you need, what kinds of people you are after, and what the process is for letting you know they are interested in being considered for a position with your organization. Use your employee referral program to start a flow of people that you can sell to and screen into the right possible positions. Let’s face it. People are unhappy, people will leave — most likely in large numbers — and you will be on the frontline of refilling the pipeline. Start now, build a talent pool, identify likely recruits, work the referral programs, and communicate the market situation to your hiring managers. Being prepared will be essential for success and even survival as the economy continues to improve.
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