Why are your employees looking for a new job? The answer might surprise you

Senior managers are looking at better communication, employee recognition, and professional development as retention tools, but at least one survey points to a far simpler reason employees are looking for greener pastures.

It continues to be a job seeker’s market, and new research from staffing firm Robert Half shows 81 percent of employers are concerned about holding on to top talent, with a third being very concerned — and with good reason. A separate survey revealed 43 percent of workers plan to look for a new job in the next 12 months.

The reason? More money (43 percent) followed by more time off (20 percent). Additionally, 19 percent of workers said a promotion would keep them with their current employer, though 10 percent of workers surveyed said nothing would convince them to stay.

This follows a strong job report that points to increasing confidence among job seekers. In July, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate ticked slightly upward to 3 percent but still fell below the national unemployment rate of 3.7 percent. Additionally, the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) report revealed the quits rate remained at a relatively high 2.3 percent, indicating that workers are willing to jump ship for better career options.

The concern among senior managers about retaining top talent is understandable, notes Jim Jeffers, metro market manager for Robert Half in Madison, considering the number of job options currently available to skilled candidates.

“Nearly six in 10 job seekers have received two or more offers simultaneously when applying for jobs, evidence that organizations are competing over a shrinking talent pool and may even be trying to lure your own employees away,” explains Jeffers. “With that said, there are several effective retention strategies companies can implement to keep workers happy and sticking around.”

According to Jeffers, managers should:

  • Conduct employee surveys to learn how to prevent the best workers from quitting.
  • Regularly evaluate performance and discuss career development.
  • Regularly check in with employees to ensure they are happy in their roles.
  • Regularly benchmark compensation and benefits to ensure the company stays competitive. 

It should be noted that many companies are already undertaking efforts to keep their best and brightest from seeking greener employment pastures. Senior managers surveyed by Robert Half reported using the following retention strategies at their companies; however, their efforts may not always be directed at the right place:

  1. Increasing communication with employees (46 percent);
  2. Improving employee recognition programs (41 percent);
  3. Providing professional development (41 percent);
  4. Enhancing compensation and benefits (40 percent);
  5. Providing reimbursement for ongoing education (33 percent);
  6. Facilitating mentorship programs (26 percent); and
  7. Working with interim staff to prevent burnout of full-time employees (24 percent).

“We know that many workers prioritize enhancing compensation and benefits first,” says Jeffers, “so why does that fall fourth on the list of strategies companies are using? Employers might not be seeing eye-to-eye with workers on what motivates them to stay. It’s also true that the strategies that resonate most depend on the individual employee. Different workers have different needs. Some employees would rather have a shortened work week or telecommuting options in lieu of a pay raise, while others are more motivated by financial gain.”

Jeffers says in today’s strong hiring market, workers in Madison are in a great position to negotiate for the things they want, from higher compensation and a bump in title to better perks and work-life balance options. The key is timing the conversation with your manager carefully.

“Annual performance reviews are a good opportunity to discuss wages,” says Jeffers. “Another good time to ask for a raise is after a big accomplishment or success at work. But avoid asking for a raise during times of financial hardships such as budget cuts, a bad financial quarter, or during layoffs.”

To ask for a raise or promotion, preparation is key:

  • Map it out: Take a good look at your department and examine the possible pathways to a promotion.
  • Paint the picture: Build your case by quantifying achievements and how they benefited the company.
  • Know your worth: Research market rates for your role and industry using resources like salary guides.
  • Rehearse: Practice how you will ask for a raise or promotion in front of others and make sure your confidence shows.  

Still unsure whether you should stay with your current employer or go elsewhere? Jeffers offers the following tips for workers who are considering staying or leaving their current job:

  • Ask yourself, “Why do I want a change?”
    • For example: Do you no longer find your position fulfilling?
    • Do you feel underpaid?
    • Are you frustrated by a lack of professional development opportunities or haven’t been able to advance?
    • Do you not like the organizational culture?
    • Are you seeking better work-life balance?
  • Determine what changes, if any, would convince you to stay.
  • Remain under the radar if you decide to pursue a new job.  

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.