Recently, an article appeared in the Philly Business Journal titled “A key HR indicator is blinking red for employers. Ignoring it could be costly.” The author, Ty West, posits that a key indicator, employee engagement, is declining. The information comes from Quantum’s annual Employee Engagement Trends Report and it indicates that that employee engagement is declining from a peak in 2020. Given the current talent marketplace and the fact that employers across the board are struggling to attract new workers, this is an alarming trend for companies.
The reasons are complicated and numerous as to why this is happening. The trending reason for this, per Quantum, is that the past 19 months of mental, emotional, and physical stress, challenges, and unrelenting pace has stretched everyone to their breaking points and employees are not feeling recognized for their effort to “hang in there.” In addition, companies are throwing money, benefits, and perks at people to attract them that aren’t necessarily being offered to their broader employee community fostering resentment and active disengagement.
Given that there are a lot of companies looking, dissatisfied employees are more confident they can find a better job that pays more relatively quickly. The author then continues about ways some companies are combating this problem with having more definable career plans for positions, engagement activities, looking for ways to decrease the pressure with forced shutdowns and making remote work permanent. The companies that aren’t doing anything to increase engagement may be “holding out hope that things will return to “normal.”” The final line is “but one of the best ways to succeed is to do a better job of “recruiting” your existing workers.
To boil it down, the author has a very good point. Engagement and retention are important activities for employers that want to keep the people they have in any economy, especially their top performers. Now it’s become even more critical given the tremendous demand for talent, the lack of supply to fill open positions, and companies actively looking to take people from other companies. The old way of thinking you can just replace someone easily is gone, maybe for good. No one knows when the supply will return and when people will reenter the workforce or start applying for jobs again. Any prediction is an educated guess at best.
Recruiting new employees has become a company’s number one challenge in a lot of cases. Not being able to fill jobs has prevented growth, forcing employers to reduce operating hours, and adding even more stress to the employees that remain. A wise person once said, “if you want an engaged workforce, engage them.” And since engagement is a large part of retention, employers may want to look at ways they can better understand what their existing staff would like to see from them as an employer. A lot of the answers may be “psychic income,” meaning that it doesn’t cost the employer a lot of money. These could include spot bonuses and special recognition programs with rewards like extra time off.
At Converge, we consult with our clients about these types of programs on a regular basis. There isn’t a “silver bullet” solution or cookie cutter answer to the challenge of retaining employees. Each employee community is different and nuanced because of a lot of factors. Ironically, even engaging the employees in a conversation about what they might like to see can aid in retention. While not all the ideas may be practical, or even possible, the cost of many of these programs pale in comparison to a 25% search fee or the loss of productivity because of constantly unfilled vacancies.
By: Dave Forbes