Disconnects threaten retention crisis

Nov 09 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Fewer than one in five U.S. employers are well positioned to attract and retain top talent as a new study finds a troubling gap between employers and employees on critical issues such as retention factors, training and work-life balance.

As a serious talent and worker shortage looms in the U.S., new research warns that many employers aren't taking the steps necessary to retain existing employees and attract top talent from the shrinking worker pool.

The 2005 Emerging Workforce Study, carried out for staffing and recruiting company Spherion, reveals a growing disconnect between employers and employees on the factors that will keep workers in their current positions.

For example, while six out of 10 workers rate time and flexibility as a very important factor in retention, only a third of employers share their view.

Similarly, only half of employers rate financial compensation as a very important driver of retention compared to seven out of 10 of their workers.

More startling, employers only expect only one in seven of their workforce to leave in the next year, but Spherion's data shows that nearly four out of 10 U.S. workers are intending to find a new job in the next 12 months.

The scale of this disconnect is less surprising in light of the fact that fewer than half (44%) of workers believe their companies are taking steps to retain them and nearly a third (31%) believe there is a turnover problem at their company already.

Only a third of the HR managers surveyed even mentioned turnover or retention as one of their key concerns

But despite this, only a third of the HR managers surveyed even mentioned turnover or retention as one of their key concerns.

"There's no doubt that talent will be a defining success factor for companies in the years to come and our latest study sheds light on just how differently employers and employees view key issues in the workplace," said, Spherion's CEO, Roy Krause.

"It is imperative that organisations understand these disconnects and make the right adjustments to their HR strategy and policies to meet the evolving desires of the U.S. workforce.

"Employers that choose not to react could seriously hamper their ability to compete for top talent, especially as continued demographic and attitudinal shifts amplify this issue."

One of the biggest disconnects between employers and employees is the importance workers place on their ability to maintain a balance between their professional and private lives.

In its 2003 study, Spherion found that more than eight out of 10 U.S. workers agreed that work balance and fulfillment was a top career priority and almost all agreed that an employer was more attractive when it helped them meet family obligations through options like flextime, telecommuting or job sharing.

However, it appears that U.S. employers have still not responded to that need.

The latest study found that a-third of workers between the ages of 25 and 39 feel burned out by their job and almost one in three say their employers expect them to stay connected to the office outside normal office hours.

At the same time, only a quarter of employers offer a formal flex-time program and around one in 10 have woken up to the benefits of telecommuting or job sharing.

Even more concerning, many companies remain implacably opposed to offering any type of work-life balance programs at all. In all, six out of 10 said they have no plans to offer job sharing, more than half don't plan to offer telecommuting and a third don't plan to offer flextime.

"It is clearly evident that maintaining balance continues to be a top priority for most workers, but technology and increasingly strenuous employer expectations have eroded the concept of traditional office hours, vacations and personal time for many," Krause said.

"Employers that choose to ignore or discount this important issue expose themselves to a greater chance of employee burnout, lower productivity and eventual turnover."

Yet faced with a workforce whose values and expectations that vary drastically from what managers have previously encountered, the survey suggests that the majority of U.S. organisations are simply failing to adapt or even acknowledge the changes going on around them.

Indeed, the study suggests that only one in five organisations have the progressive mindset, policies and structure in place to attract and retain top talent and maintain workforce flexibility to easily adjust employee levels as demand warrants.

Emergent employers characterised as those that embrace management practices such as work-life balance, training and development and retention - reap benefits such as increased flexibility, cost savings and ability to weather economic fluctuations because they can hire the right mix of full-time and contingent resources

On the other hand, traditional organisations, representing a third of all employers, may have the greatest disadvantage when it comes to attracting and retaining talent because of the vast disconnect between management and employees.

The remaining half of employers appear to be migrating from a traditional to emergent management style. While these have begun to implement some emergent practices, they have a ways to go before becoming ideal employers.

"Not only do such best HR practices help bring top talent into their organisations, but studies have shown that implementing such practices result in better company growth and employee expansion," Krause added.

"The reluctance or inability of the majority of U.S. companies to adopt emergent qualities is certainly mystifying, and I hope these findings serve as a wakeup call.

Emergent companies will continue to make strides with employees and candidates, while the rest will fall further behind in the battle for talent."

The Disconnect - Drivers of Retention

Employer View Worker View
1. Management climate (80%) 1. Financial compensation (69%)
2. Supervisor relationship (80%) 2. Benefits (68%)
3. Culture & work environment (65%) 3. Growth & earning potential (64%)
4. Benefits (61%) 4. Time & flexibility (60%)
5. Growth & earning potential (58%) 5. Management climate (60%)
6. Training & development (54%) 6. Supervisor relationship (57%)
7. Financial compensation (49%) 7. Culture & work environment (54%)
8. Time & flexibility (35%) 8. Training & development (49%)