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Five Employee Retention Mistakes Employers Are Making Now
by Ross Blake

Even though it's an "employer's market" with millions of capable people looking for work due to the recession, many employers are making five key employee retention mistakes.

Mistake #1: Assuming employees "won't dare now leave due to the recession."

Many organizations have discontinued their employee retention programs, figuring they aren't needed because their employees would be crazy to leave now.

While it's true that most of your good employees won't leave now, some employers lose some of their most valuable employees during downturns and recessions.


Having already undergone several waves of layoffs, many organizations now operate as lean as possible, continuing to employ only their critical skills and best performing employees.

If even one of those key or high performing employees leaves, the impact can be significant.

Every time there's more bad economic news, reduced customer orders, or another layoff, many employees ask themselves, "I wonder if I'll be next?"

If another employer, possibly one of your competitors, can offer them a job with more security, don't you think some employees will at least consider it?

Or, if their families are complaining about increased workloads and time away from home, including nights and weekends, and another employer can offer a job with improved work-life balance, won't some consider it?

Is this really the time to potentially risk losing the employees who are getting you through the recession?

You want to be looking for ways to better serve and retain customers, not dealing with costly employee turnover.

Reason #2: Assuming other employers aren't hiring or making strategic job offers.

Many organizations have kept only their most valuable employees: the ones with the most skills, knowledge, expertise, important customer relationships, and highest productivity.

All of these are things other employers, especially competitive ones, value.

Even though their talent management plans don't include hiring new employees now, some employers will make special allowances to hire valuable employees away from key competitors.

And, it's also not unheard of for companies to terminate one or more existing employees in order to gain another employer's "star."

Mistake #3: Not talking with your best employees about how they're coping.

Many high performing employees were already working to full capacity before the recession; now, many of them have even more demands and responsibilities.

Meet with them one-to-one in private, asking questions like these:

1) Do they feel overloaded or overwhelmed? If so, what might help reduce this? Can some of their work or projects be delegated to others?

2) Have their families complained about the hours they're working?

3) What would they like from you to help them work more comfortably and effectively?

4) If they were going to consider leaving the organization within the next 6 months, what might make them do so? (Don't be afraid to ask this question fearing you're putting thoughts in their heads that aren't already there. They'll appreciate your honesty).

5) How do they describe their relationship with their immediate boss?

While this dialogue is always important, it's especially important now; it helps establish relationships of open communication and trust which is one most of the most effective employee retention strategies there is.

Mistake #4: Not paying enough attention to the relationships between employees and their immediate bosses.

Research has continually shown that the quality of the relationship employees have with their immediate boss is the number one reason they leave.

If their boss places more and more demands on them while treating them as less than a valuable asset during a difficult economy, this will prompt some employees to look now, or decide to leave once the recession's over.

Train managers how to retain good employees; make retention part of their job descriptions; and make good employee retention at least 25 percent to 33 percent of their bonuses. Employee turnover will usually decrease.

Notice that the one-to-one conversations previously recommended can help you uncover concerns in this area.

Mistake #5: Assuming employees will stay once the recession's over.

Just because capable employees don't leave during the recession, you can't assume they won't leave once it's over.

Because they often do.

After several past economic downturns and recessions, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), reported that two-thirds or more of employees intended to seek new employers.

When the economy improves, you don't want to be spending resources on employee recruitment to hire and train replacement employees, you want to take advantage of increased business and recoup lost revenues.

Avoiding these five employee retention mistakes will help you avoid spending tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars and substantial amounts of administrative time.

Ross Blake may be contacted at
Ross Blake, the Employee Retention Manager, shows small to medium size employers, businesses, and HR professionals how to increase employee retention and save thousands of dollars by reducing employee turnover costs, including recruiting and hiring expenses. Learn more and get this special free report, “Five Employee Retention Strategies Outstanding Employers Use,”


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