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Grow Your Business Your Team

'Me' vs. 'We:' How to Retain Increasingly Mobile Workers

Credit: Adam Gregor/Shutterstock

As the economy improves and more job opportunities appear, workers are growing increasingly restless. According to research conducted by ADP, more than 1 in 4 people change jobs annually – an unprecedented frequency of job switching. Moreover, ADP found that 63 percent of the average employer's workforce is open to leaving for a new job at any time, and 46 percent would leave for a job that paid the same or less than their current position.

So, how can employers find and retain top talent? Sreeni Kutam, division vice president of major account services at ADP, said the findings boil down to two philosophies in conflict with one another: "me vs. we."

Employees, he said, often take the "me" perspective, asking themselves how much they can make, how they can advance and whether they're satisfied. Employers, on the other hand, naturally take a bird's-eye view of the organization, concerning themselves more with financial performance and overall organizational health.

"The question becomes due to the external factors – economic improvement, unemployment going down – would that tension be elevated to unprecedented levels?" Kutam said. "And we are seeing that in the marketplace."

That's certainly alarming news for any employer who wants to hang on to their best employees. Luckily, there are significant steps employers can take to keep their employees happy in their current roles, rather than searching for greener pastures.

Managers need to be more than just employees who once did a good job; they need to understand how to get the best out of people, while minimizing their weaknesses. When employees feel they are contributing and clearly understand their value in an organization, they are engaged in their work and more likely to stick around.

"A lot of companies promote managers based on how good they were at their previous job," Kutam said. "But actually, the people management aspect of leadership is the X-factor. Great team leaders leverage the strengths of individual team members to get to the broader perspective."

As the economy improves, productivity is reaching new levels. Generally, sales and earnings are going up, but wages are lagging. Everybody feels more appreciated after a raise, especially when so many Americans are working two or three jobs just to make ends meet. Making sure your staff is compensated well and happy with their paychecks is essential to keeping them on board. However, while good pay is an important puzzle piece, don't expect compensation alone to keep top talent content in an otherwise disconcerting environment.

Performance management software is a great way for employers to keep an eye on the individuals in their organizations. Although employers are often susceptible to the "we" view, performance management tools help them drill down into the strengths, weaknesses and aspirations of individual team members. The good software even helps identify those who might be flight risks, helping you to address their concerns and keep them within the organization. [See our picks for the best performance management tools.]

A stagnant employee is an unhappy employee. While a good manager leverages an employee's strengths, most employees want to feel like they are progressing not just professionally, but also personally. For those ambitions, internal career development programs and opportunities are key. In the end, your organization will also benefit from more content, well-rounded employees.

Inevitably, employers won't be able to retain every desirable employee. When you're left with an open spot, bringing on a new team member is essential. However, it is important to avoid the pitfalls and expenses associated with hiring the wrong person.

One technique Kutam recommended is the structured interview. Rather than conducting a wheeling, general and broad interview, organizations should identify three or four characteristics they want in an ideal candidate. Then, for each characteristic, develop several questions designed to tease out the traits of the job candidate. Ideally, two or three different interviews will ask these similar questions from different angles to stress-test the applicant.

"Structured interviews plus a job skill assessment – a very specific assessment conducted with third parties for that job skill – resulted in a 67 percent success rate in the hiring process," Kutam said. Contrast that with a 60 percent failure rate in organizations that conducted unstructured interviews.

Moreover, organizations can get candidates excited about the position by creating detailed job descriptions, rather than the bland, vague ones companies often write.

"I believe a job description should almost be like a personal blog by the hiring manager about what the job is, what value they create, what teammates they are working with," Kutam said. "Look for curiosity and passion. Job skills comes next. If you have the first two things, you are golden."

Adam C. Uzialko

Adam received his Bachelor's degree in Political Science and Journalism & Media Studies at Rutgers University. He worked for a local newspaper and freelanced for several publications after graduating college. He can be reached by email, or follow him on Twitter.