In a recent post, we discussed the issues employers face when it comes to retaining and engaging younger employees who are part of the so-called Millennial Generation. However, a new study suggests that retention and engagement are a challenge for many companies on a much broader scale.

A study of 30,000 workers in 17 countries, including 2,400 in the U.S., conducted by HR consultants Mercer found two groups of employees who can represent a major challenge for companies now and in the future.

First, the survey found nearly one-third of U.S. workers are at least considering leaving their present employers. This represents a significant increase from the 23 percent in the 2005 survey who said they are considering. Like the survey discussed in our previous post, the Mercer survey indicates younger employees (under age 35) are most at risk in the current environment -- 40 percent of employees age 25-34 and 44 percent of employees age 24 and younger are considering leaving.

The second group is perhaps more dangerous. More than one-fifth of U.S. workers surveyed (21 percent) do not necessarily want to leave their companies but admit to having an unfavorable view of their employers and, more importantly, show extremely low scores when it comes to overall engagement, which represents a combination of loyalty, commitment and motivation.

The Mercer survey suggests the changing employment “deal” that exists between employers and their employees has been changing -- and employees do not like what they see. The survey report states employees see the current deal as a series of takeaways and employers have not come through with delivering a new deal. This employment deal is generally considered to be anything of value the employer provides, including pay, benefits, training, advancement opportunities and the work environment.

Recent salary surveys, including a new survey by WorldatWork, suggest that companies are unfreezing salaries, increasing merit pay increases and providing greater incentives. However, it is important employers not forget about the other elements of the employment deal they have with their employees. By finding out what employees value most, employers can find ways to shore up those elements of the deal as we move farther away from the recession and into recovery.