As most U.S. companies continue their steady emergence from the recession, they are confronted with a significant challenge: Despite continued levels of high unemployment, there is an increasingly serious scarcity of the highly skilled talent they require to thrive in the new world order. To some degree, the recession proved a handy retention strategy; when there was nowhere else to go, no one was going anywhere—although, we have learned they were planning to. No more.
Despite the uneven nature of the recovery, the recession appears to be over and, with it, its usefulness as a retention strategy. Not only are those employees critical to your future effectiveness increasingly difficult to find—hence, the rampant growing level of talent poaching—but those currently in your employ could be at greater risk of leaving. And given their likely pent-up discontent with what they perceive their companies are lacking, employees with scarce and critical skills are more susceptible to being lured away. In short, critical talent is on the move.
What a difference a year and a half makes: Among 356 global employees surveyed this spring for Deloitte's Talent Edge 2020 study, only 35 percent expect to remain with their current employers, compared with 45 percent in 2009. Nearly two of three global employees (65 percent) report they are either passively or actively testing the job market. This compares with 55 percent of the 368 global employees surveyed in 2009.
The improving global economy and rising turnover intentions, which built slowly but steadily during the recession, could create a resume riptide (i.e., a strong and steady wave of departures of some of the most critical and scarce skilled employees) and hit companies at precisely the time when many executives predict talent shortages in the very business units they depend on to drive growth and innovation. How real is this threat? From the surveyed employees, by a margin of more than 2:1 (45 percent to 20 percent), employees anticipate an increase—versus a decrease—in employee turnover in the next year. The growing number of employees eying the door coincides with employers concerns of having the critical talent they require.
What's a success-minded company to do? Here's a high-level view to consider:
Know Who and What You Need:
When it comes to their customers, most companies are crystal clear about who their key customers are and what they require to remain customers. Companies should be just as analytical and focused in identifying and segmenting their must-have critical talent.
Develop a Focused Retention Strategy:
Just as companies have a strategy for keeping their critical customers, they should develop a strategy for keeping their critical employees. Companies with critical talent need to have a strategy in place for keeping them and attracting others. They should consider creating the world-class talent management programs that can attract and allow them to keep the critical talent they require; they need to become world-class organizations—worthy suitors able to woo and win—that set the bar for others.
Know What is Important to Critical Talent:
Essential to any strategy for wooing, winning and keeping critical talent is an understanding of your critical talent's "must-haves." Don't assume all employees want what you think they want or even want the same things. Understanding the differing goals, expectations and desires of the new multigenerational workforce is de rigueur. Companies with a one-size-fits-all strategy for retaining and attracting talent may have a very difficult time in the worldwide competition for critical talent.
The results from Deloitte's March 2011 global employee survey compared with results from an August 2009 global employee survey offer useful insights into what today's global employees want and value and can help companies craft strategies to stem the anticipated resume riptide and its potentially debilitating impact.
Departure triggers and retention strategies
The top retention strategies identified by respondent employees are, not surprisingly, close to mirror images of the departure drivers and have remained particularly stable as employees and their companies transitioned from recession to recovery. The top six departure triggers identified by respondent employees were:
The most significant change in results between 2011 and 2009 is what they reflect about respondent employees' perceptions about job security—which shows the most striking change falling by a third, from 36 percent to 24 percent. As job security drops in the rankings, lack of career progress continues to top the charts. This suggests that when not "held hostage" to a job by a poor economy, what respondent employees want is a meaningful career and leadership in which they can trust.
Based on the results from these surveys, the most effective retention strategies in both years appears to confirm this assessment.
In this post-recession environment, what employees appear to value above all else—what they require to remain on board—is the opportunity to grow and advance.