Companies should prepare now for coming wave of job hopping

Kristin Donohue, Employment Dimensions Consulting Services

Something’s knocking on the door of your business. Do you hear it?  It’s turnover! “What?” you ask.  “Turnover isn’t a problem for me.  Haven’t you heard there’s a recession?  People are lining up to work for me.”

In the wake of the Great Recession, businesses have reported record-low turnover. Employees are buckling down and staying put, even if they’re unhappy.

But this situation won’t last forever.  Employees have watched co-workers and friends lose jobs. They’ve reported rising job-related stress and often have been expected to work more hours for less pay. The building burden that employees have shouldered has resulted in people who are frustrated and ready to consider other options. A recent survey conducted by Hewitt, a human resource consulting firm, found that 50 percent of the work force will “consider” or “actively look” for other employment as soon as the economy improves. Referred to as “shadow turnover” this looming shift in employment is largely ignored.

Yet, companies can take a few simple steps now to help insulate themselves from the coming wave of job hopping. These steps can help prepare companies for a potential increase in hiring as well as engage top performers already on the staff to retain them in the future.

Now’s the time to brand your company for prospective employees. Consider your company from a potential employee’s perspective. Why would someone want to work for you rather than the competition? What makes your company a great place at which to work? How can you strengthen these advantages? Now’s the time to develop specific answers to these questions. Assess such key engagement areas as effectiveness of front-line supervisors, opportunities for personal and professional growth and recognition and appreciation for a job well done. Create a reputation of excellence so many qualified applicants are available to fill vacant positions, even when the economy improves.

Develop employees internally. If you’ve had to cut positions, you likely already have a cross training process in place. Make sure several employees can perform tasks that are essential to your company’s operation. Identify key positions. If those positions were vacant, would you have other people who could step into those roles? Actively work to build the skill level of your current work force to ensure key positions can be covered if someone resigns. If your key positions are covered, look to the future. Where do you expect your business to be in the next year? Do your employees have the skills you need to get there? If not, invest in developing some of your top performers. Talk with them about their futures with your company. Help them find resources, internally and externally, to increase their skills and develop the competencies you’ll need as your business grows and evolves. Showing employees the role they’ll play in the future of the company decreases the likelihood they’ll leave at the first opportunity.

Assess your hiring practices. It’s easy to hire when there are hundreds of people looking for jobs. When talent becomes scarce, though, it’s not so simple. Make sure you have solid job descriptions for each position. Create a consistent process you’ll follow to hire quality employees. There are several best practices you can incorporate into hiring. Consider including phone interviews with top candidates as a way to pre-screen. Identify a hiring team of several people who’ll help to select employees for key positions. Write questions that use behavioral interviewing techniques. Describe a situation they’re likely to encounter on the job and ask an applicant how he or she would respond and why. Ask an applicant to offer an example of a time when he or she demonstrated the skills you’re seeking: dealt with an angry customer, resolved an issue with a co-worker or responded in an emergency. Strengthen your hiring process by including a tour of your company or a look at the production floor — anything to show the candidate what a day of work will look like.

Shadow turnover is knocking on the door of every organization. Strong human resource structure and consistent employee engagement practices can combine to turn away the risk and position your company for a strong future.

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