The business world doesn't usually consider summer to be a threat to retention. Employees are typically more active in their personal lives during this time of year as they take advantage of warm weather for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and trips to the beach; go on vacations; or enjoy company benefits such as summer hours.
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The tide may be changing, however, according to the 2017 Emerging Workforce Study from employment agency Spherion Staffing. As much as 25 percent of the workforce may seek new job opportunities by the end of the summer, the study shows.
"At the highest level, the summer season brings about good feelings and renewed energy," says Sandy Mazur, division president at Spherion. "School is out, the weather is warmer, and people tend to stress less, which drives inspiration to pursue new personal and professional adventures."
Mazur also notes that a significant chunk of all moves – 11-13 percent – occur during the summer months.
"This desire to relocate certainly opens new possibilities and invites workers to explore opportunities in their new destination," she says.
Travel and additional time with family can also inspire workers to make big changes.
"Summer vacations allow employees to reevaluate their professional situations," says Mazur. "Workers value time away from the office, whether to see friends and family or simply to recharge, and these are great occasions to think about their goals and desired directions in lieu of worrying about day-to-day job demands."
While going on vacation may inspire some employees to leave a company, not being able to take a vacation can lead to the same result.
"The study found that 39 percent of workers consider their companies' paid vacation policies inferior to those of their competitors, possibly offering another reason for workers to consider a different workplace more willing to provide that needed time away," Mazur says.
Last year, a separate Spherion study found that 62 percent of American workers were planning to make professional changes in 2017. Workers who have yet to take such steps may see the summer as "a great opportunity to start," Mazur says.
Employee Engagement Still Key to Retention
For executives, employee retention may seem to be an impossible goal, given how easy it is for employees in this job market to make lateral moves to competitors for raises and better benefits. However, it's important not to slack off on retention efforts, because employees will notice, which will only further convince them to jump ship.
It's more important than ever for executives and managers to show appreciation for workers in any way they can.
"As businesses face greater pressure than ever to retain their top workers, previously overlooked and undervalued job satisfaction elements now play a greater role in employees' decisions," Mazur says.
According to the 2017 Emerging Workforce Study, 23 percent of employees feel their employers are putting in less effort to retain them this year than they did last year. This statistic sits in stark contrast with the general consensus among employees that employers should invest more in their long-term futures at work.
"This is a dangerous statistic, in that workers may feel less inclined to give a full effort or remain loyal to an employer that they feel does not return the favor, which can lead to a decline in productivity or an employee exodus," Mazur says.
If a company can't go handing out raises, there's still plenty they can do to engage employees.
"Money remains the most important factor, but it no longer is the only factor [in job satisfaction]," Mazur says. "As the skills gap grows wider, workers seek confidence that they can develop and refine their abilities as they progress in their careers. Many of these workers hold their companies responsible for resources and development programs to further their growth."
However, few employers are meeting employees' needs in this arena. In the Emerging Workforce Study, only 18 percent of workers said they'd give their companies' training and development programs an "A."
"Employees view training and development programs that are relevant to their needs as a must for career advancement, and if workers feel underqualified or underprepared, they may look to move to another company that understands and advances their goals," Mazur says.
Work/life balance is another priority for employees, with 93 percent of workers saying they find employers that help them find such balance to be more attractive than companies that don't. Eighty-eight percent of respondents said employers' work/life balance programs influence their career decisions.
"This desire for work/life balance also includes the ability to mix personal and professional interests," Mazur says. "For instance, we found that 43 percent of companies occasionally allow their employees to devote time during the workday to community and philanthropic projects."
The Raise vs. Replacement Dilemma
While many companies are quick to insist they cannot afford raises, it's important to evaluate the cost of a raise against the cost of onboarding a new hire – a new hire who may demand the same salary the previous employee asked for anyway.
"The argument for giving raises is that the intangibles of keeping top performing workers in house likely will outweigh the costs and process of bringing in new ones," Mazur says. "Stability is invaluable in the modern workplace, and pay raises certainly can help improve employee satisfaction and raise the likelihood that they will stay – not to mention that happy employees often foster happy results."
Replacing a long-tenured worker runs the risk of lowering productivity, efficiency, and team morale, at least until the new worker has become fully onboarded and integrated into their department.
Furthermore, having more long-tenured workers on staff is good for employer branding.
"A roster of long-tenured employees also speaks to a company's values and positions it as a great place to work," Mazur says. "If employees are happy with their overall employment situation, they will be more likely to speak positively about their company."
Of course, there is an argument against raises, too. Seventy-two percent of the companies surveyed in the Emerging Workforce Report recognized the need to pay high wages to attract and retain top talent; 74 percent said their competitors are doing the same thing. However, these companies also recognize the damage that can come from paying salaries outside the organization's means.
"Likewise, there are risks of creating office friction if companies cannot equally distribute raises to every employee who feels deserving," Mazur adds. "For instance, 63 percent of employees feel that if an employer raises salaries for minimum wage workers, it should comparably raise wages for everyone else. A non-universal raise structure can generate ill feelings and internal competition among team members that ultimately can prove damaging."
The real key here is to keep employees in the loop so they know what to expect from the company and what is expected of them.
"Whatever route a company decides, the important thing is to remain transparent and ensure that employees understand the raise structure and steps to move forward," Mazur says. "Uncertainty is more likely to inspire employees to pursue other opportunities than honest conversation [is]."