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Why Employee Retention Matters More Today Than Yesterday

We all know that it's an employer's market. Unemployment is the highest it has been in 26 years. So why are you having a difficult time filling positions? And why should you even think about employee retention when you have candidates lining up outside your door?

According to BusinessWeek, "In the midst of the worst recession in a generation or more, with 13 million people unemployed, there are approximately 3 million jobs that employers are actively recruiting for but so far have been unable to fill. That's more job openings than the entire population of Mississippi." So why do so many employers still believe they are in the driver's seat?

Some people mistakenly believe these openings are mostly lower level positions. You know the kind of jobs that most Americans are not interested in doing. This is simply not the case.

I was speaking last week to one of my clients, who is the CEO of a publicly traded company. He was expressing concern over the inability of his VP of Sales and Marketing to fill several key sales positions that have been open for months. I can't tell you exactly why he is having a difficult time since I have not been actively involved in the search. However, I suspect that it is a combination of things. This is an international company. He needs people with very specific experience in a market where talent is treated like talent. By that I mean, these employees are treated as valuable employees. Their employers know how difficult it is to replace producers. That means there is quite a limited pool of candidates for my client and others to pull from.

There are some lessons we can all learn from this. Eventually the pendulum will swing and it will become an employee's market. I don't have a crystal ball so I can't tell you if that will happen next year or within the next five years. But I can say for sure that it will happen again. Here are some things you can do today to retain the talent you have.

Treat your employees like fine antiques - In some organizations, I've seem managers treat their furniture better than they treat their employees. Think of your employees as irreplaceable. This shouldn't be difficult to do if you've done a great job of hiring.

Promote your talent - Give credit where credit is due. Try this the next time you are in a meeting with a customer. Instead of telling the customer that the department fixed their problem, give them the name of the employee who made this happen. Try doing this in front of the employee. Don't be surprised if the room lights up.

Talk less and listen more - It is difficult to hear what people are saying if you are doing most of the talking. If you ask a question, wait until you receive an answer. Allow your employees to be heard. Then respond accordingly.

Only ask if you really want to know something and are prepared to take action - I can't tell you how many times I am approached by companies who tell me they've done a number of employee surveys over the years and that lately their response rate has been dismal. That's usually because they keep asking the same questions and continue to ignore the answers they are receiving. I can tell you from experience that you are better off doing things your own way than asking for input you have no intention of using.

Retention is actually one of the few things you can control, particularly in this economy. Don't believe me? Just give it a try.

Enjoy the ride!