Will Your Best Employees Leave?



"The smart business owners are not taking their employees for granted right now," said Kimberly Douglas, a human resource specialist, author and president of FireFly Facilitation, an organization that helps companies make their employee teams more successful (www.fireflyfacilitation.com). "You must learn how to build a team and strengthen loyalty before your best and brightest start looking elsewhere as the job market strengthens."

For the past couple of years, employers have had the upper hand: Jobs were scarce, and employees were willing to do almost anything to keep working. Now, however, industry reports indicate that workers' reticence to leave their current positions is likely to change as we move into 2010.

For example, "The Edge Report," (http://img.icbdr.com/images/aboutus/pressroom/edge%20report_aug%202009.pdf) which is based on an annual survey of employers and employees conducted by Robert Half and CareerBuilder, said that 45 percent of workers plan to change employers, careers or industries once the economy improves.

So, how can employers keep their best workers--the ones most likely to find a new position? Forty percent of the surveyed employers said "providing more money will be their primary method for retaining top performers." Not surprisingly, nearly half of the employees surveyed said "higher compensation will be the most effective way to retain them."

Will more money be enough? Probably not. According to "The Edge Report," 79 percent of employees will also expect technology upgrades, and 61 percent will expect tuition reimbursement or subsidized training. These are important perks because employees need to stay up to speed with the latest technology, and they also must enhance and add to their skills.

But employers should go beyond providing educational/training programs and establish mentoring programs. This type of one-to-one learning opportunity is valuable to both the staffer and the mentor, and it doesn't cost money--only time.

Mentors are more than educators. They are also guides who help workers plan their careers, determine next steps and navigate through the political minefields that exist in most organizations. They are coaches who encourage proactive career strategies, offer constructive criticism and, when needed, provide a gentle push in the right direction.

I've had a few mentors during my publishing career, but the individual who stood out from the others was my journalism professor, Edward Wakin. He went far beyond merely helping his students during their college years; he continued to provide guidance and support throughout their careers.

For 30 years, Professor Wakin gave me career advice and served as a sounding board and trusted counselor. Sadly, he died recently and is greatly missed by me and the many other former students who turned to him for guidance.

A mentor like Professor Wakin provides invaluable assistance, support and knowledge. Companies that want to retain their top performers can learn from his example and add a mentoring program to their employee benefits package. When employees work in an environment that helps them live up to their potential, they are happier, more productive and less likely to leave. Everyone wins.

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