Handling Employee Retention in a Recession

Employee Retention and Recruiting Strategies

Talent Management is changing and forward-thinking companies must begin preparing for the changing job market.  Over the last several weeks, the news publications and news networks have begun reporting positive changes in the economic markets.  The Globe and Mail reported last week, that as the economy improves, we will see a “W” shaped recovery.   A W shaped recovery has a large dip which we have already experienced, followed by a rise, and follow by another dip before we return to a stable and improving economic environment.  According to EconomyWatch there are almost as many alphabet letters as potential economic recovery scenarios from V, W, U, S, and L.  Being an optimist, a realist, and not an economist, I believe what we are currently experiencing is a V recovery although slow.  And based on my non-economic assumptions and research, my belief is that in Q2 of 2010 we will begin to see the job market drastically changing.

Handling Employee Retention in a Recession

In this recession, employees were thrust into the job search as collateral damage from corporate cost cutting strategies.  Candidates were forced to take lesser positions resulting in lower salaries and benefits in order to feed their families and survive.  As the economy being to improve and positions are added, these job seekers will re-enter the marketplace often with short tenures at their previous companies in search of increased benefits, flexibility, and compensation.  Job hopping and gaps in employment won’t be near as important factors in considering candidates as previously.  As successful business leaders, we must consider the following to compete in the changing job market and consider employee retention and recruiting strategies in this new economy.

Poll our employees.

  •  These high performing and under paid employees who either entered the workforce after being restructured or laid off will be in high demand.  Determining what is most important is extremely crucial to lessening and planning for increased turnover.  As American’s have spent less, what’s important has changed.  Do not assume that salary is most important, scheduling, benefits, and personal development are also motivating factors in ensuring employee retention.  SurveyMonkey offers a low cost way to survey your employees and determine their wants, needs, and desires for as little as $200 a year.

Seek feedback.

  •  It’s one thing to survey current employees to determine what’s important.  It’s another to actually have a conversation either in a group setting or individually to dialogue and learn more.  Host meetings with your teams, be open, and allow them to speak freely about what’s important.  Employees who feel valued and empowered are much more productive than those that are managed by fear.  They are also less likely to leave their current company.

Take action. 

  • All the meetings and surveys in the world can’t convince employees that you mean business.  Develop an action plan based on their input and over communicate your plans as well as your reasoning behind them.  In my experience, sometimes the smallest things can make a difference.  Be creative in your actions and make decisions with your employee demographic in mind.  Adding a $500 gaming system to your break room can be a difference maker to Gen Y employees while offering financial and newspaper magazine subscriptions can appeal to the Boomer and more traditionalist generations.

Follow Up. 

  • Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more.  Follow up with your staff quarterly being open to recommended changes and feedback along the way.  Yes, following up takes work, but so does interviewing and training new employees.  How do you want to spend your time in 6 months after losing over half your staff to new opportunities?

Build a Candidate Pipeline. 

  • Not every employee is motivated by gaming systems and magazine subscriptions.  Being reaching out and building relationships with performers in positions and industries you may be interested in recruiting over the next 6-12 months.  Develop a strategy to engage these potential candidates as a way to seek out referrals and develop a brand within your industry niche.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money to host a networking event, pick up the phone, or work with your local university.  As we have seen in the rise of social media platforms like LinkedInTwitter, and FaceBook, it’s the relationship that matters.



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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


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