Employee Benefit Views

Is the employee exodus a drizzle or downpour?

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Posted June 14, 2010 by By Kelley M. Butler at 12:50PM. Comments (0)

You know the feeling you get when you’re caught in the rain with no umbrella? Likely, you think, “Why, oh why, didn’t I bring my umbrella?” And then, “I hope it’s just a drizzle, or that I can run fast enough to avoid being completely drenched.”

When I read the federal report last week that more people quit their jobs in the past three months than were laid off — a huge shift from the last 15 straight months, when those laid off outnumbered those who quit — I wondered if you felt like you’d been hit by those first few warning drops of rain.

Now, it’s important to note that the number of job-changers is not even close to pre-recession levels. Still, if you get caught in the rain without an umbrella — whether drizzle or downpour — you’re gonna get wet.

Okay, so I’m going to stop with the rain-umbrella metaphor and talk straight with you, pros. The job market, to put it mildly, is not good. Employers created a net 982,000 jobs this year, but the recession slashed more than 8 million. We’ve got some rebuilding to do, to be sure.

However, employees — after hanging onto their jobs for dear life for the last two years — are starting to get their swagger back.

They’ve seen the positive-looking jobs reports, just like you have. They’ve seen other economic indicators — like stock market gains and, in some areas, housing — that things are starting to turn around, just like you have.

And after a Sisyphean effort to push the increased workload left behind by their laid-off peers, they seem ready to leave the boulder at the bottom of the hill and just move on to something new.

According to the feds, the number of job-quitters in April was 2 million, the most in more than a year and about a 12% jump since January. That’s compared to the number of job-quitters plummeting 40% to 1.72 million last September, the fewest since the government started tracking such moves.

That’s certainly a trickle of an exodus, not a stampede. But that fact that some of these job-changers didn’t even have a new job to go to should worry you a bit.

Maybe, the thought of working at your company for just one more day was more than they could stand. Maybe, they’ve decided to start their own business, and may compete with you for both clients and talent in the future.

Either way, it means whatever you were offering wasn’t enough to keep them. And to be honest, the fact that you care a little less these days about retention worries me. Your people are still your greatest asset, aren’t they?

Are you concerned about the rising number of job-quitters? How is your company working to make sure your top talent doesn’t join their ranks? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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