As The Economy Improves, Will Job Satisfaction Decrease?

After years of layoffs, downsizing and cost cutting, the economy is showing signs of recovery. But companies that assume their employees who weathered the storm are there to stay may be in for an unpleasant surprise. Recent surveys have shown that 49 percent of surveyed employees are seeking or planning to seek new employment as the economy improves, mostly due to the pent-up uncertainty they may have felt during the recession.

According to a recent study performed by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), job security is the most important aspect to employees when rating overall job satisfaction. Employee benefits ranked second, and opportunities to use skills and abilities came in third place. An organization’s financial stability and competitive pay rates rounded out the top five.

Unfortunately, many of those factors may have been affected by the recession, as employees lived through rounds of layoffs, wage freezes, cuts in benefits packages, and reduction in training opportunities.

If your company wants to keep its talent from walking out the door, it’s time to start considering a retention plan that considers the employees’ perspective.

1. Keep the Communication Lines Open. If your company is still experiencing financial turbulence, don’t try to hide the news of impending layoffs or other misfortunes. Maintaining honest communication with your employees can help reduce anxiety and build trust. If you tell your employees what is coming, how it will affect them, and how the organization will handle the process, it may help your employees feel more secure in their jobs.

2. Don’t Let the Big Fish Get Away. Your top performers, future leaders, and critical workforce segments increase operational performance and drive value creation – which they can also do somewhere else, for someone else. During an economic recovery, your top employees have the most options. If they aren’t looking for new jobs with better security, pay and benefits, they’ll probably be recruited.

Let them know how important they are to you, both through your words and your actions. Consider offering additional compensation if necessary, along with other benefits, such as developmental experiences like international assignments, rotational programs, or leadership roles.

3. Assess the Stress Levels. Don’t assume that downsizing survivors will continue to do all the work of their laid-off colleagues. Some organizations, in their rush to reduce costs, cut people without focusing on how layoffs would affect their remaining employees. Survivors were expected to pick up the slack, and as a result, many continue to experience “role overload,” which can lead to burnout, resentment, and plans to find work elsewhere.

4. Evaluate Your Compensation Packages. A good salary alone does not guarantee employee loyalty, but if your competition offers better wages or a more comprehensive benefits plan, your employees will be more likely to head for the door. Make sure you are offering competitive pay and comparable benefits packages.

5. Adjust Your Focus. After so many years of watching and worrying about the bottom line, start adjusting your scope. It’s time to look at your employees’ needs. If your training and development programs have fallen by the wayside, pick them up again and start encouraging employees to take advantage of them. Showing your employees that you want to invest in their future can go a long way toward earning their loyalty.

Organizations can avoid losing talent in the recovery if they take action now. Instead of assuming that those employees who rode out the recession will be happy to stay in their current jobs, they need to assume the opposite and act accordingly.

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