Retention: Employees’ Plans and Employers’ Views Do Not Connect

by Aaron Green

It is official: the recession has receded and Massachusetts employers are starting to hire again. Last week, Boston Globe writer Robert Gavin reported on a forecast prepared by Northeastern University economist Alan Clayton-Matthews which estimates that Massachusetts added more than 12,000 jobs in the first quarter of this year and predicts that 200,000 Massachusetts jobs will be created in the next five years.

In addition, I have some first-hand information that employers are hiring. My company, Professional Staffing Group (PSG), regularly surveys our Massachusetts clients, and our latest survey compiled in April showed that almost half of employers expect to increase staff in the next 12 months. Looking back to PSG’s Q4 survey, when companies were asked when they expected staffing levels to increase, the most common response was “unknown.” In the April survey, only 8% responded “unknown” in regard to hiring plans for the next quarter; contrasting these responses tells me that employers are becoming more confident regarding hiring.

Employers are not very worried about retention

The recent PSG survey told us that employers aren’t expressing great concern about retention and employee engagement issues. Only 12% of employers view retaining top talent as a significant problem, and 19% of employers view employee engagement as a significant problem.

Employers are not spending money on HR programs related to retention

Our survey also asked employers whether they anticipated increased spending in areas such as reimbursement for continuing education, professional certification, training and development, travel, or tradeshow or seminar attendance. In all HR areas except for one, employers don’t expect to spend any more money than they did in last year (2009 was a year when most employers cut spending). Internal training and development stands out as the only area in which substantially more employers expect to increase spending than those expecting to decrease spending (3 to 1 ratio). The fact that employers do not expect to spend much in this regard will not help retention.

Employees plan to make career changes

Last August, during the height of the recession, a survey of 1,000 employees by found that more than half of employees polled planned to make a career change or go back to school when the economy recovered.

The Disconnect

If Massachusetts is going to be adding jobs as forecasted by Alan Clayton-Matthews and as represented by PSG’s clients who responded to our survey, where are the employees going to come from to staff these new positions? Sure, unemployment will decrease but that won’t cover the gap. Even now certain in-demand skill sets are in short supply. It is simply unrealistic to believe that a substantial number of jobs will be created in the local area and also believe that retention will not be impacted.

A call to action for employers

Think again about the CareerBuilder survey result that more than half of employees polled plan to make a career change or go back to school when the economy recovers. What would you do if half your employees left their jobs? It is a scary thought. Hopefully your company has already taken steps to build or maintain employee loyalty (see my article on building employee loyalty during a recession). Now is the time to evaluate your programs and policies to ensure you are doing all you can to retain your employees.

Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions. He is also the vice chairman of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at or (617) 250-1000.

This article was originally posted on the On Staffing HR Column on

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