Let’s Talk Business: September 23, 2021

Something every business owner can likely agree on is the current employment squeeze. Large or small, local or global, companies in every industry are having a hard time filling open positions. In the face of the pandemic that shows no signs of abating, employers are vying for what appears to be an ever-shrinking pool of potential new hires. Even more important than recruiting new employees, however, is taking care of the people who already work for you.

According to the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics, almost 4 million Americans quit their jobs in April 2021, and that number wasn’t much lower in May. The Society for Human Resource Management cites a report that more than half of North American employees plan to look for new jobs this year.

It’s true that 2021 employment migration may be, at least in part, due to a natural pent-up desire for change. Workers who were ready to make a move back in 2019 may have held off because of the pandemic in 2020. But it is important to realize that dissatisfaction with their current work environment also figures significantly in employees’ decisions to jump ship.

And that word, satisfaction, is key. Compensation is not necessarily what employees are seeking. Many workers are far more interested in the work environment, the viability and flexibility of the place where they spend the greatest number of hours. Employee retention is an art, and more necessary today than ever before. Can employers make the shift of consciously cultivating the mindset of continuously earning their employees’ commitment and loyalty?

In preparation for writing this article, I had a conversation with Kent Heermann, our Regional Development Association President here in the office. Kent related the story about a local employer who was amazingly empathetic to employees’ lives outside work.

“Oh, you’re on the volunteer fire department and the whistle just blew? By all means–go fight that fire. Your child has a program at school? Great—enjoy the performance. But when you’re done, come back, because we have work here that needs to be done.”

Kent went on to note that what made this culture of flexibility and attunement to worker needs so successful was twofold: A) the employer embraced the fact that his employees have lives outside of the workplace, and B) the employer followed up with continuously coaching his employees about acceptable behavior. Not everyone comes to the workplace equipped with the soft skills necessary for success. Sometimes responsibility and commitment must be taught.

Another factor that has a huge impact on employee retention is the aging out of the Baby Boomer generation. Statistics from the Pew Research Center note that more than 3 million Boomers retired in 2020. Until last year, roughly 2 million Baby Boomers retired from the workforce every year since 2011 (the year the oldest Boomers reached retirement age of 65). A good 15-minute exercise would be to analyze your workforce in relation to how close each one is to retirement, and begin thinking about how replacing them will look.

Stay tuned for more about that next week.

It’s a great day in Emporia!



“Let’s Talk Business” is a weekly column of the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce and Visit Emporia. The mission of the Chamber is to be proactive in creating an environment for business and community success, guided by the vision that positive attitudes promote positive actions. Contact us at 620-342-1600 or chamber@emporiakschamber.org and visit our website at www.emporiakschamber.org.