Retaining Talent in a Tight Labor Market

A tight labor market brings many challenges aside from recruitment headaches for hiring managers.  When new hires take longer than expected, the costs of turnover are exacerbated: increased customer service issues; overtime costs that exceed budget forecasts; morale issues that result in employee burnout or further turnover. The number one issue will always be hiring the best from the beginning, but with unemployment at historic lows, employers must keep an eye on retaining the employees they already have. This involves several intersecting priorities:


This is a critical time, and one when employees can easily be overwhelmed. An investment of time in this process can pay off down the line. In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, Ron Carucci stressed the need to spend more time living in this process, viewing it through three different lenses: organizational onboarding (training / assimilation), technical onboarding (well-defined job descriptions and early successes), and social onboarding (building a sense of community to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness).

Culture of Appreciation

Making a working environment one that your employees do not want to leave starts with hearing their concerns. Foster a culture in which employees are not only allowed to but encouraged to contribute their ideas, and enact policies and processes to act on those ideas and concerns. These types of open door policies, listening, and acknowledgement help contribute to a sense of being appreciated that studies show motivates employees more than fear, more than high expectations, and even more than extra pay in many cases. Other ways to show appreciation beyond listening and implementing employee ideas are authentic verbal praise, quality time (regularly scheduled manager / employee one on ones), and investment in training and mentoring programs.

Growth Mindset

Beyond just showing employees you appreciate their contributions, the investment in training and mentoring programs helps retain employees by showing them they have room to grow in your company. This is an employee’s labor market – most of them know they can leave and be hired elsewhere very quickly, so ‘stagnant’ is the last thing you want them to be feeling. Make sure you can challenge them, engage them, and give them opportunities.

Be Flexible

While not every job lends itself to telecommuting, most can allow for at least some time flexibility. For an employee who struggles with daycare hours for their child, allowing them to slide an 8-hour shift forward or backward by one hour might be just the thing that keeps them from looking for another job closer to home. Other employees might appreciate being allowed to work 4 x 10-hour shifts rather than 5 x 8-hour shifts, if that works better for their home life.

Perks and Rewards

Of course, competitive pay and benefits are important, but there are other rewards that will help you retain the best employees. These can be as simple as buying your employees lunch, surprising them with a day off, or having a casual dress day. Other ideas can include “lazy Mondays” (having a late start time on a Monday morning), off-site team-building exercises, or small gifts such as a Starbucks gift card. These types of rewards help show your employees that you value them as people, not just as employees.

Hiring the Best

As mentioned above, hiring the right people is still the most important first step in any retention policy, and it does not change just because the labor market is tight. There are still good employees looking for jobs, and having the above steps in place to retain the employees you do have will also help attract the best candidates to you. Identifying who they are up front can help ensure you’re hiring employees today who you will want to retain tomorrow. Insight Worldwide has several different assessments, each specifically designed to address the needs of different industries or positions. Please contact us so we can help you identify which one is right for you.

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