Strategies for Retaining Talent When Employees Have the Upper Hand

We all understand the concept of a buyer’s market vs. seller’s market in real estate. Typically, one side or the other has an advantage as the housing market and/or economy shifts over time. The same is true for the workforce. At any given time, we’re either in an employer’s market or an employee’s market, and it shifts over time. During the recession, we saw a strong employer’s market, when companies could obtain and retain talent fairly easily at reasonable rates. But after the 2010 recession, we gradually shifted to a strong employee’s market. Here’s why…

  1. There are more job opportunities available as businesses are thriving today far more than they were five years ago. Everyone’s hiring!
  2. Recruiters are proactively poaching talent at all levels via LinkedIn with the ever-popular, “would you entertain a new opportunity?”
  3. Information is more accessible than ever before, particularly in regards to pricing and salaries. With sites like, and, people expect to know they’re getting a fair price or wages, without having to be great negotiators.
  4. Millennial employees (those born 1981-1996) are now the largest generational cohort in the workplace, and they have more power today than any young generation has had in nearly 40 years. Note: GenX (born 1965-1980) was half the size of the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), so they couldn’t go toe-to-toe with the older cohort to force the changes they wanted. Many GenXers decided it was best to adapt to the Boomer expectations in order to advance their careers. This is not the Millennials’ situation.
  5. The Millennial perspective is trickling up as employees of all ages are beginning to demand better work/life balance, more effective management, flexibility and a better overall quality of life.
  6. Finally, new employees put little stock in company loyalty. Pensions are a thing of the past and most applicants or employees know those programs are not guaranteed, even if they’re promised in writing. Most of today’s workforce wants to work for a company they believe in that gives them meaning and purpose, not a promise for longevity.

What can business owners, managers and recruiters do about it? Here are a few tips:

  1. Be intentional about building and maintaining a strong employer brand. Check to see what current and former employees say about your organization. Know what’s attractive about your company in the eyes of today’s workforce.
  2. Continue winning them over. You do this for customers, why not employees? Consider them your internal customers, and woo them to stay. Avoid thinking they’re lucky to have their job or that their paycheck is enough recognition for a job well done.
  3. Hire ahead of your needs. Turnover is running rampant (for many reasons), so companies who hire proactively tend to get better talent and keep the talent they have, because they aren’t consistently short-staffed. Too scared to add permanent positions? Create contractor roles.
  4. If you haven’t done a comprehensive compensation analysis and/or adjustment in the last 2 years, you’re behind. The battle for talent is getting more competitive every day and it’s critical to adjust pay accordingly. Remember, employees aren’t worth what you pay them; they’re worth what someone else would steal them for. And that number’s increasing every day.
  5. Finally, understand the way Millennials see the workplace. They are the future of the workforce, and if your managers do not know what makes today’s young professionals tick (or get ticked off), you’ll continue to see a revolving door of talent that most companies can’t afford. Offer training to share this cohort’s unique perspective and show managers how to communicate their unwritten expectations to bridge the gaps in both directions.

Talent recruitment and retention costs will continue to rise so long as the employees have the upper hand. The organizations who are winning the talent battle are those focusing more than ever on their human assets.

Cara Silletto, President & Chief Retention Officer at Crescendo Strategies, is committed to reducing unnecessary employee turnover by bridging generational gaps and making managers more effective in their roles. Visit for more info, or contact Cara at [email protected].

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