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166,000 New Reasons to Focus on Retention

If you're still clinging to the where-else-can-they-go attitude toward employee retention, here's some news that deserves your attention: The U.S. economy added 166,000 new jobs in October, more than twice the number of jobs that analysts had forecasted. That marks fifty consecutive months of job growth. In fact, employers have added 8.3 million jobs since August 2003.

To be sure, if your organization makes automobiles or peddles subprime mortgages, it's unlikely that you've added jobs recently. But bad news in a few sectors should not leave managers feeling invincible when it comes to keeping their workers. Consider these numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: This year, employment in professional and business services has increased by 368,000 jobs; the health care industry has added 400,000 jobs; and the leisure and hospitality field grew by 365,000 jobs. If you're in these industries, you're vulnerable to employee desertion.

All this job growth makes it easy for workers to shop for new employers, and many are taking advantage of the opportunities to jump around. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25 percent of workers have worked for their present employer for less than a year. What's more, only half of all employees have worked for their current employers for at least five years.

Don't let reports of mass layoffs at companies like Chrysler and Countrywide Financial make you think that retention will take care of itself. Retention matters now more than ever before, and strong leadership is vital to hanging on to your employees.

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