Low employee engagementLast week I attended a local chapter meeting of the ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) and had a very interesting conversation with a V.P. of Training of a local company. She was telling me how her company is discussing how to prevent talent (the employees) from leaving in large numbers as the economy starts to pick up. At least anecdotally, I’m hearing some anxiety about how much more employees will tolerate and what it will take for them to stay.

Is there anything to this worry?

There is a lot of data out there from Price Waterhouse Cooper, CLC Human Resources and Gallup about how employees are not happy campers in their organizations. Whether it has to do with being underemployed or a  high potential employee, there seem to be people who are checking out the job market and seeing if it’s the right time to jump ship. With economists forecasting that the US economy will improve, there may be turbulence in many companies as people seek new positions that fit their wants and needs more. However, it is also true that, globally, economic forecasts are not as rosy. It is possible that there may be pockets of employees ditching their jobs for greener pastures depending on the local economy.

Benefits matter

At least in the US, the rising costs with health benefits has certainly cause some unhappiness according to Gallup. That pesky work-life relationship rears its head in this category. People need to know that they will be treated with respect with how much out-of-pocket expenses they are responsible for. Benefits like vacation time and retirement plans matter as does how much on-the-job stress employees must put up with.

Leadership disconnected

If you visit Glassdoor.com, you can read reviews of what it’s like to work for specific companies. Sadly, you see a lot of complaints that work schedules are too taxing and that management is too caught up in the bureaucracy of the company. Sure, it’s easy to pick on large corporations which have behemoth bureaucracies. However, this can happen in small to mid-sized companies as well. For some organizations, there is a clash between “old” business practices and “new” practices. When the organizational leadership takes pride in not understanding social networking or using cloud computing or telecommuting, workers feel like they’re being treated as tools and not people. There are many trends that are emerging that are challenging leaders in organizations of all sizes (check out those mentioned in the  Hay Group Leadership 2030 research). Not paying attention to research, avoiding self-development and ignoring opportunities to involve employees in planning is tantamount to saying, ” go ahead and leave, we don’t need you.”

What else matters?

According to a recent OfficeTeam survey, 27% of workers reported that having opportunities to learn and grow encouraged engagement. While ASTD reports an upswing in how training is funded and used in organizations, this is still an category that gets cut when the economic environment is inhospitable. However, even in global trend research, training and development played a role in employee engagement.

However, it isn’t simply reducing one’s skills gap that engaged employees. The ability to further one’s career within the organization was a key piece. This is where organizations can lose their high potential employees. If you can’t move out of your position, then logically, it would make sense to go somewhere else to achieve your career and life goals.

Current trends are showing a downward direction in people leaving their organizations

There is still an immense challenge that organizations of all sizes face in making sure they keep employee engagement high. It’s more than a paycheck that workers desire. This is good news for  businesses with more limited resources. Dan Pink, in his book, Drive, focused on purpose, meaning and autonomy. At the end of the day, your employees want to be treated as grown ups with perspectives and skills that are necessary to your organization’s success.

What do you believe turns people off the most?

What trends do you believe decision-makers need to pay attention to the most?

*Join us in the this discussion on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog on Friday, January 27, 2012 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT . We’d love to have your observations and opinions!