Improving Employee Retention in an Era of Full Employment

The job market is heating up! As of April 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the national unemployment figure is 4.4%. According to San Francisco Federal Reserve President John Williams, America is “basically at full employment.”

That sounds like a good thing, right? And in many ways, it is! But it leads to a problem looming on the horizon that’s got serious implications for all employers: worker retention.

According to a survey by payroll company ADP, 17% of employees are actively looking for a new job. A further 46% are passive job seekers — meaning they’re not out submitting résumés, but are open to a new opportunity if one is presented to them. This means up to 63% of your workers could be ready to jump ship.


According to the ADP® Workforce Vitality Report, as of the first quarter of 2017 the job turnover ratio is 26.5%. That means over a quarter of all workers changed jobs in the last 12 months!

In other words, it’s not just a matter of finding qualified candidates for new positions. You could soon be looking at valuable experience and institutional knowledge walking out the door… and having to fill vacancies in a significant number of your existing positions. (Or maybe that’s already happening for you!)

If that doesn’t give you pause, I don’t know what would.

So what do employees want?

Expectations kick in even before the job starts. Employers have long used the term “onboarding” to describe the activities that take place in the first few days or weeks of a new hire’s employment. It’s the process of getting the employee settled in to their new job, assimilated to their new team, and acclimated to the company culture.

A new term — “pre-boarding” — has emerged to describe onboarding activities that start before the new hire actually starts the job. According to Engage2Excel’s 2017 Trendicators™ Talent Acquisition Report, 58% of candidates will immediately consider offers — even if they’ve already accepted a new job — when they think they haven’t had sufficient communication from their prospective employer between their offer acceptance and their start date.

The kinds of things many of today’s new workers may expect to be included in this “pre-boarding” include:

  • Completion of the new hire paperwork;
  • Pre-employment tests: background check, drug test, etc.;
  • Review of employee benefits;
  • A facility tour, orientation session and introductions to senior managers.

Many would like to see a new-hire portal online with information to help them learn more about the company. They also want the company to be concerned about their career development, perhaps by offering career path assessments or by pairing them with a mentor to help them get their “sea legs” in the new organization.

But don’t underestimate the importance of the first day

Respondents to the Trendicators survey indicated the very first day of work can have a tremendous impact on employee retention. A sloppy or skimpy first-day onboarding experience can lead to:

  • 59% of employees immediately starting to look for another job;
  • 69% commencing a new job search within the first month;
  • 72% planning to leave within the year.

You can possibly counteract an unsatisfying first-day experience with strong follow-up and an excellent work environment. But if you don’t meet employee expectations from Day One, you’ve set yourself an uphill battle.

What keeps good employees working for you?

Once they start work, what can you do to keep your best talent from walking out the door?

Obviously, employees expect fair compensation and a good work environment as a baseline of continuing employment. But that isn’t all they’re looking for. According to the Trendicators report, the main reasons workers leave are:

  • Inadequate or unfair compensation;
  • Lack of recognition, appreciation or respect;
  • High stress, inflexible hours and/or poor relations with co-workers;
  • Work not interesting or fulfilling;
  • Anxiety about job security.

The number one problem for women and workers over the age of 45 is inadequate or unfair compensation. The primary issue for men and workers aged 18-44 is lack of recognition, appreciation or respect.

But bigger problems happen when there’s a disconnect between the expectations that were set during the hiring and onboarding process, and the day-to-day reality of the job. For example, let’s say in your recruiting materials and job interviews you talk about your company’s strong commitment to career development for all employees. But when a recent hire asks to attend an educational seminar to grow their skills, their supervisor tells them there’s no money in the budget, or that they need to have been employed for a longer time before the company will send them to training. Well, right there you have a disconnect between what you promised and what you’re delivering.

It’s not so much that you have to offer everything to every prospective employee. (In fact, I’d argue you shouldn’t do that! Only promise what you can reasonably deliver.) But what you absolutely must do is make sure what you promise people during the recruitment and onboarding process is in line with what these new hires will actually experience once they’re on the job.

The bottom line: 47% of employees say they’ve walked away from a job that didn’t meet their expectations.

It’s incredibly important to have a consistent recruitment, pre-boarding and onboarding experience that accurately sets employee expectations.

So how do you whip your recruiting and onboarding into shape?

Fortunately, there’s an easy-to-use tool available to help — even if you don’t have a dedicated Human Resources department. Our cloud-based AcroTime Workforce Management suite offers the AcroTime HR module that’s specifically designed to maximize employee engagement and retention, while helping you stay in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.


AcroTime HR includes applicant-tracking capabilities to help you monitor prospects as they move through the recruiting pipeline, and insure you’re communicating regularly with them at every stage of the process.

AcroTime HR can also walk you through the onboarding process, including making sure you have all the necessary internal paperwork and government-mandated forms completed and submitted on a timely basis. Handy checklists ensure no step is overlooked.

AcroTime HR also includes skills tracking. You can keep a record of all the seminars, workshops, courses, degrees and certifications each employee has completed, as well as a skills inventory. This module can help you identify qualified internal candidates for promotion or further career development.

AcroTime HR includes an online employee directory, an organizational chart, a place to publicize company events and news, and a free-form Wiki where you can post any additional information you’d like to share to help new hires (and existing employees) learn more about your organization and feel more engaged.

AcroTime HR allows you to track each employee’s salary history and designate pay grades. It eases the process of conducting salary surveys, plus marketplace add-ons offer compensation reports to help you ensure your employee compensation stays in line with the market.

Best of all, since AcroTime uses single-sign-on and a single employee record, adding AcroTime HR to an existing AcroTime account is as simple as pressing a button. If you don’t already have an AcroTime account, setting up access is quick and easy. You can start with the modules you want right now, and easily add more as your needs grow.

In summary, AcroTime HR gives you everything you need to maximize your chances of engaging and retaining your top talent!

To learn more about all the modules available through AcroTime Workforce Management, or to schedule a live no-obligation demo, visit our website at, or call us at 800.298.0330 or 919.872.4449.

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