Promises to make and keep in 2005

The last few years have been rough for American workers. The result is that a growing number of employees are eager to jump ship once the economy improves. Therefore, it’s imperative for employers to focus on ways to keep top talent.

A national survey conducted by RoperASW for Randstad North America revealed several steps bosses can take to improve employee morale, loyalty and productivity.

Communication remains an important component of managing workers. The Employee Review survey found that 83 percent of employees who rank their bosses as excellent communicators say morale is excellent or good where they work. But managers need to remember that workers want to be provided honest information.

These days, instead of wondering if the boss is capable, workers wonder if the boss is honest. Nearly nine out of 10 employees (86 percent) say they would prefer to work for a boss who focuses on ethics and values rather than one who focuses on profitability. And while 71 percent of supervisors say most people in business are honest, only 53 percent of employees agree with that assessment.

Expect employees to ask tough questions. Be prepared to tell them the truth. Don’t try to spin bad news into innocuous twaddle.

When communicating, deliver the news clearly and simply. Employees want clear and easy-to-understand information about what’s happening. Clarity is critical. During periods of change, 51 percent of employees say things at work seem unorganized.

The more information you provide workers, the better they’re able to understand the key business goals of the organization. Provide your work force with a road map. Give workers an idea of where the company is headed. While 83 percent of employers say they give workers that kind of information, only 68 percent of employees report receiving it.

And even though the business environment is still very competitive, employees need reassurances from time to time. When possible, provide positive information. Sixty-seven percent of employees say management communicates the good news as well as the bad. Workers need to hear the good news from the boss as much as the bad.

Don’t forget the “me” element when communicating to employees. Your staff will be more willing to support business goals and objectives when they understand how it will benefit them as well as the company. Get personal. Whatever the news is that you’re providing, employees want to know what it means to them personally.

Remember that communication needs to be a two-way street. Listen more than you speak. Take the time to gather input from your people. Employees want to be heard. Sometimes they actually have good ideas. In companies that take action on employee feedback resulting in positive change, 78 percent of the employees say morale is excellent or good.

Take a look at the pension and health benefits you provide. They can make a big difference in keeping talented workers on board. Benefits are the No. 1 reason (70 percent) workers give for sticking with their current employers.

Gone are the big-bonus 1990s. When asked which they would prefer, small but regular contributions to the company’s 401(k) or big raises or bonuses when business is good, 64 percent of employees said they want to see their 401(k) funded.

As much as possible, try to create a flexible work environment that allows staff to manage life off the job. Employees are willing to work hard and get the job done, but they want the time to take care of personal affairs. Forty-four percent would like to be allowed to work from home if they need to, and 52 percent want a job that will not interfere with family/personal life.

And finally, show your workers loyalty. Seven out of 10 employees say they are loyal to their companies. And 69 percent say job security will keep them working for their present employer throughout 2005.

As Randstad North America’s managing director of human resources, Gail Auerbach is responsible for recruitment and retention of the company’s more than 2,000 employees in more than 500 locations in the U.S. and Canada. Reach her at [email protected] or at