Jonathan Sweet is the editor in chief of Professional Remodeler, an award-winning trade publication for remodelers and home improvement contractors. He started his career covering homes and small businesses at a daily newspaper and has spent more than a decade writing for several construction trade publications including Qualified Remodeler, Construction Pro and Concrete Contractor+Jonathan Sweet

Is this the year employees walk?

Employers have had it pretty good the last few years when it comes to managing employee turnover and keeping workers happy.

The state of the economy has made it difficult for unhappy employees to find other opportunities. Many companies have taken advantage of this to see just how much work they can squeeze out of the few employees left.

It’s been no different in the remodeling industry. When we did reader studies during the boom years, finding and keeping good employees was always at the top of the list for subjects remodelers were concerned about. Last year, it ranked dead last out of 17 categories.

True, many remodelers no longer have many (or any) employees, but the attitude of “they should be happy to get a paycheck” is also much too prevalent.

You may be thinking the same thing — but that can be a huge mistake. Irwin Keller, chief economist at Marketwatch.com, says “2012 is the year of the payback.” That is, as the job market slowly recovers, unmotivated employees will quit or at the very least not keep up the incredible productivity they have over the last few years. Even if there aren’t jobs in construction, many can go somewhere else for that new opportunity.

Here are a few facts to chew on:

  • For the first time since the recession started, the number of people voluntarily quitting has surpassed the number fired or discharged, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • In a CareerBuilder study, 34 percent of companies reported that voluntary turnover increased in 2011 and 43 percent said they are worried top talent will jump ship in 2012
  • In a recent survey by Right Management, 84 percent of employees said they planned to look for a new job, up from 60 percent just a year earlier

Think about the culture you’ve created. Is your company somewhere people want to come to everyday? Do you have toxic employees or managers?

Can you start to restore some of the benefits that have been cut over the last few years? Can you finally unfreeze salaries? Can you look for other ways to recognize employees’ hard work?

It’s not always about money — it’s also about feeling appreciated. While a livable wage is a given requirement, problems with management, a lack of opportunity for advancement and overwork and burnout are top reasons cited when people leave.

Most employees aren’t going to accept “we’re all in this together” for much longer. Make 2012 the year you keep your best employees, not lose them.

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