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Employee retention programs lacking at most New England firms, survey says

Nearly three out of four area firms still lack a specific program


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By Northeast Human Resources Association

Firms in New England need to address their lack of employee retention programs.

So say the results of a new survey by the Northeast Human Resources Association (NEHRA). Over 73% of all firms queried said they did not have a specific retention strategy in place, and only 19% responded that they did have a plan. The survey by NEHRA, the premier human resources association in New England with nearly 3,500 members, was conducted to determine how well local organizations work to retain their employees.

"We are already facing a talent shortage in the New England area," cautions Dan Henry, Chairman of the Board of NEHRA. "These results bring to light how much work still needs to be done to retain the talent we have, and we hope these findings help generate both discussions and solutions."

"The reasons cited for employees leaving are not new to us," Henry continued. "What is surprising is how little companies are doing to prevent it."

For those respondents that did report having a specific plan in place, the top retention programs cited included employee recognition awards, stay or performance bonuses, flex-time, and mentor or buddy programs. One respondent reported that his firm offers a "treasure chest - an employee rewards program with a drawing held quarterly for prizes, such as a mortgage payment, gift cards, vacation, etc."

When asked which programs are most effective, there was not one clear answer. Answers varied from strong welcome packets, to flex-time, to effective evaluation of salaries. When asked which programs were the least effective, no single answer stood out. Many were cited, including length of service bonuses, vesting programs, and tuition reimbursement programs.

When asked if they have developed employee retention practices that are appropriate to the demographics represented by the employees in their organizations, only 20% replied they had, while over 56% replied they had not.

When asked how their employee retention programs may have changed or evolved over the past five years, many replied they had not at all. However, a fair number cited that their plans were new and had not been in place five years ago. Some cited needing to create specific programs to address changing employee groups, such as baby boomers, Gen X and Gen Y groups.

Over 37% reported that they use pre-employment assessments to determine prospective employees' fit with their organizations, both in terms of skills and the overall organizational culture, while over 59% reported that they did not.

Over 52% of respondents reported they have adopted flexible work policies in an effort to increase both employee retention and employee satisfaction within their organization, while 44% replied they have not. When asked if they have adopted any new benefits that may help their organization attract, retain and or possibly win back talent, only 34% responded yes, while over 57% replied they had not.

When asked "what has worked best to attract, retain, or win back talent," the top answers included better and more affordable healthcare plans, flexible work-time, tuition reimbursement, and better 401K plans.

Finally, when asked what factors played the biggest impact on employee loss, there were three reasons cited repeatedly: inadequate compensation, lack of career advancement opportunities, and relocation for better commute or work/life balance.

About NEHRA and the survey

NEHRA is New England's premier human resources association, with approximately 3,500 HR professionals comprising the membership base, representing large and small companies in all industries within the region as well as individuals providing products and services to the human resources community. A total of 196 NEHRA members responded to the online survey, which was conducted from September 28 to October 12, 2007. For survey results, visit the NEHRA website.

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