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Workers eye greener pastures
Survey reminds employers to refocus on retention strategy
By Alana Roberts / Staff Writer

Shred-It customer service representative Oswaldo Torres cooks on a grill while company owner Bob Linden watches during a barbecue for employees of the company on Nov. 18, 2005. The company has a cookout for employees and their families several times a year according to Linden.
Photo by R. Marsh Starks

An improved economy is spurring many employees to begin searching for new jobs, a new survey suggests.

The 2005 U.S. Job Recovery and Retention Survey, performed by for the Society for Human Resource Management, indicates that 76 percent of employees surveyed are actively or passively looking for another job.

Also, 65 percent of human resource professionals questioned in a similar survey say they are concerned about voluntary resignations. Of that group, 49 percent said their companies are implementing ways to retain employees.

The survey, which was released this month, garnered responses from 465 job seekers visiting Most of the respondents, 82 percent, said they were employed, 16 percent were unemployed and 2 percent were students. The survey also got responses from 435 random members of SHRM who responded to an e-mailed questionnaire.

"What the survey showed is employees are tired of very small pay increases and more work required of them," Tony Lee, publisher of said, adding that the number has greatly increased in recent years. "As the job market improves the incentive for good people to leave gets bigger and bigger. For a long time you'd only have 40 percent of the workforce saying they're looking for a new job. That tells you there's pent-up demand for people wanting to change."

Jen Jorgensen, a spokeswoman for SHRM, said the survey results are important for employers to note because the percentages of workers looking for other jobs increased from 70 percent in 2004 to 76 percent in 2005.

"The sample is taken from people who are at," Jorgensen said. "People who tend to visit that site tend to be actively or passively looking for jobs. (But) the number had jumped even in that group."

She said the surveys are taken to provide employers with evidence of the need to begin implementing retention efforts if they aren't already doing so.

"In our business utopia all organizations would always be focused on a really strong retention strategy," Jorgensen said. "It's natural when our day-to-day business gets busy where retention isn't as crucial things tend to be lax. That's what we're trying to do with this survey is put this back on everyone's agenda."

She said many employee retention strategies come with low or no cost to employers.

"Employers can do a lot of work/life balance things that are relatively inexpensive, " Jorgensen said. "Like offering flexible work time, offering telecommuting when that works."

Some companies say they're trying to ensure employees stay.

Jennifer Martinez, vice president of human resources for Las Vegas-based Aristocrat Technologies Inc., said the company has been working to reduce the turnover rate for the past two years. The company has about 620 employees throughout the United States.

"There is a focus for us to retain the great people we have," Martinez said. "We were at 30 percent (turnover) two years ago; last year we were at 20 percent. We're going to target under 15 percent this year."

Martinez said the company works to determine exactly how employees feel about their experience working for the company and why they leave through employee surveys and exit interviews.

"What we're seeing as a trend is people are leaving not because of compensation and benefits, it's because of career opportunities," she said. "They don't feel they're available or they don't have a strong relationship with their manager."

She said the company is working on creating career development programs for employees so there's an incentive to remain with the company and work their way up. She also said the company is implementing management training programs to make sure managers aren't part of the problem.

The SHRM survey shows that the top reasons employees decide to search for new jobs are a desire for higher salaries, better benefits and better career opportunities.

Of the employees surveyed, 41 percent said they were looking for another job because they wanted more money or better benefits; 34 percent said they were interested in a better career opportunity; 25 percent said they were dissatisfied with the opportunities for career growth with their current employer and 23 percent said they were interested in a new work experience.

Some workers say their employers have found ways to keep them loyal. Evelyn Aragon, an office manager for Shred-It Las Vegas, said Bob Linden, the company's president, has contributed to ensuring her job satisfaction.

Aragon said the company pays for barbecues and holiday parties, which are small gestures that stand out to her. She also said the company offers a competitive benefits package. Aragon spoke at a recent company barbecue, which serves as an example of the kinds of things the company does to keep its 16 employees happy, Linden said.

"What I like is he (Linden) really appreciates his employees," Aragon said. "Before I worked for a defense contractor. There's a big difference. Even with the holiday parties, with the defense contractor we had to pay for our own holiday party."

Out in the middle of the company's warehouse is an area that Linden has designated the "green room." The area is separated with wooden latticework and is decorated with couches, nature posters, a fountain and an artificial turf mat placed on the ground to give the appearance of grass.

Linden said the area is a relatively inexpensive way to help employees relieve stress during the day.

He said customer surveys indicate the majority are satisfied with the company's document destruction services. He said the way the company treats its employees contributes to that.

"Ninety-two percent of our customers like our service," Linden said. "That takes unbelievable levels of team spirit and team work. Our number one goal is to create an environment where people thrive -- not just survive."

Andy Anderson, a sales representative for Shred-It Las Vegas, said he appreciates Linden's accommodations for him when he is sick.

"I have a faulty kidney and I need to take time off," Anderson said. "He has never suggested he won't pay me. It's the little things. It's like a family, we're all family."

Alana Roberts covers courts and labor relations for In Business Las Vegas and its sister publication, the Las Vegas Sun. She can be reached by e-mail at or at (702) 259-4059.

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