Employers’ latest challenge: Preventing employees from quitting

Many employees these days are bypassing job boards and online listings and looking for their dream jobs via text, according to Dana Polyak, head of customer success at AllyO, an AI recruiter based in Silicon Valley.

About 15% of the U.S. population still does not have access to the Internet but almost all have access to a phone with texting capabilities, she says.

The new channel for job searches is exacerbating issues for companies as they watch employees leaving in droves.

Indeed, the numbers are staggering. Nearly 3.1 million workers voluntarily left their jobs in December 2015, a post-recession high, according to Gallup’s latest State of the American Workplace report.

While the tight labor market is clearly playing a role in employee job-hopping, other factors such as low engagement levels are at work too. Only one-third of U.S. employees were engaged in their work and workplace and only 21% believed that their performance was managed in a way that motivated them to do outstanding work, the report says.

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More than half (51%) were eager to leave their jobs with disengaged workers voicing an even more urgent desire to move on. Almost three in four (73%) actively disengaged employees were actively looking for new jobs or watching for openings, according to the Gallup report.

Polyak spoke to Employee Benefit Adviser about the trends driving employees to quit their jobs and what employers can do to keep them from ever wanting to walk out the door. Below are edited excerpts of the interview.

Employee Benefit Adviser: What are the top reasons people are searching for new jobs?

Dana Polyak: There are a number of reasons. In the past, people would build their careers with one employer. That has changed. Today, it’s hard to retain employees — especially those in lower skilled jobs — because people can easily switch and they make switches even for a few dollars more because they are also trying to maximize their earnings potential. You see this quite a lot when people switch jobs. They are ultimately seeking something more and a lot of times more means either better compensation, better benefits or better hours, better commutes — all these.

EBA: Almost half of employees believe it’s a good time to find a quality job. How easy is it for employees to find a new job?

Polyak: The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 18 years, so that works in employees’ favor. There are a lot more jobs available than there are people available to fill those jobs. Still, the ease with which employees find jobs depends on their skills and industry.

Technology — particularly the Internet — has also facilitated people’s job searches in many ways. It’s much easier for employees to apply for jobs online versus coming into the office to fill out an application. We’re also seeing another shift happening with the iPhone, which is simplifying the whole application process for many people.

EBA: How prevalently do people use iPhones to look for jobs?

Polyak: It’s quite prevalent. I was surprised to find out that 15% of the U.S. population doesn’t have access to the Internet or an email address yet most have access to texting capabilities on their phones. And now with the advent of short code — basically taking a 10-digit number and making it a five-digit number, it becomes even easier to search for jobs via text on a smart phone. The texting capabilities don’t have any barriers to entry.

EBA: Applying for a job via text seems cumbersome and even unrealistic. How can people manage the application process on such a small phone screen?

Polyak: Of course. There are certain more complex conversations that still need to be happening with a human. People, however, can get basic information about job opportunities by asking simple questions about the availability of jobs in specific locations. They are able to say, for instance, that they’re looking for a job in Sunnydale, California, and what type of job they’re looking for and even ask questions around benefits. AI recruiters such as AllyO are not in any way replacing a human recruiter. At the end of the day, humans are building relationships with one another.

EBA: What are the top mistakes employers are making?

Polyak: When a person applies for a job, what they come into may be different from what they expected it should be. This perception gap often leads to problems. It’s helpful to survey employees 30 and 90 days after they become new hires to assess their expectations versus the reality of the job.

EBA: What can employers do to improve employee engagement?

Polyak: A new buzz word is employee empowerment. I think that’s great in a white-collar jobs but the challenge is how do you empower employees in a different job category. To me, when people talk about the fact that employees are not engaged that means they’re missing what’s in it for them. Employers need to help their employees understand exactly what’s in it for them — how their lives are better because they are employed at the company.

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