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CEOs Beware: Employee Exodus Potential Overstated

According to FastCompany, multiple surveys suggest that 2012 could go down in history as “the year of corporate musical chairs,” …

According to FastCompany, multiple surveys suggest that 2012 could go down in history as “the year of corporate musical chairs,” an unprecedented era of employee turnover following years of workers feeling trapped with few options.

But analysis by Chief Executive shows the surveys are tainted, likely motivated byself-interested consultants. The most questionable “data” backing the “Musical Chairs” thesis—that 84% of employees intend to look for new positions in 2012—was conducted by Right Management in a survey of 1,000 North American workers. Right specializes in “Talent Assessment” and “Employee Engagement” and is, naturally, just the right consulting firm to cure this looming epidemic, according to their press release.

The big problem emerges after examining the fine print: one year ago, the same Right survey showed the exact same result, and nothing near 84% of employees went searching in any U.S. business that didn’t regularly flog staff (though it’s probable that flogging wouldn’t even produce an 84% turnover rate).

FastCompany also quotes Gallup, the famous polling firm you would assume has no axe to grind. But you’d be wrong: Gallup has its own “employee engagement” consulting offering (featuring it’s exclusive “Q12® Meta-Analysis”).

There is no question the economy has reduced employee options, resulting in longer job tenure. Many CEOs would argue this has shifted the jobs pendulum toward a more natural equilibrium, away from the hyper-competitive hunt for talent—any talent—that existed just a few years ago. But it is likely that employees who leave your company in this weak environment, beating out numerous other candidates for those few available job openings, are likely your best performers.

There is still, and always will be, intense competition for the best people in key disciplines. Participants at Chief Executive’s recent CEO Summit in California were given a first-hand look at how Google uses its innovative culture and no-expense-spared Mountain View campus to systematically lure the world’s top computer programming talent.

Retention expert Dick Finnegan, who has worked with organizations ranging from African mine operators to the CIA and wrote the book, Rethinking Retention in Good Times and Bad, suggests that organizations retain top talent by treating retention as a process similar to sales, service, quality and safety. Instead of conducting just “Exit interviews” with departing staff, Finnegan teaches organizations to conduct regular “Stay interviews” with key people.

After all, every CEO would agree a bit of turnover is a good thing—so long as it’s the right turnover. So while the media may overstate the danger of a looming “Turnover Armageddon,” the question for you as CEO now is how are you planning to retain your right people?

Read: As Job Dissatisfaction Heats Up, Don’t Let Your Company Lose The Game Of Musical Chairs

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