Attraction and retention challenges plague U.S. employers, Willis Towers Watson surveys find

Three in 10 U.S. employees likely to leave employer within next two years

Annandale, Virginia, UNITED STATES

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 14, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- U.S. employers continue to experience difficulty with attracting and retaining employees, as increasing hiring and turnover levels show no signs of abating, according to two major surveys conducted by Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ:WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company. The research also reveals three in 10 employees say they are likely to leave their employer within the next two years, adding more pressure on employers’ ability to keep top talent.

The Willis Towers Watson Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey, a study of more than 2,000 companies globally, including 441 from the U.S., shows labor market activity increasing. More than half of U.S. employers (57%) said hiring activity has increased over the past 12 months, while only 14% said it decreased. Additionally, more than twice as many employers said turnover has picked up over the past 12 months (37%) versus those who indicated it had dropped off (16%).

According to the survey, this labor market activity is translating into a myriad of attraction and retention challenges. For example, roughly half of U.S. employers are experiencing difficulty attracting critical-skill employees (52%), top performers (50%) and high-potential employees (48%). More than a third of respondents reported challenges in retaining high-potential employees (37%), top performers (36%) and critical-skill employees (35%).

“Given today’s shifting workplace and how technology is disrupting jobs and labor markets, the need for employers to successfully attract and retain the best employees has never been greater,” said Laura Sejen, managing director, Talent and Rewards, Willis Towers Watson. “We know from our research that employees are looking to work for organizations that offer fair pay, career advancement opportunities and job security. While employers generally understand these priorities, their views diverge from those of employees in a few key areas.” 

Indeed, the Willis Towers Watson Global Workforce Study, a survey of 31,000 employees worldwide, including 3,105 from the U.S., revealed that job security is the second-most frequently cited reason employees join a company and the third-most frequently cited reason they would choose to leave their organization. Employers, however, did not rank job security among the top five key attraction and retention drivers. Interestingly, employers listed providing challenging work and workers’ ability to have a real impact on the organization’s performance among the top five reasons they believe employees join a company. Conversely, employees rank those reasons eighth and 18th, respectively.

Career advancement is key to attracting and retaining employees

The Global Workforce Study identified advancement opportunities as key to attracting and retaining employees. Over a third (36%) of employees cited opportunities to advance as a key reason to join a company and to leave (45%). However, only four in 10 (41%) indicated their employer does a good job of providing advancement opportunities, while nearly half (47%) said they would need to leave their organization to progress in their careers. From the employer perspective, more than half (58%) believe they are effective at providing traditional career advancement opportunities, while 42% say that compared with last year, career advancement opportunities are improving.

“Employers may be painting a more bullish picture on career advancement opportunities than their employees perceive. In many cases, employers’ positive view on these opportunities may be a reflection of an improving economy rather than better career management practices. Given the high percentage of employees who say they need to leave their current employer to advance their career, there is a clear misalignment between employers and employees on this question,” said Sejen.

The Global Workforce Study also found there is room for improvement in employee engagement in the U.S. Roughly one-third (35%) of U.S. employees were highly engaged. The survey also identified senior leadership as the top driver of sustainable engagement (i.e., the intensity of employees’ connection to their organization). However, less than half of employees (45%) have trust and confidence in their senior leaders.

“In addition to attracting and retaining talented employees, employers need to focus on engaging employees in order to achieve better business results. Leadership, including supervisors, managers and senior executives, plays a critical role in driving engagement among their employees,” said Sejen.

About the surveys

The Willis Towers Watson Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey was conducted from April to June 2016 and includes responses from 2,004 companies worldwide, including 441 companies from the U.S. The participants represent a wide range of industries and geographic regions.

The Willis Towers Watson Global Workforce Study covers more than 31,000 employees selected from research panels that represent the populations of full-time employees working in large and midsize organizations across a range of industries in 29 markets around the world. It was fielded online during April and May 2016. The U.S. sample includes 3,105 employees and has a margin of error of ±1%.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ:WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 39,000 employees in more than 120 countries. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential. Learn more at


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