The use of layoffs as a cost-saving measure by U.S. employers during the economic crisis has had an adverse affect on their remaining employees and now, it may be preventing them from attracting critical recruits as they try to rebound. A survey released Tuesday by consulting firm Towers Watson (TW) found that 52% of U.S. companies reported problems attracting critical-skill employees, and 45% had trouble attracting top-tier talent, largely because leaner workforces offer fewer opportunities for advancement, and because many workers are reluctant to join companies that do not clearly show stability and a commitment to their employees.

"Even in relatively soft economies, top employees are in short supply," notes Laura Sejen, global head of rewards consulting at Towers Watson. "Add to that, workers today simply are in no rush to seek employment elsewhere, given the uncertainty over economic recovery."

The Towers Watson Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey
shows how the aggressive cost-cutting measures employers used during the last few years, including layoffs, salary freezes and bonus reductions, may have had the unintended consequence of making their companies unattractive to current employees and unappealing to new recruits as well. According to the survey of 1,176 companies globally, including 314 in the United States, 61% felt their cost-cutting actions increased employee workloads and 53% said the measures added to work-related stress. Half of the companies surveyed said the cost-cutting measures negatively impacted employee engagement and workers' ability to balance their work and personal lives.

"Employees are looking for job security and stability, opportunities to earn substantially higher levels of compensation, and opportunities for development and advancement, which they feel are unavailable in their current organization," the Towers Watson survey said. "Many employers confirm that these intrinsic and extrinsic rewards are unavailable."

A Wake-Up Call for Employers


The negative affects of stagnating wages, heavier workloads and lack of recognition from management can't be overstated. A recent survey of professional workers showed that some employees have decided to quit their jobs rather than endure heavier workloads, lack of promotions and uncommunicative bosses. As worn-down workers leave their current employers to look for jobs elsewhere, they may be less willing to join companies that have engaged in major layoffs, salary freezes and other aggressive cost-cutting practices that they may have experienced in the past.

Ryan Johnson, vice president of Publishing and Community for WorldatWork, a human resources organization that conducted the survey with Towers Watson, said the survey is a wake-up call for employers to make sure they reassess all tangible and intangible factors that would make them attractive to recruits.

"This is even more critical when luring top talent for leadership roles," Johnson said.

The report said 60% of the companies surveyed intended to build up their internal talent pipelines, and more than half (51%) intended to create more development opportunities for talented employees in the future.

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