There might be a reason why profit margins are at an all time high. Employers are sucking all the work they can out of existing employees. If a company has x employees and needs to produce x number of extra widgets, it could hire more employees or get existing ones to produce more. In normal economic times employers usually go for the former, since when employees feel taken advantage of they will go find another job. However in times like today, employers have the upper hand.
There is some evidence that this might be starting to change.
December’s employment numbers blew analysts expectations out of the water. Perhaps the news rustled the moat around the corporate kingdom’s C-Suite. (Ok, maybe just a ripple) We’re certainly not out of the waters of a struggling economy. But with unemployment falling for the fourth month in a row, talent retention concerns might make more of an appearance.
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Most employees are glad to have a job these days. There’s this unwritten mandate that has reigned since the recession; corporate is king, companies are doing more with less and underlings just have to deal with it and eat porridge. But if the C-Suite ignores improving economic data, might they be dethroned in a workers rebellion?
“I think 2012 is the year of the payback, meaning that all the slashing and burning of the workforce has severely wounded the ability to motivate employees,” says Irwin Kellner, Chief Economist for Marketwatch.com.
While corporate profits are doing well, Kellner says the numbers can’t grow at the same rate if companies let go or use fewer workers. He warns there will be consequences, such as lower productivity, less engagement and talent fleeing to competition, if management doesn’t launch incentives to retain skilled workers and take the 24/7 stress down a notch.
“Workers are afraid but it doesn’t mean they are going to work their tails off to come up with the next I-phone,” adds Kellner.