Increased Hiring and Job Mobility Create Attraction and Retention Challenges for Employers

Towers Watson surveys reveal employers fail to recognize importance of job security, senior leadership

Toronto, ON (Aug. 1, 2014) – With hiring and turnover levels on the rise, employers are now experiencing challenges with both attracting and retaining employees, especially top performers and high-potential employees. Adding to the challenge is that many employers don’t understand the important reasons that employees join and stay with a company, according to two major surveys conducted by global professional services company Towers Watson.

The Towers Watson Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey, a study of 1,637 companies globally, including 95 from Canada, shows there has been an uptick in labor market activity. Globally, nearly half of employers (48%) said hiring activity has increased compared with last year. For 15%, hiring has jumped significantly. Additionally, more than one-third (35%) indicated that turnover was rising. Nearly two in three respondents are experiencing problems attracting top performers (65%) and high-potential employees (64%), an increase from two years ago. Further, more than half reported difficulty retaining high-potential employees (56%) and top performers (54%).

“With turnover on the rise, employers need to understand what employees value if they are going to succeed at attracting and retaining employees. Sadly, our surveys reveal a pretty big disconnect between employers and employees,” said Ofelia Isabel, Managing Director of Towers Watson’s Reward, Talent & Communication business in Canada. “Employers seem to recognize the importance of pay and career advancement as key reasons employees choose to join and stay with a company, but they don’t place the same importance on the two other top attraction and retention drivers — job security and trust and confidence in senior leadership.”

Indeed, the Towers Watson Global Workforce Study, a survey of 32,000 employees worldwide, including over 1,000 employees from Canada, revealed that job security is the second most important reason they join a company and the fourth most important reason they stay. Employees also ranked trust and confidence in senior leadership as the third most important reason they stick with a company. However, employers did not rank any of these factors as key attraction and retention drivers. Not surprisingly, less than half of employees think their company does a good job when it comes to attracting and retaining the right workers. Only 46% said their organization hires highly qualified employees, while 42% said their employer does a good job of retaining talented employees.

The Global Workforce Study also revealed that many employees feel blocked in their current position. Four in 10 employees (41%) said they would need to leave their organization in order to advance their careers. Even worse, the same percentage (41%) of employees who have been formally identified as high potentials by their organization said they would need to leave their organization to advance their careers. From the employer perspective, less than half of respondents (49%) believe they are effective at providing traditional career advancement opportunities, while 35% said that compared with last year, career advancement opportunities are improving.

“Organizations are still missing the mark when it comes to career development. Given how important career advancement opportunities are to employees, the fact that so many high-potential employees feel stuck should serve as a wake-up call to employers to review how they develop careers,” said Sandra McLellan, Toronto leader of Rewards, Talent & Communication business at Towers Watson. “As hiring activity continues to increase, employers need to recognize that their key employees are going to have more options and it’s going to be harder to replace them.”

The Global Workforce Study found that leadership is the top driver of sustainable engagement (i.e., the intensity of employees’ connection to their organization). However, less than half of employees (48%) agree that senior leadership is effective.

“The importance of leadership can’t be overemphasized. Employees are more likely to stay with their current employer if they have trust and confidence in their senior management and leaders. Senior leaders, managers, and supervisors all play a critical role in fully engaging employees,” said McLellan.

About the Surveys

The Towers Watson Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey was conducted from April to June 2014 and includes responses from 1,637 companies worldwide. The participants represent a wide range of industries and geographic regions.

The Towers Watson Global Workforce Study covers more than 32,000 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 26 markets around the world. It was fielded online during April and May 2014.

Towers Watson

Towers Watson (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW) is a leading global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management. The company offers consulting, technology and solutions in the areas of benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and capital management. Towers Watson has more than 14,000 associates around the world and is located on the web at

Source: Towers Watson