This article, written by myHR Partner President & CEO Tina Hamilton, originally appeared in an article for the Morning Call. Read the full column here.

You have read the headlines and seen countless billboards: Many Lehigh Valley companies are desperate to attract new staff, particularly an hourly workforce.

In fact, Dorney Park had to adjust its hours due to a lack of seasonal workers. Who saw that coming? Companies are spending thousands on recruiting. Sign-on bonuses are back, a trend that we have not seen in at least a decade.

The lack of job applicants is not localized to the Lehigh Valley. It’s an issue nationwide. I am spending two months working from Anchorage, Alaska, and I recently experienced a restaurant that cut back on menu items to simplify its processes because it did not have enough kitchen staff. The influx of tourists (like me) is compounding the problem in travel destinations.

However, I see restaurant guests and retail customers becoming somewhat more patient and considerate knowing that being shorthanded is not the establishment’s fault. Unfortunately, the aftereffects of COVID-19 continue to affect the retail, food and entertainment categories following a painful 15 months.

It makes sense that companies are putting a great deal of energy and money into attracting and hiring the employees they need. Nonetheless, these resources cannot be expended at the expense of employee retention. Employee retention is even more important during times when the ability to simply find applicants seems almost impossible.

Here are four reasons why employee retention should be a business’s priority now — even above recruiting:

  • Desperate times means recruiters are out there dangling amazing job opportunities to your top people. Companies are increasing pay, incentives, benefits — you name it — to attract new people. Employees who are not being (check all or one of the following) paid well, treated well, appreciated, trained, listened to, growing, smiled at and recognized as valuable are primed for recruiters.
  • Retaining employees who are engaged will create consistency with customers or clients and co-workers, and can temporarily fill some of the gaps of the worker shortage you are experiencing.
  • Retaining staff saves significantly on your overhead expenses. It is not just the hiring costs and training that are expended when you replace. Your existing employees have institutional knowledge, experience and relationships that cannot be replaced quickly or easily. It might take months or even years.
  • Retention creates a happier workplace. When people leave, it creates a sense of instability in the company, which could make others question their own desire to stay.

For those who are job seeking or considering a change given the opportunities:

  • Negotiate your worth. Yes, employers are in need and this is a great time to negotiate. But jobs are meant to last years, so consider your long-term value to the company and be realistic. If you are earning more than what you deliver, you could end up being less valuable over time — and be the first one out the door if cutbacks need to be made.
  • Always consider the effect on your resume if you change jobs frequently. We see lots of job hoppers who go from position to position every couple of years. Job hopping can destroy your chances at getting into companies that are accustomed to people staying on longer and that desire more stability.
  • Many people are leaving their jobs because they want to work remotely as opposed to returning to an office or a hybrid situation. Consider strongly if being remote is your long-term plan. Like anything else, it could get old after a while.
  • Regardless of our position in an organization, we are all consumers. The current labor shortage is affecting all of us. As consumers, we have the power to make the best of the situation. Here are some ways we can help:
  • Continue to frequent the places you love. Go with the idea in mind that they might be shorthanded and patience may be required. Try non-peak days and non-peak hours to lessen the demand.
  • If you need to wait, don’t take out your frustrations on already overworked staff members or stressed-out management. Treat employees with empathy and sincerity. It can go a long way — even after the labor shortage is resolved.
  • Tip well at restaurants. Well-tipped waitstaff are more likely to stay. We all can play a part in employee retention.

As we emerge from the pandemic, the workforce is undoubtedly in a time of transition. There are challenges and opportunities for us all. As with any transition, the key is to act strategically and intentionally. The business world will likely even out in the 12 months. Where do you want to be when it’s back in balance?