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For the first time in many months, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports more people quit their jobs than were fired or laid off during the second quarter of 2010. A recent report in Harvard Business Review reveals it costs up to 250% of a position’s salary to find a new employee to fill it after it’s left vacant. This is a far different scenario than what the employment sector has seen in the past few years and it also has some companies asking for advice on how to maintain their employees. Another statistic, found in the Harvard Business Review, shows that as much as 12% of the current American workforce will be actively seeking a new job before the year’s out. We asked famed career coach and Hound.com founder A. Harrison Barnes for his take on how employers can reach out to their workforces in an effort to keep from losing them.

“The fact that the country, as a whole, still hovers near the 10% unemployment mark tells us employees are finally beginning to find hope that they will once again have options in their careers. Many people wouldn’t dream of chasing a new career with double digit unemployment numbers”, says Barnes.

This makes it an important time for employers to do an inventory of not only their employees’ skills but also the positions they have those employees in. For the past few years, employees have been juggling many job titles and performing job duties across several departments, says the Hound.com founder. Now is the time to refocus the collective workforce and its energies. If your administrative assistant hates sitting in on weekly staff meetings, allow her to get back to the business of what she does best and call in that manager who you had on another project for so long. Is it too much on your human resources department to collect fingerprints from potential new employees? Shift it back to the local police department of wherever it was you had those tasks performed before you began cutting corners.

Another way that will serve a company’s efforts is by putting more of the perks back in place. Remember how much you got out of your sales team when there was a cash reward at the end of the quarter for the employee who brought in the most revenue? Maybe it’s a good time to bring it back.

Finally, Barnes suggests making it your mission to call in your departments, one on one, and ask what the company can do, now that the recession is easing, to keep them happy. This direct approach is always the best idea and your willingness to take a few minutes with each employee goes a long way in building that very important trust. It allows you a unique look not only inside your employees’ thoughts, but the departments as a whole. Could be the engineering department has needed new office chairs for years. Do the math – purchasing five or seven or fifteen new chairs is a wise investment, especially if in hindsight you realize it could’ve been the little things that would have made all the difference.

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