With low unemployment and growing demand for talent, it’s absolutely a job seeker’s market out there right now.

A survey last year found that 82 percent of workers were open to new employment opportunities, and Gallup data from 2015 and 2016 indicated that half of all employees in the U.S. were actively seeking new jobs. The ongoing talent crunch means a huge percentage of job applicants are actively employed at other companies.

So how do you keep your talent from leaving? For starters, by knowing that cracking down on job seekers within your company isn’t going to help. Smart organizations are focusing more on retaining talent than on hindering their workers’ ability to search for other jobs.

Last month, I wrote in my column on Forbes that you should probably stop worrying so much about retention. Let’s take it a step further — here’s my advice for how to stop panicking about retention and start focusing on what matters.

Focus on Incentives and Culture to Retain Talent

All the data shows that companies that demonstrate they believe in the professional and personal growth of their employees are much more likely to attract and retain top talent.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is by clearly celebrating each and every accomplishment and achievement by employees. It’s also quite important that employees and managers remain in close contact on accomplishments, which also means having clearly established goals and milestones. Generating accurate data on employees hitting their target goals and also showing the trajectory of their performance and improvements is always helpful.

And companies should offer as much training as possible, particularly beyond employees’ current job description. Work with employees on their current and stretch goals, offering guidance about next steps.

If an employee can continue to grow by staying within the company, that’s great. But if they can’t, don’t try to maneuver the situation so they’re afraid to leave. Instead make sure they leave on good terms and know they always will have a home in your organization.

They may return sooner than you think — either as a boomerang employee or an independent contractor. Employers can’t afford to burn bridges any more than employees can.

Don’t Try to Stop Employees from Interviewing with Other Companies

I was asked recently — by someone who expected me to say what a good idea this was — if they could request that their employees not interview with another firm.

Here’s the truth: It’s a terrible idea to make such a request. Instead, I strongly suggest you invite your employees to interview with other firms. It’s a remarkable incentive for employees to stay, actually. If you encourage them to explore their free will and free choice, you’re sending a message that:

  • You’re confident enough as a company to be compared with others.
  • You’re confident enough as an employer to know you can replace an employee.
  • You’re confident enough in that employee to give them the privilege of making up their own mind.

Given the statistics, it’s highly likely employees will be interviewing. You might as well make it a part of your non-restrictive management policy to recognize that change and growth — even out the door — is inevitable. Make it clear that an employee’s career growth is considered a win for the company, even if the employee grows right out of the organization.

This comes with one important caveat. Encouraging employees to interview with other companies can be done by a brand that has plenty of confidence, as well as stellar compensation and benefits packages. A company that’s trying to hold on to its employees by the fingernails should probably steer clear of this approach.

There’s No Point in Blocking Job Portals in the Office

People look for work and jobs 24/7, and, yes, that probably means in your office. But there’s not much you can, or should, do about it. Even if you did “lock out” job portals on your organization’s PCs, intranet or network, some employees will find a way.

Glassdoor statistics from 2015 indicated that 45 percent of job seekers used mobile devices to search for jobs at least once every day. Unless you’re going to act like a grade-school teacher and confiscate mobile devices, it’s going to be nearly impossible to prevent a sneak peek at a job portal. Plus, such rules smack of retrogressive management policies and are begging to be broken. For example, what, exactly, should be the consequences for breaking such a rule?

Instead, trust your workers and show confidence in them and the strength of your organization. The reality is that job boards and portals can be random and overwhelming, and many employees are smart enough to take a personal day to focus only on job hunting.

There’s no doubt that today’s workforce landscape is challenging for organizations of all types. But accepting this reality as it truly is and focusing your resources on what matters most to employees will help you retain more talent over the long run.

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