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The Conference Board is predicting that although salary increases will remain at historic lows in 2011, employees at least can expect a modest raise next year—perhaps slightly higher than this year’s 2.5%.

Employees could see that as a small step in the right direction, and it could help organizations retain valued employees as the economy recovers.

A Robert Half International survey of more than 1,400 employees found that more than one-third feel their compensation hasn’t kept pace with the increasing amount of work they’ve taken on because of company cutbacks. And four in 10 admitted they’ll be ready to cut ties with their employers as soon as the job market loosens up and higher-paying jobs start opening at other companies.

That resolve is most acute among the youngest members of the workforce: More than a third of Generation Y employees plan to look for new jobs, while 30% of baby boomers and 24% of Gen X’ers are planning career moves.

At the same time, employees in all three groups have bumped job security to the top of their wish lists: In the survey, “company stability” tied with benefits as the second most-important factor when considering a job offer, barely behind salary, which ranked first.

And they rated “working for a stable company” and “having a strong sense of job security” as the two most important factors about their work situation, followed closely by “having work/life balance” and working with colleagues they like and managers they respect.

Stability as a selling point

Robert Half District President Brett Good suggests that organizations should leverage that new desire for stability during the hiring process.

“Is that what you’re stressing?” he asks. “Are you putting forth your organization’s tenure and legacy, how you’ve withstood the challenges of the marketplace and the economy and, most importantly, what’s in store for the future and the growth of your organization?”

Focusing on your organization’s stability, he says, could nudge job candidates toward accepting your offer over a less stable competitor’s.

6 strategies for the rebound

Here are six ideas from the survey that might work for you:

1. Reinstate bonuses, 401(k) matches and tuition assistance as soon as possible if your organization cut those perks. Employees say they miss those the most. A third of employees expect organizations to bring back the benefits and extras they cut out or cut back on during the recession.

2. Offer special benefits for older workers. Almost half of employees—and 54% of baby boomers—say the recession has convinced them to work past age 65. Make that extra time on the job more worthwhile. Examples: Allow flexible schedules, shorter hours and telecommuting. Work with older employees who might like to transition into retirement by working part time or on contract as consultants or trainers.

3. Pair older and younger workers on mentoring teams. Because of delayed retirements, your youngest employees could be working with colleagues who are age 50 or older. Still, 35% of workers acknowledge that working on multigenerational teams has increased their productivity. Tip: Help teams work by addressing intergenerational differences in work ethic, communication styles, work/life balance needs and points of view.

4. Tie bonuses and other rewards to high productivity. Employees are working smarter and agreeing to longer hours. Half of hiring managers believe employees are more productive because of the recession—and that even during the recovery, productivity will increase. When it does, reward it.

5. Offer training in new skills that make employees more tech-savvy, better communicators or more effective managers. Employees believe the more versatile their skills are, the more their employers will want to keep them around. Note: Boomers say they prefer in-house training, while younger employees value subsidized education.

6. Provide new challenges to retain the 25% of employees who say the recession has made them feel more engaged in their work. That might be because the poor economy has forced employees to take on new responsibilities. Tip: Let loyal employees know they’ll be rewarded when the financial picture brightens.

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