As we move deeper into 2017, the time for New Year’s Resolutions and annual strategic planning initiatives is over. Now, it’s time for action.

Already, we’re seeing that 34% of employees plan to leave their current roles in the next 12 months, while Gallup data reports that just over half of all workers are open to leaving their positions. The total cost of the disengagement embodied by this willingness to leave will amount to $450 to $550 billion annually for U.S. employers.

To help make 2017 the year you fully invest in employee engagement, we’ve compiled a list of statistics like these that highlight the top concerns employers will face in the coming months, along with the recommended actions you should be taking as a result. We’ve broken them down by category to make the list as easy as possible to navigate.

Head to the section you feel best supports your company’s needs, and commit to putting the necessary actions we describe into place today.

Recruiting

1. 86% of recruiters and 62% of employers felt the 2016 labor market was candidate-driven.

There’s little indication that this trend will reverse throughout 2017, given the continued growth in nonfarm payroll employment over the past year – and that means it’s time to get realistic about your perspective within your hiring practices.

When labor markets are candidate-driven, it is the employers who compete – not the potential employees. As a result, your company must get very honest about your recruiting priorities. Which positions need to be filled by top talent? What can you reasonably offer to attract this top talent? Having a defined plan for 2017 will help you decide where, when and how to “pull out the big guns.”

2. Organizations that invest in employer branding are three times more likely to make a quality hire.

As mentioned above, competition for top talent is a growing concern for businesses in 2017. Investing in employer branding can be a powerful way to differentiate your company among candidates, especially given that 39% of women say the reputation or brand of the company is “very important” to them when considering a job move, according to the same Glassdoor report.

Branding your organization can take many forms, from the mission statement you embody to the corporate culture you create. If your company isn’t yet “known” for something, take the time to brainstorm key values and translate them into a credo that all stakeholders and potential employees can buy into.

3. 80% of people would take one job over another based on personal relationships formed during the interview process.

Finally, it’s worth considering that the relationships you cultivate while hiring may give you an edge in the recruitment process.

Whether or not these connections alone will override other elements of your compensation package, it’s worth remembering that people want to work with those they like. Invest in whatever training is necessary to make sure your interviewers and front-line HR reps are creating these positive interactions.

Employee Engagement

4. 88% of businesses plan to improve employee engagement in 2017.

Nearly all organizations admit that employee engagement should be a priority. Yet with just 32% of workers calling themselves “engaged,” according to Gallup, it’s clear that many companies are simply paying lip service to the ideal.

To walk the talk, commit now to adding at least three new engagement strategies this year. You can add more if you like – just be sure the tactics you elect to incorporate are as closely aligned as possible with your unique audience.

5. 83% of employees with opportunities to take on new challenges say they’re more likely to stay with the organization.

We often think of employee engagement as being financially-driven; pay workers more, and they’ll work harder in return. That simplistic understanding, however, causes us to miss opportunities to engage employees on other levels that may drive an even deeper level of on-the-job satisfaction.

Many workers (at least, the ones you should be concerned about retaining) want to be challenged. Give them opportunities to grow and develop their skillsets, and you may ultimately find them to be happier on the job.

6. 53% of HR professionals say employee engagement rises when onboarding is improved.

Another critical opportunity for improving engagement starts from day one with your onboarding practices. Onboarding doesn’t just help employees navigate their initial experiences at a new company; they can demonstrate – in a dramatic way – how much your organization values their presence.

Improving your onboarding process doesn’t require significant investment or complexity. Instead of merely showing new workers where the coffee and restrooms are, consider:

  • Assigning them “social mentors” who can help introduce them to others within the company.
  • Briefing them on company culture and expectations (particularly, any inside jokes your office shares).
  • Hosting team lunches or happy hours on their first days to provide low-pressure opportunities to form needed connections.

Employee Turnover and Retention

7. 79% of businesses and HR leaders believe they have a significant retention and engagement problem.

Besides the recruiting challenges described above, many firms face problems on the flip-side as well when it comes to actually retaining the workers they’ve been able to attract.

Minimizing turnover and increasing retention aren’t challenges that can be solved with a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Listen closely to what your employees are telling you they want – particularly in exit interviews with those whose departure is undesirable.

8. 46% of human resource leaders say employee burnout is responsible for up to half of their annual workforce turnover.

Burnout seems endemic these days, yet – if left unaddressed – it may have significant repercussions on your company’s ability to retain workers. Further data from Kronos reveals the top three contributors to employee burnout:

  • Unfair compensation (41%)
  • Unreasonable workload (32%)
  • Too much overtime/after-hours work (32%)

Working hard may be a necessity in today’s competitive markets, but be wary of this double-edged sword. While work must get done, losing workers to burnout results in costly and time-consuming turnover – which is, perhaps, why companies like Treehouse are seeing benefits from limiting overall work hours.

Employee Recognition

9. When asked what leaders could do more of to improve engagement, 58% of respondents replied “give recognition”.

The beauty of this statistic is that, while we often think of employee recognition as being a costly endeavor (gold watches, anyone?), what most workers actually crave is something that can be freely given.

When was the last time you acknowledged the hard work of your staff with a public “thank you” or a handwritten note of appreciation? It sounds simple, but keeping employees engaged often requires no more than clear evidence you’ve noticed their efforts.

10. 60% of organizations had a values-based recognition program in 2016.

Values-based recognition programs are those that reflect the unique culture of the employer, rather than following industry norms. Hppy gives the example of the investor education program Motley Fool, stating:

“The team at Motley Fool, for example, believes in making long-term investments in their employees and company culture. By valuing their employees and encouraging them to feel passionate about their work, the company fosters higher performance and productivity, therefore achieving better business results.”

Reflecting its investing philosophy in the way it recognizes employees – by focusing on long-term growth – allows Motley Fool to create a recognition program that supports its mission while satisfying workers. This kind of synergy is something all companies should aspire to.

Compensation Practices

11. A 10% increase in base pay increases the odds an employee will stay at the company by 1.5 percent.

It is, perhaps, unsurprising that higher base pay would result in greater employee tenure. What’s notable, however, is the size of the impact. If increasing pay by 10% leads to just a 1.5% increase in the odds a team member will remain on staff, it’s clear that companies must consider other compensation variables in order to retain good workers.

12. 76% of Millennials think professional development opportunities are one of the most important elements of company culture.

One such variable is professional development programs. Adding these perks to the mix (which can be done freely through the use of internal mentorship programs) may enable employers to be less competitive with other salary or benefit offers, without reducing the quality of applicants being considered. It may also provide a stronger incentive for existing workers to stay than increasing salary alone.

13. 86% of employees said they’d stay with a company for at least five years if their employer helped pay down their student loans.

Another possible perk worth considering is student loan forgiveness. With graduates of the Class of 2016 carrying an average of $37,172 in student loan debt, offering to cover all or part of this debt, based on an employee’s length of service, can create a valuable incentive for good workers to remain.

Consider that, in 2017, the average pay raise is expected to be roughly 3%. Now, imagine that you have an entry-level professional that earns $45,000 in their first year. Over five years, the worker’s salary will increase according to the following schedule:

  • Year one: $45,000
  • Year two: $46,350
  • Year three: $47,740
  • Year four: $49,173
  • Year five: $50,648

Over this period, you’ll have paid an additional $13,911 above the employee’s first year base pay, assuming a standard 3% raise each year. But what if, instead, you offered the employee $15,000 in student loan forgiveness at the end of a five-year period, in lieu of regular salary increases?

While not all workers would take such a deal, the psychological impact of $15,000 in loan forgiveness versus a seemingly-insignificant 3% annual raise may greatly appeal to some candidates – all without much of an impact on your total expenses.

Workplace Productivity and Arrangements

14. On average, employees spend an hour a day in meetings, for a total of 31 hours/month.

The same study by Atlassian found that almost half of employees believed meetings to be the number one time-waster at the office.

It’s time for a new approach to company meetings. Be ruthless in asking yourself whether everyone invited truly needs to attend. Make use of web tools that let teams share updates without interrupting their flow of work.

When upper management spends an average of 50% of their time in meetings, that’s a problem – and that’s time that can easily be reclaimed and put to better use elsewhere.

15. 54% of high-performing employees say their workspaces are too distracting.

In candidate-driven hiring environments – like the one we’re in now – every factor with the potential to increase turnover must be considered. And while compensation packages and recognition schemes are obvious places to start, don’t ignore the impact your office environment can have on employee satisfaction.

As far back as 2013, data has existed suggesting that open office layouts make workers unhappier, less productive and more likely to take sick days – yet 70% of spaces still boast these arrangements.

While there may be cost benefits to employers in constructing open office floor plans, you need to take the full impact into account. If your workspaces are too distracting for employees to work at their highest potential, you risk incurring costs in terms of both lost productivity and future turnover.

16. 68% of Millennial job seekers said an option to work remotely would greatly increase their interest in specific employers.

Remote work – where feasible – is a win-win for both employees and employers. Not only do employees prefer the opportunity to take advantage of these arrangements, they’re more productive when they do.

At the same time, remote work saves both employees and employers money. Remote work doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing, either. Hybrid work arrangements where employees are in the office some days and on their own during others can give you the best of both worlds.

Taking Action in 2017

As you move forward this year, think of statistics like these as guideposts. They may not all apply to your company or your unique recruiting situation, but they should give you an idea what you’re up against in the broader world of employment.

Take the recommendations that apply to you and commit to making improvements to your hiring and ongoing management approaches in 2017. If you’re thoughtful about your approach and demonstrate your intent clearly to candidates and employees, you should see improvements to your retention, engagement and overall on-the-job satisfaction.