LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – The ever changing job market may be making a swing in favor of employees, as employers scramble to keep their most qualified candidates.

“If businesses are not focusing on retention, those employees have options,” 7 Rivers Alliance CEO Chris Hardie said.

Historically low unemployment may mean more people are working, but it also means businesses looking to expand are running out of candidate choices.

“Businesses that have not had to really spend a lot of time on recruitment in the past now have to get really serious,” Hardie said.

To make matters more difficult, retaining staff is also proving a challenge. In July of this year, US employees saw wage increases of 3.8% by leaving for a new job versus 2.9% staying in their current job.

“It’s no secret in our community that our employers are stealing from each other,” La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vicki Markussen said. “That’s the only way you are going to get new employees for some positions.”

Short of requiring new employees to sign non-compete agreements – which is becoming more frequent – local experts believe another frontier needs to be explored.

“One of the things that we’ve seen businesses focus on is their culture,” Markussen said. “People could choose to work pretty much anywhere in this type of market, so what is it about their culture, what is it about working for that business that’s going to cause people to stay?”

While businesses work to keep employees they have, they also spend more effort finding talent that may not yet know about them in the first place.

“We at the chamber are seeing more and more businesses coming to us saying we need to tell our story because we can’t attract the workforce if people don’t know who we are,” Markussen explained.

It’s a good struggle to have, but a struggle nonetheless as the country and the La Crosse area head more toward what the chamber says is an employee’s market.

Low unemployment rates forcing focus on employee retention