With more than 83 million baby boomers poised for retirement, close to three-quarters of employers say they are concerned about a shortage of skilled workers, according to a new study.

The 2006 Randstad Employee Review researched workplace attitudes and experiences of employers and employees — focusing on company productivity, employee development, morale issues, health, and happiness.

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Randstad, an Atlanta-based global staffing firm, surveyed 1,642 employers, and 1,264 employees in the U.S., ages 18 and older. This is the sixth annual review by Randstad, and employer trends seem to be shifting, according to Eric Buntin, managing director of operations and marketing for Randstad Employee Review.

"We are starting to see employers and employees begin to respond in a similar fashion," said Buntin, "There are still gaps in perception, but they are not as great as four years ago."

According to the survey, 84 percent of employers say that employee production has increased or remained the same over the past 12 months, with a majority of employers saying employee satisfaction is an essential factor in productivity.

Employee productivity isn't the only concern for employers, according to the survey — 41 percent of small-business owners cite hiring the right people with the right job skills as the number one employment issue they face, with retaining and motivating employees at a close second.

"Employers may be challenged in the future when it comes to expanding skills or increasing responsibilities of their employees," Buntin said, noting that some younger employees may balk at the idea of increased responsibilities.

Retention and motivation can also be an issue, as just 41 percent of employers say they are loyal to their employees, a drop of 2 percent from the previous year. However, both employers and employees say open communication is the most important aspect of a company's culture.
Seventy-three percent of employers surveyed said fostering employee development is important, however only 49 percent of employees said their leadership is providing them with those development opportunities.

The disparity may be a matter of perception, according to Buntin. "When you look at how employers define development, and how employees perceive the development opportunities they receive, there may be differences between the two," he said.

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