As the economy starts to improve, more workers who have felt overworked and underpaid may be ready to jump ship.
But in looking for greener grass, where will these employees land?
A good bet is that workers will look not only for better paychecks, but for companies where they can grow their individual talents. After the job market of the past several years, workers are more aware than ever that they need to keep their skills up to date if they want to stay viable in the marketplace.
For companies, the improving economy means that they will be competing more and more for top talent, especially in industries such as high tech where employers may use big bonuses or other perks to attract and retain employees.
One company facing a talent shortage is Tribridge, a Tampa-based information technology services and business consulting firm that is one of the two largest Microsoft Dynamics partners in the world.
Tribridge Chairman and Chief Executive Tony DiBenedetto says the industry is moving "at such a fast pace" that it's difficult to find employees with the necessary skills. The company has 12 locations in 35 states, serves about 3,500 customers and wants to add about 250 people to its current ranks of 450 employees this year.
But DiBenedetto says he knows Tribridge faces stiff competition for talent, especially for workers who have cloud-computing skills.
A recent Sand Hill Group and SAP American Inc. study found 80,000 jobs were added worldwide from January 2010 to January 2011 at 11 companies where cloud operations are a significant part of their business.
In the next five years, about 472,000 jobs are expected to be created in cloud-related companies worldwide.
Why such a demand? For one reason, popular social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter wouldn't be possible without the cloud, and nearly half a billion users will connect to the cloud from their smartphones and other mobile devices this year.
Further, mobile application downloads are estimated to reach 98 billion by the end of 2015.
But those demands mean some very specific cloud-computing skills are needed now and in the future — so the pressure is on to find the right employees for companies like Tribridge.
"We're growing so fast we're outpacing the industry. There's only so much talent out there" that can be lured from competitors, DiBenedetto says.
So instead of trying just to attract talent away from competitors, Tribridge launched Tribridge Academy 18 months ago to train new workers in necessary skills and keep the current work force on the cutting edge, DiBenedetto says.
Doug Blitzer, head of the academy, set up a virtual academy that offers 3,000 online courses to new and current workers. While a new employee may attend the academy every day for three months until up to speed, other workers with more experience participate in the two-year program partly during regular work hours.
All employees may attend the academy, no matter their job duties, he says.
"The program is very highly mentored," says Blitzer, director of talent strategy and development. "That's one of the things that makes it so successful."
Mentors include immediate supervisors and other team members, but employees also are encouraged to get outside mentors, DiBenedetto says.
"We believe because the market is constantly changing that getting an outside perspective is valuable," DiBenedetto says.
This commitment to career development and constant learning is critical not only for the company to survive in an internationally competitive marketplace but also to hang on to workers Tribridge has trained, he says. Right now, the company has a 95 percent retention rate.
Another key for Tribridge is seeking people who fit in with the company culture. Managers want those who welcome constant learning opportunities and express a natural curiosity, he says.
"Skills can be taught. You can't teach someone to be more entrepreneurial," he says. "We don't care if you're 20 or 50 years old. It may sound corny, but it really is about loving people and helping them develop to the best of their ability. If you have to have that kind of culture, then you become a place where people want to come to work."