For employees at Ernst & Young, the job just seems better with a 600-gallon tank full of shiny, colorful fish. Getting hooked on the...

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For employees at Ernst & Young, the job just seems better with a 600-gallon tank full of shiny, colorful fish.

Getting hooked on the job isn’t so hard either when the boss offers on-the-spot $500 bonuses for a job well done and the company pays for child care on weekends.

Workplace perks are put into place not only to keep employees happy — but also to keep them.

“Employees are on the lookout, and if there’s a better opportunity out there, they’re going to go for it,” said Mark Angott, president of Angott Search Group, an executive search firm in Michigan. “If you’re in corporate America, you better make sure you’re taking care of employees.”

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The tide is turning rapidly from an employer-driven job market to an employee-driven one. The economy is improving steadily. Consumer confidence is up and unemployment is down.

Simply put: Quitting the job — and finding a new one — just got a lot easier.

Keeping workers is going to get tougher for employers, and retention is high on the minds of managers fighting a can-quit attitude among employees. The rate of people leaving their jobs is rising.

In January 2004, 1.6 percent of America’s work force quit, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In January 2005, the most recent figures available, that number had risen to 1.9 percent — that’s 2.5 million people.

In the past year, more than 1 million jobs have been created and 30 percent of hiring managers nationwide expect to add jobs in 2005, according to a report by Careerbuilder.com. That means opportunity for unhappy workers.

More than half of workers (53 percent) said they are or may be considering leaving their jobs, according to an August 2004 Job Satisfaction and Retention Survey of 455 employees nationwide.

In 2001, just 36 percent answered yes to that question on the survey conducted by Chart Your Course International, a company that trains employers on how to retain their most talented performers.

The top reasons workers leave include a poor relationship with the boss, salary, uninteresting work, no flexibility or opportunity for advancement and work/life balance, the survey said.

Experts estimate turnover costs range from a conservative 30 percent of annual salary plus benefits to as much as 150 percent of a worker’s yearly pay.

Included are the steep expenses of hiring a replacement, paying for temporary work or overtime as the position sits vacant, signing bonuses, relocation costs for the new employee and retraining.

Using conservative figures, a 1,000-employee company with an average salary/benefits package of $60,000 would have annual turnover costs of $2 million.