In a world of constant change, where business owners large and small find themselves scrambling on a daily basis to keep up with seemingly ever-changing demands of the modern marketplace, perhaps the single most consistent challenge facing employers is how to retain their best employees.

As the nation’s unemployment level dips below 5 percent, employers are pulling out all the stops to not only attract skilled workers—but retain their most talented, most in-demand employees.

Both nationally and regionally, employers and even elected officials are acknowledging the employment reality they face in the New Year: the down side of a strong economy can often result in a shortage of the best workers. In Colorado, for example, the governor’s Office of State Planning & Budgeting predicted that the state’s current tight labor market—October’s employment figures in Colorado indicated an extremely low 3.8 percent unemployment rate—were expected to continue well into the coming year.

As employers wrestle with tactics and methods of holding on to their best workers in a tight market, industry experts say there are several methods that can help them to successfully accomplish that goal—or, at a minimum, help fill in the gaps that a difficult recruiting environment such as 2017’s job market can produce.

Some of the most popular methods of meeting staffing needs, and keeping the best employees include:

  • “Returnship”—What, exactly, is ‘returnship’? In a time when many aging Baby Boomers—among other workers—may have been out of the workplace for some time, companies are looking to the idea of recruiting those returning to the job market (ergo, the phrase ‘returnship’) for the first time in years; not unlike traditional internships, ‘returnship’ provides an employer with the opportunity to try out a prospective employee prior to an official hiring. Terms of the employment agreement can be flexible depending on the company and participant, and thus can be made to best suit the organization’s requirements.
  • Consider Contract/Temporary Employees: Rather than make a hard and fast decision to hire a full time/permanent employee, some companies are considering filling vacancies via either contracted or temporary hires. In a crunch, some organizations are deciding it’s more important to fill an opening with a qualified person, than the ultimate employment status that person may have when they begin work for the company; contracted or temporary hires can do just that.
  • Revisit Company Policy on “Boomerang” Employees: Many companies have policies in place that preclude employees who leave the company from ever returning to work again for the organization; employment experts are now counseling some companies to consider re-hiring former employees who previously left in good-standing; one of the intrinsic benefits of ‘re-hiring’ an employee is that person brings with him or her a pre-existing understanding of the company’s culture–and its workplace expectations.
  • Increase Proactive Efforts To ‘Connect’ With Staff: Whether it be through more frequent—or higher quality—internal communications, improved company benefits, holding company-sponsored events or offering more flex time, companies seeking to ensure their best people don’t look elsewhere are being advised to ‘go the extra mile’ to develop a deeper connection between their organization and their employees; a staff member who feels as though he or she is appreciated and offered tangible proof of same, is far less likely to be willing to take a position elsewhere.

While most American businesses welcome a strong economy and a vibrant employment market, successful companies hoping to hold on to their top people in 2017’s shallow labor ‘pool’ are going to have remain nimble–and innovative–in order to retain their best workers in the year ahead.