Your Staff Are Looking for a Job!

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A casual observer would assume that the only people looking for a job in today's employment market are people who have been made redundant. Surely people should be happy to have a desk to return to each day and should be heaving sighs of relief when their security passes still work at the beginning and end of each day. This is surely emphasized by the stories of staff that still continue to work loyally in companies who are not paying them, or who have reduced salaries and stopped paying bonuses, even those bonuses already earned.

I set out to challenge this mindset and actually find out what is really going on in the heads of our local workforce and the findings may actually shock some employers who believe they are through the "war for talent" — yes, you haven't heard that expression for a while! The recruitment firm Antal received over a thousand responses to a survey that focused on mid level managers across a diverse range industry sectors, disciplines and in both international and domestic companies. Those responding could to choose between multiple pre-defined reasons, which matched their personal reasons for looking. The results were unexpected, and the conclusions, possibly quite worrying for employers.

The first startling conclusion to be drawn is that about 90% of the respondents who were actively looking for a change in employer, were actually still in employment. Only 10% were currently unemployed. So the first hypothesis is blasted out of the water like a small pirate speedboat stumbling across the joint anti-pirate international task force on manoeuvres in the Straights of Malacca. Some of your colleagues or employees are right now preparing their CVs to send out.

But what, in such uncertain times, would drive people to take such a risk? Surely having survived 6 months of economic downturn, these are the "lucky" people, the "survivors". Well, fifteen years in the employment market in Russia tells me there's no accounting for people's high opinion of their own abilities, average people appear to have a Teflon coat to protect their personal confidence and are quite happy to resign, have a three-week holiday and then start looking for a job. In the USA, or Western Europe, the job seeker would find a job, whilst still in employment, finding all sorts of creative reasons to take the time off. Whilst this might work in the boom times, it's certainly a highly risky endeavour right now. But people are still doing it. But now, more people are finding it more challenging to find that next job. Linked to this is the fact that many companies who have downsized have actually taken the economic environment as a good catalyst to upgrade the quality of their management teams. There is a lot of restructuring around, therefore a lot of uncertainty; people are required to work harder to achieve the same as before, and basically some of this added "work place pressure" is filtering through into the reasons for wanting to change jobs. For example 42% of job seekers primarily blame "poor management style". This comes in as the third most important reasons only after Career progression (in top place at 68%) and No. 2 — Base Salary (2nd at 54%).

The dynamics of the work place have changed much in the past 6 months. People are not getting promoted at the same rapid pace they were in the pre-downturn period, however the expectation of being promoted three times in 2 years is still there. When challenged, the people who have these expectations are convinced that this is the norm for somebody who is reasonably (or highly) talented. In actual fact the main reason promotions have been given at such a rapid pace is the huge talent gap this country has to face to this day in business. Back in the early 1990s there were gaping holes in people's organizational charts and they had to be filled, good people were fast tracked. Everybody knew somebody who had been promoted for the third time that year, so they wanted to be as well. Some companies made up new jobs titles as an easy way around this, after all, good people wanted the promotional title, but didn't always want additional responsibilities. The expectation is still there, the vacant managerial gaps are however not as plentiful, so the job seeker has to go elsewhere to get from accounts clerk to CFO is 5 years.

In at No. 4 with 26% of respondents claiming this to be a decisive factor is the "work / life" balance. People want time to check out the latest "75% liquidation sale" This is a recent phenomenon, probably linked to the progress of the Generation Y, whose mantra is work to live, not live to work, you can't take the money with you. Personally I come from the Generation X — work now play later philosophy.

A quarter of respondents claimed that one of the reasons they were on the market was the instability of their current employer. Management teams have been working very hard to restructure their businesses and it's been basic survival, but we believe that many firms are actually through this phase. However there appears to be a weakness in communicating this new found increase in confidence.

Employers would do well to note that they should not take their employees loyalty for granted and must work as hard now to retain staff as prior to the downturn. After all there actually still is a war for the best talent and there is no guarantee that vacancies created by staff leaving can be filled immediately with talent of equal or better competencies. Employer beware.