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84% of workers planning to look for new job: poll

Updated: May 17, 2011 5:16PM

Workers can’t wait to dump their employers: 84 percent of respondents to a survey say they plan to actively look for a new job this year.

That’s up from 60 percent who said they planned to do so last year. Only 5 percent said they intend to stay in their current position.

The survey was done by Manpower subsidiary Right Management. “It’s staggering,” said Joanne Stroud of Right Management.

Senior leadership within organizations is largely to blame, Stroud said. While many workers have gone without salary increases for two to three years and are now doing the job of one to two people, they see and hear less from senior leadership about the vision for the future and how they see the company evolving and reshaping themselves, she explained.

“Workers see the world is changing and see creativity going on in the world,” but inside their own organizations, “all they see is cost cutting and retrenchment,” Stroud said.

The online survey of more than 1,400 people was taken in October and November last year.

In hard times, senior management’s reaction is often to tighten controls with increased reporting requirements that require more work and micromanaging, in addition to cost cutting, she added. But things fall through the cracks. Because people are being asked to do too much, that results in their doing a poorer job, and consequently workers don’t feel good about their performance, also causing discontent and hurting morale, she said.

Given the current still weak job market, it’s unlikely that most discontented workers will be able to jump ship. But employers still have reason to be concerned about them, Stroud noted.

“They are spending a certain percent of available work time looking for opportunities rather than working,” she said. “That means they are very disengaged at best. At worst, they are sabotaging the organization.”

Companies are at risk of losing key employees as the economy improves, notes John Challenger, chief executive officer of Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“A lot of people, some of the top performers in companies, who stayed on with employers that in better times might not have, who just opted for safety rather than take the risk of going to work for a new company,” Challenger said. “But now if the economy does start to improve, some of those people are beginning to be more proactive in looking for more challenging opportunities.”

Employers need to be concerned about discontent throughout their ranks, not just among the best and brightest, said Ken Lehman, founder and chairman of the Evanston-based nonprofit Winning Workplaces, which consults with employers on how to create great workplaces.

“Every employee can bring you down no matter what level they operate at,” said Lehman.

To keep employees engaged and committed, Stroud said organizations must, among other things, eliminate nonessential work pay workers fairly and give them the resources to do their jobs.

Winning Workplaces Director of Consulting and Training Diane Stoneman advises employers to:

*Solicit employee feedback in a variety of ways including employee surveys, exit interviews, small and large group meetings and take appropriate action in response to the feedback.

*Clearly and honestly communicate the vision of the organization, its priorities, values challenges and how employees’ work fits into the larger picture.

*Provide competitive wages and benefits.

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