Itchy workers looking to land a better job

Although more than 12 million Americans are unemployed and looking for work, many people with jobs are getting itchy for advancement and starting to think about a move.

About 44 percent of people surveyed recently by the Society for Human Resource Management reported that they probably will look for a new job within 12 months.

That's a large increase from the 2011 survey, which found only 36 percent expecting to seek another job.

The change indicates people might be sensing a thaw in the job market and the start of increased mobility, according to the human resource organization. Yet a sense of instability remains as the nation goes through the slowest recovery after a recession since World War II.

Only 46 percent of employees said in the national survey that they were satisfied with career advancement potential at their existing workplace. Researchers also thought people might prefer to progress within the organization they know rather "than take the risk of moving to a new employer."

The desire for career advancement was highest among middle management and college-educated employees, and people 47 and younger. But 95 percent of employees said utilizing their skills and abilities fully was key to job satisfaction. Advancing in their jobs was significant to 82 percent.

Job security was important to 97 percent, though there was a slight dip in the focus on job security during the last year.

The other issue considered very important for job satisfaction was compensation. But only 22 percent of employees reported being "very satisfied" with their pay and compensation, while 30 percent were satisfied with their job security, and only 18 percent thought they were advancing the way they hoped to advance.

Satisfaction at work has slipped five percentage points in the last year. Still, 81 percent said they were at least somewhat satisfied with their jobs.

Job satisfaction peaked in the 2009 recession, with 86 percent of employees feeling content with their jobs. The low point in workplace satisfaction was 77 percent in 2002.

Now, as companies look forward to stronger economic conditions, the human resources group is urging employers to focus on generating more satisfaction in order to retain valuable employees, and so existing employees remain engaged and productive.

The survey found among employees only "moderate engagement," or the determination to accomplish company goals and put forth a maximum effort.

The researchers suggested employers involve employees more in decision-making and strategy, communicate more with them and give them training and opportunities to employ more of their skills.

"Organizations are having difficulty recruiting employees with the right skills for their open positions," said Mark Schmit, vice president of research. In a 2011 survey by organization, 23 percent of employers said they were facing global competition for talent.

Yet, Schmit said, existing employees "frequently have skills and abilities beyond the position for which they were hired" and those skills can be tapped. If that occurred, the employer would benefit from the skills it needed and employees would feel more engaged.

Employees can be trained and promoted to fill positions that require higher skills, he said. That will leave openings for lower-level positions that can be easier to fill.

Companies have cut training budgets in the recession, but Schmit said developing employees can help organizations fill critical positions. He noted that Web-based training often can be done inexpensively.

gmarksjarvis@tribune.com

twitter @gailmarksjarvis

Featured Stories