Test of loyalty

FRAMINGHAM (03/18/2004) - While some say the jobless recovery is about to end, two recent surveys suggest that employment and staffing challenges will persist for U.S. companies.

According to a global survey of 954 executives conducted by Accenture Ltd., 83 percent of U.S. companies expect to add personnel (in general) within the next three months. Nearly one quarter (22 percent) say they are already actively recruiting new talent. Accenture says the United States offers the best outlook on hiring (highest percentage of companies hiring), followed by Canada, Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, employees seem to be split on whether or not they plan to seek new employment when job openings tick upward. More than half (55 percent) of 508 full-time U.S. workers surveyed by Accenture said they planned to stay at their current jobs for more than 10 years. On the other hand, 40 percent said they planned to leave their current jobs within five years. Ed Jensen, a partner in Accenture's Human Performance service line, says this dichotomy suggests that the recession and pending recovery has tempered the job-hopping attitude of many workers.

"We've gotten used to the fact that this generation of workers is more mobile and acts more like free agents," Jensen says. "That is a little overblown, perhaps. They still like the idea of having a long-term career."

According to the Accenture employee study, those who plan to leave their jobs within five years say they would be persuaded to stay for more money (71 percent), more opportunities for advancement (58 percent) or if a new boss or management team took over (30 percent). Slightly more than one in four respondents (27 percent) said they would stay in their current jobs if they received more training. However, more than half (51 percent) said that their employers are not providing such training. This is of particular importance in the IT space, says Jensen, who adds that stagnating salaries in this sector have also led to dissatisfaction.

"These companies probably haven't been providing the experiences internally that their workforce is seeking," Jensen says. "Employees are feeling like their compensation is stagnated and they don't see opportunities to grow within their organizations, so they are susceptible to a compelling offer from the outside."

Jensen warns employers that workers are almost always willing to leave for the right price, and he suspects that market conditions will change quickly in the spring - pushing salaries higher than industry standards. "Companies need to stay on top of the market and do things more quickly than they would otherwise do," Jensen says. "They should proactively engage employees."

Another poll, conducted online by Dice Inc., an online IT job board, found the loyalty factor to be much lower than that measured by Accenture. Dice.com's poll of 3,046 IT workers found that 34 percent were actively looking for a job now, while another 21 percent said they would seek a new job once the economy turned around. Just 10 percent said they were likely to keep their current job. Dice.com CEO Scott Melland says the IT industry is ripe for turnover.

"There seems to be an undercurrent of dissatisfaction that could provide a lot of turnover in the next 12 months as the economy improves," Melland says. "However, a lot of our customers are not worried about it at this point. The labor pool in technology is strong and they know they will be able to find qualified people."

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