Welcome to 2014. In addition to the usual New Year’s resolutions — lose weight, exercise, read more — there’s another life change millions of people are contemplating this month: Find a new job.
According to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker stays at a job for 4.4 years, but the expected tenure for the youngest generation in the workforce is half of that.
Statistics vary depending on the research cited. Personal branding expert and author Dan Schawbel recently conducted research with job site Beyond.com and discovered that more than 60 percent of millennials plan to leave their employer in less than three years.
In “Multiple Generations @ Work,” a survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers by executive development firm Future Workplace, the total reported is much higher. It showed about 91 percent of millennial workers expect to stay in a job for less than three years.
With a replacement cost between $15,000 and $25,000 or higher for each employee lost, the financial repercussions are staggering. But here’s another piece of information that is even more startling. Millennials aren’t the only ones poised to jump ship.
Recently, Peter Cappelli, director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources, and Monika Hamori of IE Business School analyzed job search data from an executive search firm. In a paper published in Organization Science, they reported more than half of the high-level executives contacted — 52 percent — agreed to be candidates for positions outside their company.
In a Knowledge@Wharton article about the study, Cappelli said the number of executives who responded to the search firm’s initial call was “higher than I expected. I thought that most executives would be more committed to their organizations, that they wouldn’t be interested in moving … and yet more than half of those contacted basically said, ‘Yes, I’m interested.’”
Worse, the more senior the executive, the more willing he or she is to engage in a job search.
Cappelli said the lack of allegiance to one’s company “is symptomatic of a broader way of managing organizations in general,” and most of the companies included in the researchers’ database “routinely dump people and go outside to look for new ones,” treating people as disposable.
Those of us in workforce development know one of the most powerful deterrents to employee defection is education. Learning and development opportunities represent the antithesis of treating people as disposable. They are proven strategies that increase retention, reinforce affinity for the organization and play a critical role in engagement.
The Cappelli and Hamori study raises important questions about how organizational approaches to executive development affect loyalty and longevity for senior-level employees.
“There is a perception, especially with respect to executive MBA programs, that people who sign up are going to leave their company once the program is completed,” Cappelli said. “The reality is that people who go into those programs are investing a lot of their own time and energy; they are self-identifying that they want to do more in their companies — get promoted, work on different types of projects, etc. — all ambitions that one would expect companies to encourage.”
In practice, however, it doesn’t always work that way. Budget cutbacks, decentralized decision-making, lack of a clear leadership development strategy and uncertain succession plans all contribute to a disconnect. Given this context, according to Cappelli, “you can see why people who have spent considerable effort advancing their skills and knowledge want to job search outside the company.”
As a learning leader, you can help your organization protect its investment in its executives and keep them from searching for other opportunities. How lies beyond the obvious strategy of developing internal talent and providing opportunities for advancement.
Success will require experimenting with more purposeful and innovative approaches to executive development that create the personal and cultural connections executives need to feel they are aligned with the business and an indispensable part of its leadership.
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