`Truly loyal' outnumbered by those just passing through

ON THE JOB

September 19, 2007|By HANAH CHO

How quickly would you leave your job if you could?

More workers are at risk of leaving their employers within two years than are committed to their companies, according to a recent survey of workplace loyalty conducted by Walker Information, a business research company.

In the survey of 2,950 workers, 36 percent of employees don't plan to stay long at their respective companies, while 34 percent are categorized as "truly loyal" to their organizations. (The survey's margin of error was 2 percentage points.)

This year's results run counter to the trend Walker Information has been seeing in the previous three surveys. (They're conducted every other year.) The percentage of loyal employees had been steadily climbing while the high-risk worker group had seen its number decline. For instance, employees at risk of leaving accounted for 31 percent of workers in 2005. The percentage of loyal workers remained steady at 34 percent the same year.

Chris Woolard, a senior consultant at Walker Information, says several factors may be contributing to the rise of employees who are at risk of leaving their jobs.

They include a strong labor market, though August job numbers from the U.S. Labor Department showing the first monthly decline in new jobs in four years raised concerns about a recession. Nevertheless, unemployment remained unchanged at 4.6 percent.

Woolard also points to a generational shift in the workplace with baby boomer workers retiring and Gen Y employees entering the work force.

While Gen Y workers have been criticized for their job-hopping, the survey, in fact, found that they were more loyal than Gen X and baby boomer workers. At the same time, the 20-something workers accounted for the greatest share of so-called at-risk employees.

That dichotomy seems to say that loyalty should be earned.

"If employers do the right thing, like providing development opportunities and allow them to have an impact on the community and have work-life balance and do some of the things this generation wants, I think they will stay with the company," Woolard says. "But they are more fickle, and if they don't have those things, they have no problem walking away and leaving the job tomorrow."

It's a lesson that employers can apply to all workers. Woolard adds that workers, based on Walker Information's research, want career development opportunities, meaning they'll look elsewhere if they can't find growth within their organizations.

Second, workers want to be treated fairly, Woolard says.

Who doesn't? That's regardless of age, gender and experience.

Send your stories, tips and questions to working@baltsun.com. Please include your first name and your city. On the Job is published Monday at www.baltimoresun.com

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