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The Grass is Greener

The Grass is Greener

Human Resources

For example, the report finds those in the finance sector are most worried about the recession leaving their skillsets out of date. A whole quarter believe their skills will beo utdated in a post-recession world. This compares with just 8% of public services workers who think the same thing. Financial workers’ skills fears were double those of employees in the technology, media and telecoms sectors (12%), and almost double those who worked in professional services (14%). Employees clearly want to protest about the lack of progression they have had since the recession started. The majority of respondents in our survey said they did not expect to get promoted for at least one to two years.

So where exactly do these disgruntled workers want to go. This is perhaps the most interesting set of findings -it reveals all employees in all sectors think the grass is greener elsewhere.

The graphic (p36) shows the dominant ‘other sector’ staff from each existing sector want to move into. The extraordinary finding is that more staff in three out of five sectors want to move into public services. The strongest feeling was among financial services staff, where 7 1 % said they most want to move into the public sector. The dominant ‘other sector’ those working in retail wanted to work in was technology. Interestingly, although job satisfaction among public services workers is highest, those working in the sector clearly do not see their profession in the same light as those from the financial, professional services and technology/ media/ telecoms sectors who want to move into it. In fact there seems to be a straight swap of desire in play: 64% in technology/ media/telecoms say they want to switch to public services; about the same in public services (71%) want to switch to technology/media/ telecoms.

So is everyone deluded about each other’s sector? Will hoards of dissatisfied staff be moving into jobs they think are better but, in reality, are just as bad as the sectors they have left? And what will this do to their sense of wellbeing?

In for a shock?

These are certainly tantalising questions. Moran thinks those who think the grass is greener could be in for a shock. “It is likely the public sector will experience private-sector-style job losses in the next 1 8 months. We’re predicting a 10% fall,” he says. “Also, samesector, same-skills movements account for about 70% of job moves. We think it’s unlikely people will be able to move to different sectors with the same skills. Maybe this is why respondents to the survey are so worried about their current skills levels.”

Despite this, employees seem to have developed a strong view that the sector they most want to move to offers significantly better career progression than their current one. Retail staff are the most likely to think their other chosen sector offers greater advancement – at a high 68%. But there is a high percentage of staff (over 60%) in two other sectors (finance and technology/media/telecoms) who also think their other chosen sectors would give them better career opportunities. If all these sectors are so good, no one would want too be leaving them, so there is an obvious ‘grass is greener’ view among all employees. Worryingly though, it suggests they will also be in for a shock if they do indeed make good their intentions to leave – again, not good news for HRDs. Having misguided, or even rose-tinted, views about other sectors is not new, but what the recession certainly seems to be influencing is respondents’ views about the stability of their sector. In the heavily rocked financial and retail sectors, 58% and 45% of those in the financial and retail sectors respectively think their preferred ‘other’ sectors will be ‘more stable’. Across the board, at least a third of respondents think their other chosen industries would be more stable than their current ones. Again, this could be a delusionary belief, but the belief is there nonetheless.

Whether employees will actually go through with their threats to leave is something only time will tell, but if one message comes across loud and clear, it is that HR professionals cannot afford to take these results lightly.

As Right Management’s Lowe says: “This report flags up just how serious an exodus from companies could be when the economy picks up. If HR directors start now, and start a dialogue with their staff about their value proposition and the changes that have happened, there is a chance staff will re-engage. There is just about enough time to turn things around. And for those who want to attract talent from neighbouring sectors, there has never been a better time. Now is the time employees feel most minded to take a risk and change sectors. This is the time to reach out for them while the opportunity is there.”

Copyright Haymarket Business Publications Ltd. Oct 2009

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