A nationwide scramble? Featured

1:30pm EDT June 29, 2006
In Columbus, we have historically been blessed with a solid job market, even during tougher economic times. Between the state capital, a major university and big-name employers, the number of middle- and high-level jobs in our community is higher the average Ohio city.

Yet, surveys show that even among top-paying jobs, there is a significant amount of dissatisfaction. University of Phoenix polled nearly 2,500 working professionals in diverse industries to determine the benefits needed to keep them happy, motivated and loyal in a changing workplace. The Zoomerang survey, conducted in June 2005, carries a margin of error of +/-1.8 percent.

According to this nationwide online survey of working adults, more than two-thirds of the respondents (67 percent) are looking for a job. In addition to sending out resumes and interviewing with companies, survey respondents are taking calls from recruiters, surfing job boards, and perusing education options to prepare for a job move.

While 58 percent of the respondents cited better pay as the primary reason for jumping ship, one-third would leave for more interesting or rewarding work, and 26 percent would resign for positions of greater responsibility. Nearly half (47 percent) reported no opportunities for advancement at their current companies.

These statistics certainly look alarming on the surface, but they may indicate better times are at hand. As the job market improves, workers are beginning to check out other options in their industry. Younger workers are especially mobile, and it’s important to help them achieve internally in order to keep them at your company.

One way to accomplish this is through education, which most employees — 64 percent — consider essential to keeping them happy on the job. This finding is even more evident among Generation X (those between the ages of 26-39), 70 percent of whom say that education is important and Generation Y (in the 18-25 age range), 77 percent of whom agree.

Respondents acknowledged that many of their employers have education and training programs in place, but that they don’t encourage employees to take advantage of them. For instance, nearly half said their companies offer tuition reimbursement for those seeking college degrees, along with mentoring, professional development, on-the-job training and other assistance. However, only one-third said their companies actively promote these benefits to their workforce.

The research uncovered other insights about today’s workers.

Loyal ... for now
Almost half (49 percent) of survey participants have been working for the same employer for five or more years, and more than one-quarter (29 percent) have stayed with their company for 10 years or more.

However, at least one-third (34 percent) of the respondents plan to change employers within the next three years. These statistics are even higher among Gen X and Y workers - 45 and 55 percent, respectively.

The best and worst parts of the job
Employees said the best parts of their current job are co-workers and good management (26 percent), followed by flexibility/hours (14 percent), job satisfaction (10 percent) and benefits/vacation (9 percent).

Stress and low pay tied as the worst characteristics of jobs held by respondents. Each of these aspects were reported by 16 percent of the participants in the survey. These were followed by dissatisfaction with upper management and co-workers.

Who’s responsible?
Virtually all (97 percent) employees take all or some of the responsibility for their happiness on the job, though Gen Y workers claim slightly less responsibility for their job satisfaction (92 percent).

To improve their job satisfaction, two-thirds of employees ask for more responsibility, resources and work that increase their visibility to management.

These findings highlight the fact that it takes more than a decent work environment to retain employees-it also takes perks such as advancement opportunities and education. As the economy continues its recovery, employers throughout Columbus should consider ways to help their employees with professional development. It won’t just benefit the employee in the short term, it will also help both the employee and the employer in the long term.

ERIC ZIEHLKE is campus director for University of Phoenix’s Columbus campus. University of Phoenix is the nation’s largest private university, with more than 230,000 students at more than 150 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Reach Ziehlke at (614) 433-0095 or Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.