In a fair and simple world, being a good boss would be easy. Just make your employees happy, and they'll repay you with hard work and loyalty. Sadly, it looks as if we're not living in such a world, at least if the latest edition of an annual survey from Salary.com is to be believed.
The headline finding of the new poll of 1,200 workers is that significantly more workers are job hunting this year than last. A whopping 83 percent of people surveyed said they are planning to look for a new gig this year--a 6 percent increase from last year. That's depressing news for bosses looking to hold on to their best people, but the news gets even more frustrating. Though intentions to leave increased, bafflingly, so did employee happiness.
In 2013, 69 percent of employers reported that they were unhappy in their current job, but this year saw a big drop in that number. Only 46 percent said they were discontent at work. Let's break that down. Many more folks are happier, but more are also job hunting. In fact, 28 percent of the people job hunting claimed to be perfectly content in their positions. What on earth is going on?
Money makes the world go round?
The most popular response when survey participants were asked why they were looking to move on was money--16 percent were looking for higher pay. Are your workers likely to be cold-hearted mercenaries then? There are a couple of reasons to be cautious before laying the blame for disloyalty at the feet of excessively greedy employees.
One, the number who are after higher pay actually decreased 8 percent from last year, and only 29 percent said a raise would lead them to stick around. Half of those job hunting even received a pay bump in the previous year.
But there's also a second reason to think twice before blaming employees' excessive interest in pay. Bosses often have an unhealthy attitude toward raises themselves. Felix Salmon, writing for Vox about the issues surrounding pay swirling around the ousting of New York Times editor Jill Abramson, makes a more general point about the trouble with how many companies handle compensation.
"We've all worked in companies, I'm sure, where the only way to get a substantial raise is to confront management with a job offer from somewhere else. That's clearly a dreadful way to run a company, since it gives all employees a huge incentive to spend a lot of time looking for work elsewhere, even if they're very happy where they are," he writes. If you're one of those managers, and you're looking for someone to blame, you need to look in the mirror.
Keeping your people
On a more practical level, what insights does the poll offer if you want to retain your people? Given the above realities around money, a raise would certainly be your best bet. Again, nearly a third of workers (29 percent) said a pay rise would get them to stay. But if that's not possible, there are a couple of other likely options. In short, offer them advancement and appreciation. Lack of opportunities for both were the second- and third-most cited reasons for looking to leave.
When it comes to sweetening the deal for employees, lifestyle-improving perks were surprisingly unpopular. Only 5 percent said a more flexible schedule would entice them to stay, and only 10 percent would be swayed by a better work-life balance.
That wasn't the only surprise the poll uncovered. Despite the job-hopping reputation of younger workers, it was actually older employees who were much more likely to be actively looking. Among the 51-60 age group, an incredible 85 percent were planning a job search, while among those 18-25, only 67 percent were on the hunt.