Employees May Be Staying Put — But Most Are Dissatisfied

Despite widespread job dissatisfaction, a majority of executives plan to stay at their current job.

This is the somewhat counterintuitive finding from a recent survey of 3,900 executives in more than 30 countries conducted by management consultancy Accenture.

According to the results, more than half of both the women and men surveyed (57 percent and 59 percent) expressed dissatisfaction with their jobs. Still, despite the discontent, more than two-thirds (69 percent) said they do not plan to leave their current employers.

The Accenture study conflicts with a study of 1,500 workers conducted by executive search firm FPC, which found that four in five American workers want to change jobs. Workers cited lack of opportunity and poor treatment during the recession as reasons to explore greener pastures. The Accenture findings, grim as they may be, provide talent managers with a bit of daylight.

“Despite current challenges, employees are still striving for success — and energized, engaged employees remain a competitive advantage,” said Adrian Lajtha, Accenture’s chief leadership officer. “Since the majority of today’s professionals are not job hunting, leading companies must capitalize on this moment in time to equip their people with clearly defined career paths that include innovative training, leadership development and opportunities for advancement.”

The full report from Accenture — titled “The Path Forward” and timed to be released as part of International Women’s Day on March 8 — provided further details. When asked about the greatest barrier to career advancement, respondents cited a lack of opportunity or a clear career path twice as often as they cited family responsibilities (42 percent vs. 20 percent). Approximately one-third (32 percent) cited no barriers to their advancement.

The report indicated employees are taking a stronger hand in steering their own careers. Most respondents said they are taking a variety of steps including accepting a different role or responsibility (cited by 58 percent of respondents), receiving more education or training (46 percent) and working longer hours (36 percent).

Get to Know Your Employees

Simply talking to employees and taking the time to understand their goals and priorities may be the best response to rising dissatisfaction and career paths obstructed by the recent recession.

“At some point, we’re all dissatisfied with a particular role, a particular person we work for [or] a particular location we have to work in,” said Jill Smart, Accenture’s chief human resource officer. “What’s really important and what does keep people from staying even if they’re dissatisfied with their current role is knowing what the other opportunities are.”

Start by identifying whether or not someone is satisfied and if not, what in particular is driving dissatisfaction, Smart said. To aid that process, Accenture developed a simple measurement tool employees use to rank the importance of factors such as career opportunity, training and development, rewards, and co-workers and teams, and then rate their satisfaction with each.

The results can be eye-opening, Smart said, and employers can use that information to make sure employees know what opportunities are available to them to grow as a professional, whether it’s a promotion or a lateral move.

Every employee at Accenture is also assigned a career counselor tasked with helping define his or her career path and identifying potential problems before it’s too late. The company is also developing an interactive career mapping tool pre-populated with employee data, such as their current job role and competencies, so employees can plot out potential career moves. That tool has the added benefit of being available to employees at the time of need.

“Employees don’t necessarily need to understand all the career paths available all the time,” Smart said. “I really am only interested in it when it’s my turn to start thinking about a change. I have to easily be able to find that information.”

Smart said employees’ active management of their careers is happening across genders and different age and demographic groups, but in particular is important for up-and-coming leaders. It’s rare that a young employee will spend more than 30 years at the same company like Smart has.

“We’re looking at a new normal in the workplace,” said Nellie Borrero, inclusion and diversity lead at Accenture. “Employees are defining success in a variety of ways, customizing their own approaches and balancing personal demands with their desire to succeed. The challenge for employers is to help employees fully integrate the whole spectrum of work and life needs over the course of their careers.”

Mike Prokopeak is vice president and editorial director at Talent Management magazine. He can be reached at mikep@talentmgt.com.