Economic Recovery: Employee Loyalty at a Low; Many May Look for New Jobs

Economic recovery may mean more people look for better places to work.

April 8, 2011, 10:52 AM

April 11, 2011 — -- As the unemployment rate, currently at 8.8 percent, has started to decrease, employers should be cautious that workers don't jump ship for new opportunities.

Jane, 26, who asked to be called only by her first name, has worked as an account executive at an advertising agency in New York for over a year. She said she would like to leave her job in the next month.

She said the improving economy is a "huge factor" in her decision to move on from her company without another job in the pipeline.

"I've seen so many job postings, so it encouraged me to at least try and apply," she said. "With all the evidence suggesting that the economy is improving and more companies are hiring, why not take advantage of that and try to find a better opportunity?"

She said her supervisor left the company in the fall and her employer has not hired a replacement. The understaffing has led her to feel "overworked and tired." She said she might be persuaded to stay if given a 25 percent raise, but that's not likely.

"Many of my friends are constantly looking for 'the next best thing,' and very rarely do they stay at a job for more than two years," she said.

36 Percent Want to Quit

And Jane is not alone. Over one third of employees, 36 percent, hope to leave their job in the next twelve months, according to a survey by the insurance company MetLife.

The study also showed that 47 employees reported feeling "very strong loyalty" to their employers, down from 59 percent in 2008, when the downturn began.

But employers may not be aware of their employees' decreasing loyalty. Of the employers surveyed, 51 percent said their employees have very strong loyalty to them. Half of employers said the same when the survey was conducted in 2008.

MetLife conducted the interviews during the fourth quarter of 2010, the ninth year it has done such a survey. The company interviewed 1,508 employers and 1,412 full time employees at companies with a minimum of two employees.

"Employers still seem to be slogging through an economy in which it's tempting to say their employees are lucky just to have a job," said Ron Leopold, vice president, U.S. Business, at MetLife. "But our data suggests that employees are starting to see signs of improvement in the economy."

He said employers can be unaware of their employee needs, which can lead to high turnover. This can especially be the case when employees see other companies hiring.

"And they are getting restless, so employees could be a flight risk for employers," Leopold said.

Whereas only 37 percent of employers thought nonmedical benefits, like dental and short- and long-term disability insurance, were factors driving employee loyalty, 59 percent of employees said those types of coverage were important, according to Leopold.

Career Changes Can Be Frightening

Sarah Showfety, a life coach who has worked with clients who have wanted to leave their jobs, said they usually do not cite work benefits as reasons to quit.

"It is usually because they feel undervalued, experience a loss of trust in management, come across a better opportunity or realize that the job is not aligned with their true passions or purpose," Showfety said.

Showfety, who left a career in finance to pursue life coaching, said she was not surprised that a third of employees want to leave their jobs.

"Many people are dissatisfied with and unfulfilled by the work they do but may be frightened to make a career change," Showfety said. "They may think, 'This is as good as it gets,' or, 'I'm not sure I'm capable of doing something else.' As a coach, my work is to get people to explore and expand their perception of what's possible."

Jennifer, 25, has worked in a support role at a technology company in California since 2007. She said she would like to leave her job as soon as she finds the "best next opportunity."

"I don't see an opportunity to further develop my career in this role and I don't feel inspired by management in the same way I once did," she said.

Still, Jennifer said she was surprised to hear that one in three people felt discontentment with their current employers.

"Given the layoffs and uncertainty that many people have gone through in the past couple of years, I find the lack of loyalty surprising," she said. "Many people feel unstable and uncertain about their jobs."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events