Unhappy Execs, Retention Issues Plague Organizations

The anticipated, and potentially huge, skilled-workforce shortage that may appear as baby boomers approach retirement age is a hot topic among senior management these days. A recent survey by ExecuNet reveals that many executives not in line for retiremen

The anticipated, and potentially huge, skilled-workforce shortage that may appear as baby boomers approach retirement age is a hot topic among senior management these days. A recent survey by ExecuNet reveals that many executives not in line for retirement, and in addition, are unhappy with their jobs and plan to explore new opportunities sooner than later.

The survey of 505 employed executives said that 61 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with their current job. Of those 61 percent, 77 percent plan to change jobs in the next six months. Their reasons for jumping ship include a lack of challenge and personal growth, limited advancement opportunities, poor company culture and having a boss that is not a good match.

Dave Opton, CEO and founder of ExecuNet said some of the workforce-related angst organizations are dealing with is part economics, part culture. Now that the economy has experienced an upswing, employees are looking around and basically not liking what they see. Conditions that came about as a result of a dodgy economy have left existing workers disgruntled. “In many cases when organizations are reduced, a lot of the work doesn’t go away, it just falls on the people who are left behind,” Opton said. “As a result of that, the stress that was there before increases markedly, and the kinds of things that people hope for on a personal level, such as personal growth and the challenge of responsibilities they thought were a part of the bargain, all of a sudden aren’t there anymore. Certainly when organizations are downsizing the opportunities for growth and advancement don’t come along as frequently either.”

Poor company culture also was a reason that executives plan to seek new opportunities. “That’s as issue that I think has been around for a long, long time and isn’t necessarily a function of the economy, but rather a function of people’s perceptions of a situation from the outside,” Opton said. “I think sometimes people get caught up in the euphoria of being recruited and they fail to stop and think, ‘Wait a minute. This if your life you’re messing around with.’ A little due diligence on your part is probably not a bad idea at all, but a lot of people fail to do that. They get to a job and realize that what they learned from the newspaper, annual reports and interview process is not in fact the feeling they have when they get there.”

Opton said that researching a new opportunity doesn’t necessarily mean logistics and data, which are easy to obtain. “If you’re thinking about going to work for ABC Corp., it would probably be in your best interests to talk to people who work there or have worked there to get a feel for what it’s really like to be there before you jump off the edge of a cliff,” Opton said. “At the end of the day, it’s probably more important that you make the right decision than it is that the company make the right decision. They’ve been getting along without you okay until now, and probably can get along ok without you if you leave. It’s your life you’re playing with and that becomes more important the more experience you have. If you’re 45, 50 years old and take a job and it turns out to be the wrong type of environment or the wrong fit, fixing matters is not so easy.”

During the last 15 years there has been a fundamental change in the relationship between employees and employers Opton said. Today, mobility not stability define a successful career. “Back in, I’m going to guess 1991 or 1992, IBM announced to the world that they were going to have layoffs. Prior to that IBM was like the de facto standard of lifetime employment in this country. Or at least the de facto standard for the Puritan work ethic, which was keep your nose to the grind stone, do a good job, and we’ll take care of you, kind of a thing. When they announced that, particularly at the executive level, a lot of people realized that this implied or implicit quid pro quo between the employer and the employee was no more.”

Workers realized that entrenched employer loyalty and staying at one job for 25 years also was a thing of the past. “People started to internalize the notion that ‘I’m really in charge of my own career here,’” Opton said. “You have to take on an attitude of have skills will travel. Your loyalty, and I don’t mean to imply here that loyalty has anything to do with the quality of the work product that you’re prepared to give, rather it helps you to understand that ‘I’ve got to focus on what’s right for me and my family, and that’s the way I have to approach management of my career.’”

Today’s successful worker understands that the quality of work product he or she can produce is easily transferable should conditions improve. “The things that make you successful have nothing to do with the industry as they do to the skills that you bring to it,” Opton said.