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Professionals are optimistic about their ability to land a better job, report finds

Data from Robert Half lends credence to rumors of a radical realignment in the job market, and spells bad news for retention efforts in the tech industry and beyond.

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Image: iStock/TrudyWilkerson

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Data from a survey of workers by staffing firm Robert Half found that 87% feel confident about their skill set, and 32% plan to look for a new role in the next few months. This tracks with other reports about the state of the job market, suggesting that employees, not employers, are the ones holding power in the post-pandemic world.

Robert Half senior executive director Paul McDonald says that professionals are recovering from COVID-19-induced uncertainty to find themselves increasingly in demand and in a good place to negotiate. “As we turn the corner on COVID-19 and business conditions improve, employers will face new hiring and retention challenges and must adapt to meet the needs of a more resilient and resolute workforce,” McDonald said.

SEE: Juggling remote work with kids’ education is a mammoth task. Here’s how employers can help (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

According to its survey of nearly 3,000 workers, flexibility is a key reason job seekers are considering a change of employment. Forty-seven percent say they want a fully remote job, and 39% said they’re interested in becoming full-time contractors, with Millennials (ages 24-40) most likely to say so. 

“Professionals with in-demand skills know they have options—and leverage. Now is the time for companies to rethink where and how jobs are done and reshape organizational structures and policies to retain and attract the best talent,” McDonald said. 

Gen Z professionals, those aged 18 to 24, are the most likely to be looking for a new job, with 55% saying they plan to do so. Thirty-two percent of those say they’re planning a change due to a lack of professional development opportunities in their current position.

Those earning less than $50,000 per year are the most interested in a career change, and men are more likely to be seeking a new opportunity than women. 

These numbers coincide with other studies about worker’s desires to find remote jobs in the post-pandemic landscape, and further support reports that there’s a radical shift happening in the employer/employee power dynamic. The New York Times’ Neil Irwin describes the situation as a once-in-a-generation shift that’s giving workers the upper hand over employers, and it’s largely driven by COVID-19. 

People are demanding more money, are quitting in increasing numbers and countless jobs are going unfilled despite post-pandemic unemployment remaining higher than early 2020 before lockdowns began.

Robert Half’s findings also indicate that company values are a growing reason for people leaving. Thirty-one percent said they’ve had a “shift in perspective due to the pandemic and prefer to work for an organization that better aligns with their personal values,” and 71% percent said they’d leave a company whose values don’t match their own. In addition, employee well-being and diversity, equality and inclusion programs ranked as the most important to respondents.

“Today’s employees have high expectations of their employer. They want to belong to an organization that puts people first and takes action to create positive change in the workplace and community,” said Robert Half SVP of global human resources Lynne Smith.

Employers need to face the changes

It’s going to be tough for businesses to retain talent—especially young talent—and that could mean a difficult few years ahead as well-qualified employees leave for greener pastures. Robert Half has three key recommendations for employers worried about losing their luster with job seekers and employees.

First, be sure professional development plans are in place. Give top performers a reason to stay around by helping them meet long-term objectives, challenge them and help them grow without looking elsewhere.

SEE: IT expense reimbursement policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Second, keep organizational culture front and center, and continually refine it to move with the times. “Keep a pulse on the most important drivers of employee well-being and engagement and act on feedback in a timely manner,” Robert Half suggests.

Third, don’t ignore employee desires for flexibility. The traditional office is going the way of the dodo thanks to COVID-19, and employers need to realize that fact, despite leadership fears about the future of their ability to lead and create value for their organizations. Staff will be happier if they’re allowed to work from home either permanently or in a hybrid model, and allowing for that flexibility improves morale, increases performance and opens the door to a deeper and more diverse hiring pool, Robert Half said.  

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