Britain's employers face a growing retention nightmare as a new survey reveals that half the country's managers plan to change their job in the next two years – with better work-life balance a major motivation for moving on.
The Recruitment Confidence Index's (RCI) Employee Confidence Survey suggests that one in three (31 per cent) managers and professionals in the UK expect to change jobs within the next 12 months, with a further 17 per cent expecting to move within the next two years.
But while keen to change jobs, employees are not overly confident about their ability to find a new position with four out of 10 expecting it to get harder to find a job over the next year.
In the longer term half expect it to get more difficult over the next five years, while only 15 per cent of workers expect job-hunting to get easier over that period.
The survey, produced by Cranfield School of Management and the Daily Telegraph in association with Personnel Today, also revealed that manageable hours and better work-life balance are increasingly important factors in people's choice of employer.
Although more than half of all staff (57 per cent) say pay is very important to them, 48 per cent say enjoying the job is very important while four out of 10 (41 per cent) described working hours as a "crucial" factor.
When it comes to moving on, six out of 10 said they would apply for a new job if the salary was good enough - but half also said it was important that a new employer offered them good opportunities to balance work with home.
For many employers, however, the survey results will come as a surprise.
Research carried out by the RCI three months ago found that employers regarded pay, career progression and organisational culture as the three most important factors when it comes to hanging on to their talent.
Only a quarter of employers said flexible working was important while a further quarter believed that it had no impact at all.
But employers who continue to maintain that work-life balance is not a major issue for their staff are deluding themselves, said Cranfield School of Management's Dr Emma Parry.
"The results show that today's workers don't just want to be well paid for what they do, they also want job satisfaction and the ability to balance work and home," she said.
"Employers need to bear this in mind and think more creatively about the packages they offer new recruits if they are going to fill vacancies in what is already a tight labour market. It's not enough to offer pay and promotion - staff want a personal life too."
The survey, which canvassed the views of 5,000 employees across the UK, also reveals significant dissatisfaction in the workplace. More than a third - 35 per cent - are either neutral about or dissatisfied with their current job, a figure which could explain why so many respondents appear to be active job seekers.
However Andrew Platt-Higgins of recruitment solutions provider Barkers, who sponsored the research, pointed out that although the UK is enjoying almost full-employment, this has not yet translated into a bull market for talent.
"There is still lots of insecurity and ambivalence among candidates," he observed, But added that the widespread lack of employee commitment uncovered by the research was something employers should take seriously.
"The fact that more than one in three people are dissatisfied or neutral about their jobs has to have an impact on commercial performance and service delivery in the private and public sectors," he warned.