The six month itch

Feb 07 2007 by Nic Paton Print This Article

It may feel like you only hired them yesterday, but six months on, the vast majority of new hires are already getting itchy feet and their levels of motivation and engagement will keep falling rapidly over the next 12 months.

A study by talent management firm Kenexa has shown there is a sharp downward pattern in employee engagement levels once someone has been hired for more than six months.

The survey of more than 840,000 workers in multi-national companies found that for the first six months, the vast majority Ė nearly three quarters Ė are generally excited and engaged about their job.

But from month six through to the eighteenth month, satisfaction levels decline sharply, and by the end of their second year instead of focusing on the job in hand they are actively looking for pastures new.

The survey echoes study of worker attrition rates carried out last November by research firm Sirota Survey Intelligence.

This found that employees with fewer than two years of service voluntarily leave at an average rate of about 20 per cent per year, while those with more than two years tenure quit at an average rate of only half this.

The Sirota survey, of almost 47,000 employees, also found that almost six out of 10 of all those who quit in any given year have been in their job for fewer than two years.

Yet the Kenexa survey also reported some grounds for optimism. While more than half of new hires feel disengaged at the two-year mark, the longer an employee stays with an employer, the higher the levels of satisfaction and engagement, it suggested.

At year 16, more than three quarters of workers reported being satisfied and engaged, dipping slightly to 72 per cent for those with 20 years service or more under their belts.

Jeffrey Saltzman, Kenexa's New York practice leader, said: "These findings are of critical importance to employers. A workforce that continually churns creates enormous expense and substantial employee morale issues, and significantly reduces a company's competitive advantage.

"Employees who are disengaging from the workplace represent a tremendous amount of lost value," he added.

"Not only did the organisation expend tremendous resources to get that employee in the first place, resources which may now be squandered, an unengaged employee negatively impacts organisational effectiveness in such areas as customer interactions and relationships, productivity, innovation and growth.

"This pattern of disengagement represents an opportunity for companies to increase their performance if the disengagement pattern is addressed proactively and managed," he concluded.

But the survey also showed that, if managers can keep their workers engaged and motivated, over time, there may be rewards in terms of engagement and motivation.

"Whether in the U.S. or UK, the longer term employees, who are of course the survivors of the 'two-year itch' once again become more engaged and committed," said Saltzman.

"By taking the appropriate measures to get employees past the two-year itch, employers can reap the benefits of their investments in recruiting, training and development and build a higher- performing workforce," he added.