US managers get itchy feet

Sep 01 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

American companies face a retention crisis in their middle management when the economy picks up, according to a survey by management consultants Accenture.

Just under half (48 per cent) of American middle managers are looking for another job or are planning to look for new roles when economic conditions improve, according to the survey of 509 managers across the United States.

Almost four out of ten American managers are currently looking for another job, and a further one in ten will start looking when the economy improves and the job market strengthens. Of those currently looking, nearly two-thirds said they will intensify their searches when the job market strengthens.

The reasons for such widespread itchy feet are revealing. Almost one in three wanted better pay or benefits. Others mentioned improved working conditions or job prospects, better training, and more opportunities to advance at their current jobs. The remaining respondents said they did not like their bosses or their current jobs.

"Given the early indicators of a possible US recovery, companies need to identify their top performers, rethink their investments in them and find ways to keep them happy and loyal," said Edward Jensen, a partner in Accenture’s Human Performance service line.

"As a first step, they should understand the issues that are top-of-mind for those managers. They should then address those issues with specific programs, which might include compensation discussions, but may also focus on quality of life or training and development concerns."

When asked to identify the one factor most motivating them to seek different jobs, more than half (56 per cent) of respondents cited better pay or benefits. Others cited better conditions or job prospects (12 per cent), better training and development opportunities (8 per cent), lack of prospects or advancement at their current jobs (8 per cent), dislike of their current jobs (7 per cent) and dislike of their bosses (6 per cent).

But the findings also show that respondents are pessimistic about a quick rebound in the US job market and the economy. Only 13 per cent said they believe the job market will strengthen and the economy will improve within the next six months, whereas one in three thought that it will be two years or more before that happens. The majority said the economy will rebound either within 6-12 months (26 per cent) or between one and two years (27 per cent).

"Companies should recognize that people will leave, and, rather than trying to manage overall attrition, they should align their key managers and workforce programs with the company’s overall strategy," said Jensen.

"They should understand that the current talent war is more about access to talent than just owning it, and they should consider alternative resourcing strategies that include a mix of full time, flex-time, outsourcing, etc. Finally, they might take this opportunity to begin gearing up their recruiting efforts to attract talent that is – or may soon be – available."