MetLife Study: Almost One-Quarter of Workers Changed Jobs Last Year

January 30, 2006

With nearly one-quarter (22 percent) of all employees changing jobs over the past 18 months — and 74 percent of businesses expecting competition for talent to escalate over the next 18 months –“recruiting” and “retention” have emerged as top concerns for employers in 2006, according to the annual MetLife Employee Benefits Trend Study.

Among Young Families with children under the age of six, the job market has been particularly active, with 31 percent of employees in this life stage reporting a change of employer over the past year and a half.

In this increasingly competitive job market, employees report that their top consideration when deciding whether to join and/or remain with an employer is “the quality of co-worker and/or customer relationships,” cited by 58 percent of employees overall and 62 percent of women. Young Baby Boomers age 41 – 50 (61 percent) and Pre-retirees age 61 -69 (67 percent) are most likely to cite relationships as a deciding factor. Among all age groups, the opportunity for work/life balance was cited as the second most important recruitment/retention criterion. More than half (56 percent) of today’s employees rate work/life balance as a key job selection criterion, with a roughly equal percentage of men (56 percent) and women (58 percent) listing “balance” as critical.

Rounding out the top three criteria for recruitment/retention is “working for an organization whose purpose/mission I agree with,” cited by more than half (54 percent) of the employees surveyed. At a time when employees are looking to create greater balance between the physical demands of work and life, many are also seeking an inner sense of balance between personal ideals and employer mission.

Traditional job selection criteria — such as “the opportunity for financial growth and advancement” (cited by 52 percent of employees) and “the opportunity for skill building and professional growth” (cited by 51 percent of employees) — were ranked as least important by the 2005-06 survey respondents.

“To retain top talent in today’s competitive job market, employers need to do more than loosen their purse strings,” noted Maria Morris, executive vice president, Institutional Business, MetLife. “They must create a work environment that reflects their employees’ life-stage needs and values. As the demand for experienced knowledge-workers intensifies, employers need to understand what motivates — and inspires the loyalty of — today’s high-performing employees. In most cases, it’s not the corner office or a large paycheck, but rather, the opportunity to work for a company that fosters strong workplace relationships and inspires a sense of balance and/or purpose.”

Central to creating this sense of “personal” and “professional” balance is the need for relevant products, services and advice that fit their life-stage needs. As employees look increasingly to the workplace for information about — and access to — a wide range of protection, investment and savings products and advisory services, benefits packages tailored to employees’ life-stage needs have become particularly important. Nearly one-third (31 percent) of employees cite benefits as an important reason why they came to work for their employer, up from 25 percent in 2004 and 2003. Pre-retirees (44 percent) and Young Families with children under the age of six (41 percent) in particular see benefits as an important criterion in their job search and selection.

Among the other key survey findings:

Young employees – willing to work hard … but balance is key

Gone are the days when new, entry-level employees viewed long hours and seven-day-work-weeks as the price of admission to the executive suite. Among the youngest employees surveyed (age 21 – 30), work/life balance was cited as the most important consideration when deciding whether to join/remain with an employer (57 percent), even more important than the opportunity for financial growth and advancement (53 percent) and skill building and professional growth (48 percent).

Pre-Retirees, in particular, focus on company mission

While more than half of all employees (54 percent) report that “working for an organization whose mission/purpose they agree with” is a top consideration, the percentage rises to 66 percent for Pre-retirees age 61- 69. “As the workforce ages and employers struggle to keep key knowledge-workers productive and engaged beyond traditional retirement age, company mission/purpose is becoming increasingly important,” notes Morris. “In the employee benefits arena, workers of all ages want access to work arrangements that align with their personal priorities and benefits that help them protect their families.”

Benefiting from benefits

Overall, benefits satisfaction among workers is on the rise, with 39% of employees reporting that they are somewhat or very satisfied with their benefits packages, up from 36 percent in 2004 and 32 percent in 2003. Some employee segments report even higher satisfaction levels including 63 percent of Pre-retirees age 61-69. The study demonstrates a correlation between job satisfaction, employee loyalty and benefits satisfaction. Among employees who are very satisfied with their current benefits packages, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) are also satisfied with their current job — and 67 percent feel a strong sense of loyalty to their employer.

Company size matters

According to the study, the largest companies (with over 25,000 employees) offer the widest array of benefits to their employees, and over half (58 percent) strongly agree that the benefits they offer are an important reason why employees come to work for them. Large companies are also more likely to offer benefits that guarantee income in retirement. While only 35 percent of all employers currently offer a defined benefit plan — and 19 percent offer annuities — the percentages jump to 58 percent and 46 percent respectively for the largest companies surveyed. Small employers with fewer than 50 employees, by contrast, are most likely to pay the full cost of their employees’ medical insurance (35 percent, compared with 16 percent of companies with 10,000 or more employees).

The MetLife Employee Benefits Trend Study was conducted during late 2005 and consists of two distinct surveys, one which polls employees and the other, employers. The employee survey, fielded by NOP World in September, polled 885 full-time employees (age 21 and older) at companies with at least two employees, and an additional 328 employees who work part-time and/or are currently on maternity leave.

The employer survey polled a total of 1,514 HR/Benefits executives from companies with at least two employees, and was fielded in September by GfK NOP.

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