Majority of employees looking for a new role, research suggests

Workers cite concerns over job security and career progression, with experts warning engagement is ‘essential’ to staff feeling valued

Nine in 10 workers are looking or thinking about looking for a new job this year, a survey has found – many of whom are worried about their job security.

A survey of 5,000 UK workers, carried out by Totaljobs, found that almost nine in 10 (89 per cent) were thinking about changing jobs this year, with more than three-quarters (77 per cent) already actively searching.

The poll found that job insecurity caused by the coronavirus outbreak was one of the leading factors driving people to look for a new role: two-thirds (66 per cent) of those polled said they were worried about their career security, and a quarter (26 per cent) believed it was likely they would become unemployed this year.

As a result, one in five (18 per cent) are looking for work in a more secure industry, while 45 per cent said they didn’t think they would get a new role in the same sector they work in now. 

Another reason employees were looking for new roles was a lack of professional development caused by the pandemic. Only 10 per cent received training from their employer during 2020, the survey found.

Commenting on the findings, Daniella McGuigan, partner at Ogletree Deakins International, said it was more crucial than ever for employers to engage with workers. But, she acknowledged, remote working often made this difficult. “In ordinary times, so much staff engagement happens through osmosis via social interactions in the workplace – it is very difficult to replicate that remotely,” she said.

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“It’s very difficult for businesses to replicate training and development plans on a remote basis too – this is particularly so for junior employees or those who were new to the workplace when the pandemic began,” said McGuigan. “Career development is a real and genuine concern going forward, and is likely to be felt far beyond the lifting of restrictions.”

McGuigan added that uncertainty caused by the pandemic had led many individuals to reevaluate aspects of their lives. “Perhaps now, more than ever, employee engagement is essential to navigate a way through the current situation and ensure that, wherever possible, people come out the other side of this feeling valued and appreciated.”

Claire McCartney, senior resourcing and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, said training opportunities were one of the key ways organisations could retain talent and develop the skills needed to thrive. “Organisations must have a long-term and strategic approach, and ensure the needs of the business and external landscape are considered,” she said. “This will also help to ensure training is not seen as an easy target for cost-cutting measures.”

Employers also needed to maximise their use of digital learning technology to ensure those working remotely were still able to build the skills they needed to develop and progress, McCartney said: “HR teams have an important role to play in highlighting the importance of training in helping people to adapt, learn and improve during times of economic uncertainty."

Amy Borsetti, senior director at LinkedIn Learning Solutions, said employers were increasingly using professional development as a tool for navigating crises and changes. “Our data shows that 70 per cent of learning and development professionals say their chief executives are active champions of learning, up from 27 per cent in March,” she said.

Aside from job insecurity, more than a third (36 per cent) of respondents to the Totaljobs survey said their motivation to look for a new role was to have a ‘fresh start’, while one in 10 (10 per cent) were looking for a new location. 

Jon Wilson, chief executive of Totaljobs, said it wasn’t surprising that the change to working patterns over the last year had led to workers seeking new opportunities. “The rise of remote working has seen candidates move around the country or even relocate outside the UK to find work,” he said. “The coming months will reveal how much more of an impact the pandemic and Brexit will have on people’s attitudes towards their jobs, their location and their employment terms.”