Employment: There's got to be something better...

UK workers are a nation of 'job flirts' always on the lookout for new opportunities, says Caitlin Davies
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The Independent Online

What's your career resolution for 2007? If you're like the majority of UK employees then it's probably to find a new job. 70 per cent of workers have an overriding ambition to be somewhere else this time next year, according to a poll from the online recruitment firm Monster. Fed up with colleagues, the long-hour culture and red tape, people want a new challenge, more pay, and an improved work/life balance.

The poll is backed up by a new survey which concludes that UK workers are a nation of "job flirts", always on the look out for a better job. The jobseeker research for the recruitment agency Adecco surveyed 1,016 workers from a range of industries. It found that nearly half have applied for a job or registered with a recruitment agency in the past 12 months.

But it's the internet that has become the number-one search tool. "It's so quick and easy to surf the net whether you're at home or at your desk," says Paul Isaacs, managing director of the IT and banking recruitment agency Morgan Levy. "In the past people waited for the evening paper or a weekly job supplement. Now you have access to hundreds of vacancies on job boards. Our site gets hundreds of hits a day from people who want to keep an eye on the market and compare salaries. It's also discreet because no one knows you're looking."

Sites like www.jobs.ac.uk mean you can sign up, state your specifications - what sort of job, where, on what salary - and be updated whenever you want. And you can check jobsites while you're supposed to be working - which is what 60 per cent of people do, according to the online learning provider SkillSoft.

One NHS health worker says that she and her London colleagues check the NHS site on a daily basis. "We are constantly looking at what jobs are out there, though I've only applied for one in the past year. I want to see if there's something that pays better and if it will be less stressful than what I'm doing now."

Most job flirts are motivated by the modern convenience of job searches, rather than dissatisfaction with their current job, according to Steven Kirkpatrick, managing director of Adecco Staffing in the UK. He says it's about people's desire for change and curiosity as to "what colour the grass is next door."

"I seem to be constantly searching for something new and never seeming to find it!" agrees one London media worker. She has worked for her employer for six years and feels it's time for a change as she says there are few opportunities for promotion and development.

"I tend to look more and more online for jobs rather than in the papers. I've registered with a lot of job sites, both general ones and more specific media-related sites. I've had interviews, but I turned down one offer because it wasn't for me."

The Adecco survey found that people want interesting, challenging work in a friendly environment with regular pay rises and the chance for training and development. However, nearly half believe it is harder to get a better job now than three years ago. Kirkpatrick agreesthat permanent placements at recruitment agencies have dropped in the past year.

According to the Adecco research, contented workers are most likely to have been at their present job for under a year, be in the South or South-east, work in public sector or education, be aged 55 or above, and be at senior manager level.

What's worrying for employers is that almost a third of workers claim to have no loyalty towards the organisation they work for, according to the SkillSoft survey. The reasons are low pay, boredom, and a feeling that their talents and skills are not being appreciated.

Billy Hamilton-Stent, director of Loudhouse Research, which conducted the Adecco survey, says that few companies do motivation surveys on their workforce. Most employers are unaware of how happy - or unhappy - their workers are. This means that they have no idea how many staff are one step away from leaving, nor how many are busy checking job boards.

Kirkpatrick's advice is to make sure your workers feel recognized. You should never forget the value of praise. And while online searching might be convenient, it can't replace face-to-face interviews, which will reveal whether that new job really is for you.

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