Workers eager to job hunt as morale plunges –

Employee loyalty is at a three-year low, but many employers are precariously unaware of the morale meltdown, according to a study out today.

While frustrated workers are griping, groaning and secretly sending out résumés, employers think they are just as loyal as they were three years ago, MetLife reports in its 9th Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends.

“Businesses are understandably focused on expenses,” says Ronald Leopold, vice president of MetLife’s U.S. business. “But they’re taking their eye off the ball with human capital issues, notably what drives employee satisfaction and loyalty.”

Morale fell — and stress levels skyrocketed — as cost-cutting employers froze wages, slashed bonuses and asked workers to assume the duties of laid-off colleagues during the downturn. Four in 10 employees say a heavy workload, unrealistic job expectations and long hours have created stress, reports a study by the American Psychological Association.

Fed-up workers are seeking greener professional pastures: Slightly more than one in three hope to find a new job in the next 12 months, according to the MetLife survey, conducted late last year.

“Employees are starting to sniff out the possibility of an economic recovery, and they’re getting antsy,” Leopold says. “In the past, they were happy to keep their head down in the ‘We are just lucky to have a job’ economy.”

Four in 10 of self-employed, full-time and part-time workers believe it’s “likely” they’ll find a job that matches their experience and salary in the next six months, according to a survey by career website, to be released Tuesday. That’s the highest confidence level in six quarters.

That impending exodus could wallop employers who have to pay for recruiting and training replacements, as well as deal with lost productivity as they seek personnel. More than half of employers say they’ve had difficulty attracting employees with critical skills, according to a recent survey by employer consulting firm Towers Watson.

Partly as a result, top performers can expect merit-based pay raises averaging 3% this year, Towers Watson found. That beats the 2010 average of 2.7%, but it was 3.5% before the recession.

Resignations could fall if bosses take on low-cost actions such as offering career advancement advice and thanking deserving workers, says Kevin Sheridan, chief engagement officer at consultant HR Solutions.

Employees “want to know that they’re reporting to someone who cares about them as a person and cares about their engagement level,” he says.

Workers eager to job hunt as morale plunges –

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