The current job market

Two recent Harvard Business Review posts cited some interesting statistics from the September U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

“As of January 2012, the median time that wage and salary workers in the U.S. had been with their current employers was just 4.6 years,” according to the first HBR post by David K. Williams and Mary Michelle Scott. “Other recent data points are equally disturbing: The staffing company Randstad says that 40% of employees are planning to look for a new job within the next six months. Another survey notes that 69% of employees are already at least passively shopping for new job opportunities via social media today.”

Further, most of those looking fall into entry-level positions. The old saying, people accept a position for the company and leave because of management may ring true. However, the perspective of this follow up HBR post also by David K. Williams and Mary Michelle Scott focused on how those managers can work to retain employees and convince them to stick with a company or organization for the long-term.

The authors suggest managers can retain employees by following the Five Rs of employee relationships, which is also a good list for a perspective employee to use to judge a perspective company.

Responsibility: How much responsibility will you have? Are you trusted to do your job? Are there ways for you to grow in the position or gain new skills?

Respect and Reward (these go together): How do supervisors in the company show they respect their employees? How are employees recognized or rewarded? How will I know you’re committed to me as an employee?

Revenue-sharing: What’s in it for me if the company does well this year? (Fair warning: it probably isn’t a good idea to ask the question exactly that way in an interview setting.)

Relaxation time: How is time off handled? Is it by department? What about sick time? In all businesses, there are busy times, what if you need time off then?

What else can you use to judge a potential employer?

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Comparing Job Offers

With salaries squeezed, more and more companies are offering benefits such as unlimited vacation, 401K matching and fully paid medical and dental. As this recent Mashable.com article points out, the non-monetary benefits can make up for a less than stellar salary. Some employers let employees bank vacation time and pay out for unused days at the end of the year.

“A recent study conducted by Harris Interactive for Ask.com shows just how important abundant vacation time is to workers, even if they’re not using it: More than a third of people surveyed said unlimited paid time off would encourage them to take or keep a job (34%),” according to this recent Mashable.com article.  “Although only 38% of workers surveyed actually take all their paid time off (PTO) days.”

If you’re lucky enough to get two offers or are weighing whether or not you should leave your current position for another job, ask yourself the following:

  • What does the whole fiscal package looks like when comparing job offers. Put a dollar value on days off (divide the salary by 52 weeks and again by 40 to get your rough, pre-tax hourly rate. Then times that number by 8 (hours) to get your rough, pre-tax daily rate)
  • What is the company offering for medical, dental and vision?
  • Are there other perks (cell phone, mileage, etc.)?

This information will let you better compare apples to apples. However, just because one offer is fiscally better, is the environment better? What about the actual job duties? Your co-workers? Potential boss?

Even if the perks are great, will you actually be able to take those unlimited days? As mentioned above, not all employees can use the great vacation benefits.

It’s a gamble either way, but with as much information as you can get, you should feel comfortable with your choice.

More: read why you should use your vacation time.