The Grass Isn't Always Greener – But Your Employees Are Still Looking at the Other Side

The corporate world doesn't always warm up to the idea of change, but change can certainly be good. Corporate cultures change. Outdated policies change. Occupants of those big comfy chairs in the boardroom change, sometimes. Even people well into their careers seek change every once in a while.

According to "Time for a Change," a survey conducted by the University of Phoenix School of Business, more than half of working adults are interested in changing careers, with nearly 25 percent expressing that they are extremely or very interested. The desire for change is highest among young professionals under 30, with 86 percent expressing interest. More surprising is that 66 percent of professionals in their 30s and 60 percent of professionals in their 40s express a desire for career change.

While the desire for change exists across various ages and demographics, the individual reasons behind the desire vary.

"We are seeing employees leave their current industries or their current jobs for many reasons," says Ruth Veloria, executive dean of the school of business for University of Phoenix. "A few of the biggest trends we are seeing that are driving change is the nature of work through mobile access and cloud technology that are impacting jobs from a technological standpoint. Also, the growth of even more advanced robotics and autonomous transportation [are] impacting many jobs that have been around for a long time, like administrative roles, that will either change or be diminished."

New opportunities developing from advances in technology and best practices appeal to members of the existing workforce.

"More and more, we're seeing companies from all industries looking for and attracting talent that can help them apply tools such as big data, analytics, and data visualization to better compete and cope with organizational challenges," Veloria says. "As many adults – including those well established in their careers – are re-entering the workforce or staying in the workforce much longer, they will need to upskill in many areas to keep their wealth of experience viable."

Change Is Good, But Not Always Easy

Eighty-one percent of survey respondents said there were barriers that prevented them from making a career change. Twenty-nine percent said they couldn't afford to start over, while 24 percent had no idea what career they'd like to change to. Another 24 percent felt they lacked the experience or education to make the change they wanted.

Despite the obstacles, success stories do exist.

"Oftentimes, we see individuals making a change into a career that they have had an interest in for quite some time," Veloria says. "For example, I recently heard the story of one of our alumni who had worked in credit unions for the entirety of his career. On the weekends, he would volunteer at hospitals, network with medical professionals, and expose himself to the healthcare space knowing, someday, he wanted a career in healthcare. After obtaining his bachelor's degree, he was able to apply his years of experience in finance to an operations role within a healthcare organization."

Making a plan and following it can be key to working through any obstacles that stand in the way of a change.

"It is all about knowing the industry you want to get into, assessing the skills needed to get there, and making the commitment," Veloria says. "Whether it is through volunteering, networking, finding a mentor, or pursuing professional development courses, address the gaps that make it hard to achieve your ultimate goals and seek out relevant opportunities that can help."

Be a Company Worth Staying At

If you'd rather employees stick around than consider career changes, you'll have to do some work to make sure you provide jobs worth staying in. The payoff – reliable, long-term employees – will be worth the cost.

"Companies today often find themselves managing multigenerational workplaces in which each group has its own unique values, attitudes and work habits," Veloria says. "Understanding the implications and strategies needed to manage evolving workplace needs will be essential as we progress into the next decade."

For example, younger workers are demanding flexibility, virtual office spaces, and real-time coaching. To convince these employees to stay put, companies will have to create innovative environments that offer all these things and more.

Places of higher learning also have a responsibility to the students they send out into the workforce. They should be preparing these students to successfully navigate the shifting landscape of work.

"Higher education and industry have a leadership role to play in ensuring the skills being taught are aligned with the skills needs of employers," Veloria says. "By staying as relevant and agile as possible on the competencies needed to keep pace with the changes in business and the global marketplace, we can better prepare our students to be career-ready."