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Why Workers Are Staying Put

The Great Recession is standing conventional wisdom on its head . / Credit: Résumé tsunami image via Shutterstock

The conventional wisdom is that employees tend to stay put during recessions,  waiting until the bad times end, then give in to the urge to move on and flood the market with résumés.

However, the aftermath of the Great Recession is challenging that conventional wisdom, according to a new study. Most employees plan over the next year to stay where they are, even though the federal government declared the recession over in 2009 and a significant number of workers say they are not happy with their jobs.

Three years ago, Deloitte Consulting surveyed more than 350 employees around the world about their career plans. About half of them (49 percent) said they were considering leaving their jobs, and 30 percent were already actively looking for new jobs. All indicators pointed toward a résumé tsunami once the recession ended. Improving economic prospects were buoying workers' confidence to test the employment waters.

As a result, many executives put employee-retention and recruitment challenges on the back burner, anticipating a surplus of labor available for them to grab when the market picked up.

But a follow-on study conducted by Deloitte this fall indicates that the predicted tsunami may turn out to be more of a résumé ripple. Eighty percent of the surveyed employees said they plan to keep their jobs – a huge swing from last year, when only 35 percent planned to stay put.

There are a number of reasons that the flood of resumes never materialized, Deloitte said. No one really knows if the recession is truly over, the consultant said, and many, in fact, fear a double-dip. Moreover, the résumé tsunami was predicated on the unemployment rate going down, which has not happened to a significant degree.

But the real reason may be that many flighty employees have already moved on. Nearly half (46 percent) have already made a change in their job status in the last year, Deloitte said. Some moved to new companies (9 percent), while more (22 percent) received a promotion, and others (15 percent) changed roles with their current employer.

Though only 20 percent of respondents are currently on the hunt for a new job, 31 percent say they are dissatisfied. That makes 11 percent of respondents unhappy employees who are planning to stay on the job for now.

What happens when employment numbers improve remains a question mark.

"The résumé tsunami may simply be as stalled as the lackluster economy, only to surge when conditions improve," Robin Erickson, a Deloitte specialist leader in talent strategies, wrote on the company's blog.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.