Economic Recovery Makes This a Good Time to Quit

Record numbers of employees voluntarily left their jobs in 2005.

The management of a Herzliya high-tech company was taken by surprise last week when 11 employees, including one project manager and two team leaders, gave notice almost simultaneously that they were leaving the company after tenures of between two and four years. Company executives immediately convened to discuss the new situation. This week each of the 11 employees will be summoned individually to explain why he decided to quit (even though the reason is relatively clear - dissatisfaction with wage levels), and the executives will try to prevent, or at least reduce, the loss of employees it wants to retain.

Whatever happens at this Herzliya company, seemingly organized departure announcements by large groups of employees is a phenomenon in the high-tech sector not seen since the rapid growth years of 1999-2000. It also attests to the recovery in the industry seen since 2004.

A survey by the Planning, Research and Economy Administration at the Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry shows that 2005 marked a reversal in the ratio of employee-initiated departures versus employer-initiated departures. Last year 59 percent of employees who left their jobs did so voluntarily (compared to 46 percent in 2004). They cited reasons including unchallenging work, unsatisfactory wages, poor relations with supervisors or colleagues and distance from home.

"New workers today are more sure of themselves," says administration head Benny Pfefferman. This confidence stems from the increase in employers who are hiring.

Some 18 percent more firms are hiring than in 2004. Still, Pfefferman notes that employers' growth forecasts are still lower than they were in 1998-2000.

"Employers are still cautiously examining the economic trends and are in no hurry to recruit workers en masse," adds Pfefferman.

Finance sector hiring

Firms in the banking and finance sector are currently recruiting the most manpower, says Pfefferman.

"I remember the bank unions' warnings that 5,000 bank employees would be fired if the banks had to sell their mutual and provident funds, and I can't help but smile," continues Pfefferman. "Not only did that not happen, but the banks, insurance companies, pension funds and investment companies need hundreds of new workers."

Indeed, a survey by Starting Point employment agency, headed by Ehud Cohen, found that demand for capital market employees up 50 percent for Q1 2006 over the parallel in 2005, and up 20 percent over Q4 in 2005.

"The improvement in the job market, as evidenced by the increase in the number of vacant positions, could offer a good opportunity for a career change," says Pfefferman.

Anyone interested in changing jobs would do well to start looking before he quits his current position, says Pfefferman.

"A job-seeker who is currently employed is in a better position to bargain with a potential employer," he says.

Dalia Narkis, CEO of Manpower Israel, says that 2006 is witnessing a decline in unemployment, fewer layoffs and increased demand for workers, thanks to the recovery of the high-tech sector and the growth of the finance industry, calm on the security front and economic growth in America.

"Companies are finding more business opportunities, drafting expansion plans and breaking into new markets, all of which require more staff," says Narkis. She notes that high-tech companies need more than just high-tech workers - they need also marketing and sales personnel, human resource managers and financial workers, while the growing finance industry needs analysts, investment consultants and administrators, as well as sales and marketing personnel.

Thanks to the growth in the high-tech and finance industries, suppliers to these industries are also seeing more business. These suppliers include lawyers, accountants, fitness trainers, fitness clubs, cafes, restaurants, car importers and leasing companies.

Compared to high-tech and finance , there is much less employee mobility in more traditional industries.

"[Low-technology] industry is more vulnerable to competition from factories in countries where manpower costs are low," explains Narkis. "This is one of the reasons workers in this sector feel less confident and are in no hurry to switch careers."

The average age in these industries is also higher, making it more difficult to change jobs.

Narkis advises anyone considering leaving his job to do so wisely and cautiously, and only if he or she feels he has advanced as far as possible in the current position, has lost enthusiasm for the work, or has insurmountable problems with supervisors or colleagues.