New hires look for greener pastures

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New hires look for greener pastures

Young employees are finding out working for a conglomerate isn’t as glamorous as it sounds and are walking away from jobs before the going gets tough.

Earlier this month, a 27-year-old surnamed Kim quit his job at a well-known conglomerate after working there for less than nine months.

It was a job that many of his friends from Korea University envied. Yet he decided to quit after the company told him he would be relocated to the regional office in North Chungcheong.

“I’ve never lived outside of Seoul,” Kim said, “and I felt suffocated just thinking of living outside the capital.”

Choi Hwan-gi, a 28-year-old Seoul National University graduate, also quit his job at a major trading company, citing a lack of challenges and motivation.

“The work seemed worthless, as it was not only repetitive but simple,” Choi said.

Choi started his own business by opening up a franchise restaurant in Seoul, which he values as a nontraditional working environment.

Kim and Choi aren’t the only young people who are leaving their jobs at leading conglomerates where they had to win the spot after fierce competition.

Ten major conglomerates including Samsung, Hyundai, SK and LG have seen an average of a 9 percent turnover rate of newbies within a year, according to research done by the JoongAng Sunday.

Half of the companies have seen 10 percent of new hires quitting within three years, while in some companies more than 20 percent left in less than three years.

Human resource departments at these companies point to a lack of patience with low-level duties and inadaptability to corporate culture as two of the primary reasons young people so quickly leave jobs they had competed for.

“There are some talented young people quitting after they realize the reality at the workplace is different [from their expectations],” said Lee Maeng-jun, manager of LG Chem’s human resource department.

Kim, who quit after receiving the relocation notice, said there was another reason why he decided to leave.

“I felt uncomfortable with the strict hierarchy within the company,” Kim said.

Lee, who quit earlier this month after working two years for a leading conglomerate’s electronic department, said the accumulation of stress and fatigue were the primary reasons for him leaving the company.

He had to start work at 6:20 a.m. and work extra hours until after 10 p.m. almost every day.

“One of my advisors told me that I had to forget about keeping a family together if I wanted to move up,” said the 27-year-old Lee.

“He also told me I needed to show to our boss that I was working twice as hard [as others] and this made me feel stifled.”

Other experts say that young people today lack motivation, especially among those whose parents are wealthy.

Suh Yi-jong, a professor at Seoul National University, says that parents tend to financially support their college-graduated children until they are hired.

“This trend makes [young people] throw away their jobs when the work gets a little tiring and tough,” Seo said.

Another professor, Jung Yeon-ang of Chung-Ang University, also pointed out that the new generation feels uncomfortable with face-to-face communications, as they are more accustomed to online communication tools with the Internet and smartphones.

“Therefore, youngsters are lukewarm about making themselves fit into the organizations,” said Jung.

The companies’ human resource departments say that they will not recruit anyone who shows a tendency to quit shortly after they are recruited.

Not only will the companies suffer monetary losses, but such short turnovers will also likely have negative influences on other new recruits.

One new employee costs a company on average 1.89 million won ($1,666) to hire and 3.75 million won to train, according to a report by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

To prevent new employees from becoming maladjusted, many companies including Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motor and Korean Air are adopting a mentor system.

Korean Air is also sending new employees overseas to do volunteer work after their first year with the company.

However, some experts point out that one of the fundamental problems is the embedded culture where job seekers have high tendencies to turn in applications to jobs that they have little interest in, caused by a fear of unemployment.

“[The recent volatility of the market] has pushed young applicants fresh out of college to say yes to whatever company hires them,” said Lee Kwang-sug, president of employment portal Incruit.



By Yum Tae-jung, Hong Sang-ji [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

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