More new employees quitting first job early

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More new employees quitting first job early

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Ms. X, 26, recently took a job working in a conglomerate’s human resources department before graduating from college, she said in a survey of new workers conducted by the JoongAng Sunday, for which she requested anonymity. Earlier this year, her boss had asked her to analyze the changes in employees’ job positions at her organization.

She encountered obstacles in carrying out the evaluation, so she asked a more experienced worker for help.

But he responded by scolding her rather than giving advice: “Should I sit down with you and go through every single detail from A to Z?”

A few days later, she had planned to go to the bus terminal to pick up her mother, who was traveling to Seoul to attend her graduation ceremony. But the HR department made spontaneous dinner plans for the same night. Between the two choices, she decided to meet her mother and told one of her seniors that she couldn’t go to dinner. The employee told her to think again, this time more carefully.

The attitude was so cold that Ms. X began to seriously question whether she could keep working for an organization with such a harsh corporate culture.

She left the company in June, and is now studying to become a journalist.

“It wasn’t easy for me to ditch my dream job, for which many of my friends admired me,” she said. “But I couldn’t stand the image of my future, which I could see in the senior workers.”

Another new hire at one of the nation’s largest entertainment agencies, Mr. K, who was also part of the JoongAng Sunday’s survey, quit his job early this year because the tasks given to him were not what he had expected. At first, he was excited to work in a creative and active environment, but in his position, he mostly dealt with computer work and other trivial office matters.

Like these two, many more young people are leaving their first jobs.

According to a June survey by the Korea Employers Federation of 405 companies nationwide, 25.2 percent of new hires left their first job within a year of employment, compared to 15.7 percent in the organization’s 2010 study.

In an era of low employment, it is strange to see one in four people quit their first job so quickly.

Employers blame young workers, not themselves, for the trend.

According to the federation’s study, 47.6 percent of employers cited the new employees’ failure to adapt to the workplace and their assignments as the biggest reasons for job termination, followed by dissatisfaction with the salary and employee benefits (25.2 percent) and the working environment and location (17.3 percent).

The survey cited a human resources manager at a confectionery company as saying, “Young people these days lack tenacity because they were so spoiled by their families when growing up.” Another manager at one of the nation’s largest conglomerates said, “New hires nowadays are only equipped with their academic ‘specs’ but are not prepared at all for the social skills to adapt to a corporate organization.”

In a separate report, the Samsung Economic Research Institute outlined three reasons why newly employed young people quit their first job. The first it calls the “bluebird syndrome,” which applies to people who leave their jobs with the vague expectation that other workplaces will be better. Another is the “selfaholic syndrome,” designating people who overestimate their abilities. Lastly, people with the “Peter Pan syndrome” want to avoid responsibility and never adapt to hard work for their whole career.

But the new employees who chose to leave their jobs had other reasons. Of those interviewed by the JoongAng Sunday, 11 said that dissatisfaction with their tasks at work was their main reason for quitting, followed by nine people who said they didn’t see a bright future for themselves within the company. According to the workers, they were not the ones who had failed to adapt; their employer had failed to keep them around by making them feel like working at the company would not contribute to their personal success.

Kim Se-joon, a career consultant and professor at Kookmin University’s Career Development Center, explained that the reality lies in between the survey results from employers and employees.

“The reasons cited by the two parties are both inaccurate,” Kim said. “The companies try to avoid admitting to reality in a bid to protect their corporate image, while the young workers usually tend to justify their actions by only pushing their perspective.”

Some analysts say the quitting trend is almost inevitable.

Dr. Oliver Robinson of the University of Greenwich in London, who has recently published on the “quarter-life crisis,” said in an email to the JoongAng Sunday that the young generation now spends more time exploring different ways of life and more career paths than young people in the past.

He cited the longer lifespan and average age of first marriages, which were both higher than in the past, as two main reasons for the change. He also said new experiences sometimes bring positive change to young people.

Most of the 30 participants in the JoongAng Sunday survey said that leaving their first job gave them an opportunity to think about what values they lacked and what they truly wanted to do in life.

When they leave, it’s the employers who are left with the damages.

Large conglomerates estimate that they suffer financial damages worth about 60 million won ($58,980) for every employee who leaves within a year. The financial damage includes training costs and salaries that were paid in full even though the workers underperformed.

And when new hires leave the company, morale goes down among other employees.

In an effort to reduce the losses, some companies conduct job interviews in the form of a retreat to test candidates’ sociability and determination.

After hiring, employers try to keep morale up with enjoyable training activities such as field trips, sporting events and picnics.

But HR experts advise companies to focus on inspiring the new workers in subjects that interest them and providing actual training, instead of group activities just to boost teamwork.

“Even though they worry about the early turnover issue, most companies tend to neglect the importance of follow-up care for the new hires,” said Jang Hyun-ah, a job consultant.

“When giving orders to new hires, senior workers should explain the tasks and their impact on the company’s management. That process is crucial in getting them to comply,” said Kim Se-joon from Kookmin University.

To keep new people from quitting outright, some companies are giving workers the chance to move to another department instead.

Ticket Monster, a local online commerce company, allows employees to move to another department and Hyundai Card and Hyundai Capital have online bulletin boards for switching jobs, one for each department to put up job postings and another for employees to promote themselves to other departments.

BY LEE SANG-EON, PARK JONG-HWA [jiyoon.kim@joongang.co.kr]








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