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Younger employees most satisfied with work, but also most likely to leave, says Mercer survey

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Young workers worldwide present an unusual paradox for employers: they are more likely than the overall workforce to be satisfied with the organisations for which they work, yet also more likely to be considering leaving them, according to a global survey from Mercer.

According to the survey findings, workers aged 34 and younger are more likely than their older colleagues in all 17 markets to be pondering an exit from their employer.

In response to the statement, "At the present time, I am seriously considering leaving my organisation," the youngest workers (age 16-24) recorded scores of agreement that average 10 percentage points higher than the overall workforce worldwide, while scores for workers aged 25-34 average five percentage points higher. In the UK, 36% of respondents stated that they were considering leaving their organisation, compared to 41% who weren't.

Broken down by age group, employees aged 16-24 were the most likely to state that they were considering leaving (46%) compared, for example, to staff aged 25-34 (40%).

Yet despite this propensity to leave, when asked about overall satisfaction with their organisations, younger workers registered satisfaction scores higher than the overall workforce in most markets. Scores for employees aged 16-24 were higher in 14 of the 17 markets worldwide by an average of five percentage points. Scores for employees aged 25-34 were higher in 11 of the 17 markets by an average of two percentage points globally.

These same two age groups also are more likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work. Scores for employees aged 16-24 were higher than the overall workforce by an average of seven percentage points globally, and their scores were higher in all 17 markets.

Scores for workers aged 25-34 are higher in 13 of the 17 markets by an average of three percentage points above the overall workforce scores. In the UK, 55% of respondents said they would recommend or strongly recommend their organisation as a good place to work. Younger employees between 19-34 were much more positive about their employer than the overall workforce; 65% of 19-24-year-olds and 62% of 25-34-year-olds agreed or strongly agreed that they would recommend their company as a good place to work.

"This pattern of higher satisfaction among younger workers held true for many other key issues addressed in our survey, including pay, performance management and careers, making their desire to leave their organisations all the more at odds with traditional views of loyalty, retention and engagement," said Chris Johnson, partner in Mercer's human capital business.

"These findings present a real dilemma for employers," he continued. "Do they simply accept that young talent is going to leave, no matter what the organisation has to offer, or do they invest time and resources in an attempt to change the views and employment habits of their younger workers? Strategies, of course, will vary by organisation, but it is essential to first have a clear understanding of an employer's value proposition and then analyse what steps can or should be taken to increase the tenure of young workers."

Mercer's What's Working survey was conducted among nearly 30,000 workers in 17 geographic markets (including more than 2,400 UK workers) from during the fourth quarter of 2010 through to the second quarter of 2011.