In an economy reshuffled by the pandemic, people craving career advancement are finding it easier to jump to a competing company or branch out on their own.

About three in five workers in a recent national survey looked for a promotion as the next step in their career.

What's Working

What’s Working

And two in five said they didn’t have a clear path to advancement at their current company, according to a biannual job optimism survey of more than 2,400 U.S. workers for staffing agency Robert Half.

With employers having difficulty filling job openings, job seekers often have more power to jump to another company than before the pandemic, according to Barry Roy, regional president at Robert Half, which has three New Hampshire offices.

Workers looking to switch companies “might get a leadership title and a bump in pay,” but they should look at the entirety of what the job switch will mean.

“What does the next five years look like there?” he said. “Is there someone there to mentor you?”

The attraction

Many companies are working to train their “high potentials” to get different experiences and prepare them for leadership positions, said Russ Ouellette, president and senior executive coach at Sojourn Partners in Bedford.

“It’s a retention tool, without a doubt,” he said.

Firms such as his operate leadership programs for companies.

“I don’t think you’re a leader because you say you are,” Ouellette said. “You’re a leader when you engage in people moving the agenda forward and you’re attracting people to you.”

Allowing people to move up in a company is important for retaining and attracting workers.

“People are going to work for companies where they can see their own growth,” Ouellette said. “One of the top two or three concerns of CEOs is where leadership is going to come from. It’s extremely important for the company to develop leaders, because they’re not easy to find.”

November saw a record rate of people quitting their jobs, according to government figures out last week.

The ingredients

The attributes that make a good leader are personal, Ouellette said.

“For me, it’s care and respect. Those are two things that people need. If they have those two things, they will be extremely successful wherever they lead,” Ouellette said. “For you, it might be tenacity and vision.”

Officials at Fidelity Investments said they consider all workers to be leaders, regardless of their positions.

“We have established leadership principles that are a core element of our culture and invest in developing leadership skills,” said Joe Murray, vice president of government relations and public affairs.

“It’s also important to our associates to feel they can advance at Fidelity,” he said.

Fidelity, which employs more than 6,600 in Merrimack, offers several programs, including the Fidelity Emerging Leader Program, an early-career program allowing people to apply their critical thinking skills and liberal arts degree toward developing strong leadership skills. Fidelity’s Together We Rise, meanwhile, looks to advance women into leadership roles.

BAE Systems, which employs more than 6,000 workers in New Hampshire, tries to hire people who want to take the next step in their careers and grow.

“To that end, it is very important that workers feel like they can advance within the company,” said spokeswoman Shelley Walcott.

The defense contractor offers leadership development programs, tuition reimbursement programs and job rotations.

“We are committed to developing our employees and helping them achieve their greatest potential,” Walcott said.

Emphasis on youth

In Lebanon, the city’s recreation department looks to train leaders in their early teen years. Kristine Flythe designed and coordinates the six-week summer leadership program for kids 13 and 14.

The participants work with counselors in day camps for younger kids, where they have a chance to work on leadership skills.

“I think a lot of it is responsibility and taking ownership,” said Flythe. “Most often, being able to be helpful and seeing the bigger picture.”

The teens gain confidence and the ability to multitask, she said.

Every year, a few training program grads return to serve as camp counselors.

Stay Work Play, an organization that works to attract and retain more young residents in New Hampshire, has hired Sojourn Partners to run a program to develop personal and professional leadership skills among young professionals.

Stewart’s organization conducted a survey that showed 92% of respondents had interest in professional development opportunities.

Employers must nominate employees to participate in the program, which costs $1,750 to $2,250.

Topics will include learning about communicating, building networks, how to lead and how to collaborate to achieve goals.

The program, presented by Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, will run from February through June. Participants will have six day-long, in-person sessions and three online sessions.

“I think employees today, as we’re seeing, have plenty of opportunities oftentimes to choose where they want to work,” Stewart said. “It’s put pressure on employers to stand out and be employers of choice. We’re all in competition for talent.”

Stewart cites listening and learning as key characteristics to his own success.

“It’s one thing to have what you consider is a good idea,” he said. “It’s another to communicate those and to work with others to implement those ideas.”

Ouellette said potential leaders should get involved in their communities.

“Get involved in their community,” Ouellette said. “That’s where you’re going to interact with a lot of people and make decisions that are meaningful.”

What’s Working, a series exploring solutions for New Hampshire’s workforce needs, is sponsored by the New Hampshire Solutions Journalism Lab at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and is funded by Eversource, Fidelity Investments, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the New Hampshire College & University Council, Northeast Delta Dental and the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education.

Contact reporter Michael Cousineau at mcousineau@unionleader.com. To read stories in the series, visit unionleader.com/whatsworking.