Looks like all those employees who’ve been putting in extra time to make up for a shrinking workforce have had enough — new research indicates almost half of employed Americans will be looking for a new job in the next year.

Worse yet for companies, the people eying the door are some of the most coveted: highly-educated and ambitious people who use terms like ‘hard worker’ and ‘high achiever’ to describe themselves.

“Employers should be concerned that after several years of recession and a very slow recovery, their top talent has a pent-up desire to leave for what they believe to be greener pastures,” said Audrey Boone Tillman, executive vice president of corporate services at Aflac, which conducted the study with more than 6,000 American workers.

But since more than three-quarters of respondents said a better benefits package might make them less likely to leave, Tillman says companies should take notice.

“It’s been an employer-driven market for a number of years and businesses watching their bottom lines may not have taken care of employees as well as they did before the recession,” she said. “However, demonstrating they care and showing appreciation in ways that are meaningful to their employees can … prevent their best workers from walking out the door.”

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