Poll after poll describes how dissatisfied today’s workers are. For example, in a recent poll by Staples, 33% of employees said they feel unappreciated at work, while 38% were searching for a new job. Likewise, in the annual Education and Work poll conducted by Gallup, dissatisfaction with healthcare benefits increased 11 points in the past three years, followed by a seven-point increase in dissatisfaction over the potential for promotion at work. According to the poll, job issues causing the most dissatisfaction were: On-the-job stress (34%), Health insurance benefits (30%), compensation (30%), employer retirement plan (28%), chances for promotion (26%), vacation time (20%), recognition for work accomplishments (19%), job security (18%), and amount of work required on the job (17%).
What can we learn from this? Here are my observations:
- Half of employees are more satisfied at work than the other half. This is the way it always has been and always will be.
- Stressful financial times cause us to focus on productivity, efficiency, and running lean — which generates a lot of stress. As business owners and managers, we should do everything possible to acknowledge this stress and try to do something about it. For example, do you encourage your employees to take breaks or do you really keep your fingers crossed, hoping they’ll work through them at their desks? If you don’t already have a wellness plan, you should create one because it can help with stress management.
- Health insurance benefits have greater meaning to employees than straight compensation. In his book, Predictably Irrational, Daniel Ariely explains that health care benefits are a social contract, while compensation is an economic contract. Apparently, a dollar spent on benefits is worth more in total impact than a dollar spent on compensation — something that you should bear in mind when gutting your benefit plans.
- Years ago, the Gallup organization did the largest poll about employee retention ever conducted. It concluded that there were three main reasons for turnover:
- The person in the job is a misfit; they don’t have the skills or personality profile to succeed in it. In a sense, both employee and employer are filling a gap that will be short lived.
- A lack of perceived career growth or opportunity. Here’s where management has to step in with such tools as career ladders, career days, succession planning, and an overall discussion about finding the opportunity at your company.
- The most important relationship an employee has is the one with his or her immediate boss. Guess what? Half of all bosses are above average and half of them are below average. Which half do you have managing for you? How much training do you offer managers on being better managers? Do yourself a favor and take advantage of the extensive training on HR That Works that will help them be better managers
- It’s essential for management not to crawl into a cave during stressful times. Rather, they need to stand out front, give honest information, and handle the tough questions. Unfortunately, at too many companies, people are surviving as individuals, rather than as a team.
- As Steven Covey says, begin with your circle of influence. Start right where you are and focus on those people you work with or manage directly.