Economic crisis drains morale

2008

With the news full of announcements of yet more job losses, it's not surprising that worries about job security are having a significant impact on productivity, engagement and the general working environment.

So the fact that a new survey by Accenture suggests that almost two-thirds of U.S. middle managers believe the economy is having a negative impact on their work environments isn't exactly a surprise. If anything, it's a wonder that the proportion isn't even higher.

The survey of more than 300 middle managers across the U.S. found that six out of 10 felt that employees are concerned about losing their jobs or that morale is down.

Additionally, more than half the managers quizzed said they are dissatisfied or only somewhat satisfied with the own jobs, although the uncertain economic climate means the number likely to act on this discontent will be small.

Just 13 percent of middle managers said they are actively looking for a new job while two-thirds said they would consider a new job but are not actively looking. But nearly half believe that taking a new job in the current economic environment would be risky. Meanwhile, a quarter said that they are working harder or longer hours in an attempt to improve their job security.

"In an uncertain economic environment, employers will need to take extra care in keeping employees engaged and ensuring that they maintain their job performance," said David Smith, managing director of Accenture's talent and organization performance practice in North America. "Sound talent management strategies are now more important than ever." "Clearly, job security is of paramount importance to employees right now," Smith added.

"Nevertheless, employers must continue to find ways to improve the work experience for their employees or they may be faced with an unwelcome rise in employee departures when the economy improves."

The Accenture study is the latest to document the impact of the economic crisis in the workplace. It comes a month after a survey of more than 1,500 high-income U.S workers by the Center for Work-Life Policy revealed a dramatic reduction in levels of engagement and loyalty among even the best-performing staff.

The Center's study found that the proportion of employees who felt loyal to their company had fallen from virtually all – 95 per cent – to slightly more than half over the past 12 months. And when it came to trust, there had been a 12 per cent drop in engagement levels over the same period.

Accenture's survey also highlights the widespread belief that organisations could be doing more to help employees cope with the weak economy, a sentiment echoed by more than two-thirds of the middle managers questioned.

Significantly, changing working patterns emerged as the most popular way for employers to help their staff, with around a quarter of mangers favouring policies such as remote working, flexible schedules, four-day work weeks, telecommuting and travel subsidies to help staff cope with the weak economy.

"Increasingly, we are seeing organizations refocus their talent management techniques to provide employee programs that are more customized to individual needs," David Smith said. "We expect this trend to continue for some time."