Attitude and engagement creates turbulence in corporate America

Jun 23 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Corporate America is not aligned with the needs and requirements of its increasingly diverse workforce and radical changes in attitudes mean that a growing number of young Americans are dissatisfied, disengaged and unproductive.

A year-long analysis of the American workforce has concluded that attitudes within the U.S. workforce now derive more from attitudes toward work and life circumstances than age, gender, race or ethnicity.

The "New Employee Employer Equation" survey from Age Wave and The Concours Group looked at the attitudes of almost 8,000 workers across all industry sectors,

Identifying six distinct categories that substantially alter conventional concepts of the American worker.

Most notably, radical changes in attitudes have left many of the youngest workers - tomorrow's leaders - uncommitted to their work and often constituting a negative influence in the workforce.

At the same time, older workers are blossoming, showing a can-do attitude across much of the workforce.

The challenge for corporations, according to Tamara Erickson of The Concours Group, is translating the variety of attitudes for the benefit of the company, and nurturing future business leaders.

"Reshaping the relationship between employees and employers is critically important in building for the future."

"Today's workforce already experiences alarmingly low levels of engagement in work. Improving engagement - finding ways to encourage individuals to invest more psychic energy in work - is the single most powerful lever that most corporations have to improve productivity."

"In summary, work plays different roles in peoples' lives," Erickson said. "Employees in each of these segments want different things from their work experience."

In interviews with 7,718 workers carried out by Harris Interactive, the researchers found that paying a worker more money does not, by itself, produce higher engagement levels.

Reasons that people feel engaged by their work vary from one segment to

another, Erickson said.

"Among the lessons for employers are that they must target segments that

are best suited to the nature of the work within their business and create

powerful employer brands to attract the desired talent. They must adjust work

situations to bring out the best in terms of engagement and performance."

The most recent U.S. Census indicates that over the next several years, as

so-called baby boomers retire, a disproportionately large number of workers

will partially or fully separate from work and demand for qualified workers

will rapidly rise.

But the study suggests that the profile of younger workers differs from that of the older workers they are replacing and that companies will have to work differently and harder to develop younger workers into competent and engaged professionals.

Companies will also need to tap into workers who have reached and exceeded the traditional retirement age in order to meet labour demand, the researchers suggested.

The importance of older workers was echoed in a report earlier this month from

Accenture which found that many U.S. organisations were failing to capture critical knowledge and experience from employees approaching retirement and few seem able to transfer valuable knowledge to newer employees.

"We've been living through a silent expulsion of older workers from the professional ranks the last twenty years. It's really ironic that this is the very same population that is going to bail out corporations in dire need of talent in the years ahead," said Agewave's Ken Dychtwald.

"What we don't know yet, but need to work on immediately, is whether it's possible to migrate workers from a less desirable profile to one that is more desirable and more productive," said Tamara Erickson.

"Industry has more tools and more data than ever before. We know what the problem is. How acute will we be at addressing and reversing the problem?"

Six types of U.S. worker

Self-Empowered Innovators (14 per cent)

The most engaged segment of the workforce is also the smallest. Hardworking, entrepreneurial, well educated and self-empowered, they are looking for work that continues to empower and stimulate them, enables them to learn and has social purpose. For them, work is about building something with lasting value.

Fair & Square Traditionalists (20 per cent)

Loyal, traditional workers who seek traditional rewards from their work. With below-average educations and above-average incomes, they seek stable and secure environments and are highly engaged. They are hard workers and good team members for whom work is a steady, predictable path to success.

Accomplished Contributors (17 per cent)

With an emphasis on contribution, this group sees itself as loyal, hard-working, reliable, capable and typically very experienced. They seek personally stimulating work that allows them to learn and grow. They have a very positive view of their employer, workplace and colleagues. Hard workers and great collaborators, they view work as an opportunity to be part of a winning team.

Maverick Morphers (15 per cent)

Confident, intellectually curious workers with a high-energy drive, this group continually brings innovation to the workplace. Members seek new ways to work or new technologies that increase productivity and communication. Successful but always needing that next challenge, they are most often found in smaller organisations.

Stalled Survivors (19 per cent)

The youngest workforce segment looks for employers who can make it easier to cope with what they perceive to be stressful lives with too many demands. Many of them hold out hope for a more productive and successful future, but for now, this group wants the full menu of company benefits and work environments that are fun.

For them work today is a source of livelihood but not yet (or not currently) a very satisfying part of their lives.

Demanding Disconnects (15 per cent)

The least satisfied and least productive segment of the workforce. Although they demand a wide range of benefits, they bring very little energy or commitment to the table. These are often mid-career professionals who feel dead-ended and want their employers to step up and make things better. They tend to view work as frustrating and see its value largely in terms of near-term economic gain.