U.S workers unhappy with their lot

2006

Pressures at work are escalating, job satisfaction is falling and Americans are feeling increasingly stressed and dissatisfied about they way their organisation treats them and the gulf between what employers say and what they actually do.

The 2006 Employee Review by recruiter Randstad has found that employees want more opportunities for career development, better work/life balance and need to feel valued – and they expect their employers to help them achieve this.

Yet despite these concerns, a majority of employees of all ages said they would endure more stress for greater income.

Employees and employers were also at odds in their view of major work issues and disagreed about what lies behind this erosion in job satisfaction.

For example, when it came to career development, three-quarters of employers said that staff development was important, but only half of employees felt that their organisation delivered on this.

More pointedly still, while almost nine out of 10 employees said that feeling valued is an critical factor in job satisfaction, barely more than a third of them felt that they were valued by their own employers.

Pay was another are of dispute, with almost four out of 10 employees complaining that their companies pay uncompetitive salaries compared with fewer than three out of 10 last year.

Yet half the employers surveyed felt that their rates of pay are competitive with the market rates.

Unsurprisingly, then, the number of employees who said their company was loyal to them and the number of both employers and employees who said they were loyal to their company had both decreased since the same survey was carried out in 2005.

In fact, only a quarter of employees felt that their organisations felt any loyalty towards their staff and barely more than half (56 per cent) felt any loyalty to their organisations in return. But despite this, two-thirds of respondents still said they did not plan to change jobs this year, even though options for career changes existed.

"The survey shows a widening gap in employee expectations and respective employer delivery," said Genia Spencer, managing director of operations and human resources for Randstad USA.

"Companies that encourage dialogue to narrow the disparity will broaden work appreciation and job satisfaction," she added.

But as she also pointed out, employees' views of work and growth opportunities vary by generation.

The bad news for companies who continue to believe that the way to motivate staff is through their wallets is that the so-called "Generation Y" of young workers are the least likely to be interested in pay increases and most keen to learn new skills.

They were also more likely to value a career path than any other generation – although a mere three per cent considered increased responsibilities important to their career.

More than half of Generation Y and Generation X (58 per cent and 52 per cent respectively), also want pathways to personal growth compared with four out of 10 baby-boomers and only three out of 10 matures.

On the flip side, Generation Y and X take the most number of sick days, with matures taking the least.

Compared with matures, Generation Y workers were almost twice as likely (40 per cent versus 26 per cent) to take a sick day to relieve stress, almost three times more likely to attribute working too many hours to absenteeism and almost four times as likely to use a sick day for personal errands.

Meanwhile, while the majority of employees and employers agreed that the top source of productivity gains was increased employee efficiency, only half of employees of all ages said that leadership practices in their organisations fostered employee development.

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I am no world reknowned management expert like Deming or Drucker. I have no Phd, have conducted no scholary research or gathered statistics. My opinions are drawn from over thirty years in middle management. I am neither executive, consultant, nor belong to any elite institutions. I am, however, passionate about these views: Employees come to work with an implicit trust that their managers are always working for the best interest of the company and its employees. That trust should not and cannot ever be taken for granted. Look what is happening today. It is no longer 'What's good for the company is good for the manager.' It has become 'What's good for the manager is good for the company.' Top executives have totally lost sight of this phenomenon and are allowing managers to run amok in order to fulfill their own personal agendas. Several years ago I wrote a book on the subject of bad bosses, workplace culture and employee morale. It is as relevant today as it was then. The premise of the book is that employee morale is directly linked to the interaction of employees with line managers who are charged with executing the policies and strategies of companies. Unfortunately, many of these managers subvert the good intentions of the organization to meet their own personal goals and agendas at the expense of their peers and subordinates. This management subculture is the result of a corporate culture of ignorance, indifference and excuse. This problem can only be addressed from the top echelon of the organization through honest introspection and intelligent skepticism - not by some consultant's attempts to manipulate the workforce into 'feeling' better through gimmicks and programs. Better corporate level leadership is the key. Read more in '160 Degrees of Deviation: The Case for the Corporate Cynic.' Jerome Alexander

Jerome Alexander USA