U.S. workers are more loyal, but only when they're old

Jan 31 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Despite having vastly different working cultures and expectations, workers in Asia and Europe are united in being unhappier with their jobs than American workers, according to a new poll.

Yet American employers cannot afford to rest on their laurels, as a separate survey has shown that younger employees in the U.S. are far less satisfied than the older generation.

A survey of nearly 4,500 workers across four continents by workplace consultants BlessingWhite has identified sharp differences in workplace loyalty around the globe.

Overall just under six out of 10 workers said they "definitely" expected to remain with their employer throughout the year, although this was down from the 65 per cent recorded in 2006.

Slightly more than a third said they would "probably" stay, up from 29 per cent in 2006, it added.

And a total of eight per cent indicated there was "no way" they expected to do so, up from six per cent two years ago.

When the findings were broken down regionally some intriguing differences also emerged.

Employees in Europe and Asia appeared less content with their current jobs than those in the U.S. or Canada.

Just under half of Europeans and 54 per cent of employees in Asia-Pacific expected to stick with their employer, compared with six out of 10 Americans.

Perhaps ominously for European employers, more than one in 10 of their workers said there was "no way" they would be staying, said BlessingWhite.

The regional findings could be interpreted in different ways, acknowledged Christopher Rice, BlessingWhite chief executive.

"They may mean more people are taking control over their destiny and plan to do more to manage their career," he said.

"As likely, their disengagement may reflect pessimism with the uncertainty in the global economy. In either case, employers would be wise to take notice," he added.

But the best workers also tended to be mobile in any economic situation, Rice cautioned.

"People keep on with their employer not necessarily because of the money or benefits. We find that top performers are the same worldwide," he explained.

"If management doesn't provide employees with the opportunity to make a difference for the enterprise, engage in work that's interesting or worthwhile and pursue their personal development, these same individuals are going to take their knowledge and skills elsewhere," he added.

Senior management therefore had to address engagement issues in a comprehensive way, he argued.

"But even solitary efforts help, at least to some degree. The objective is to minimise undesirable turnover and hold onto the best workers," he said.

The second study of more than 700 workers by employee benefits provider Workplace Options found U.S. firms potentially facing a loyalty crisis in years to come.

It concluded that nearly four out of 10 employees younger than 26 years old were "very satisfied" with their jobs.

By comparison, nearly twice as many employees aged 66 years or older reported being "very satisfied", with more than nine out of 10 holding favourable views of their work situation.

With a large number of retirements expected from the baby boom-generation of workers in the next few years, employers needed to be meeting a new set of needs for a new generation, it warned.

"It's no secret that job satisfaction is greatly tied to work-life balance," said Alan King, president of Workplace Options.

"What's not so well recognised, however, is that work-life balance is not a one-size-fits-all. Younger generations are looking for more, but different kinds, of employee benefits," he added.

Employers were finding that traditional benefits such as childcare, eldercare and retirement were more appropriate for older generations but were often not attractive for single college graduates and young professionals.

College graduates entering the workforce, by comparison, were more often looking for benefits such as concierge services.

"In order to win the war on talent, employers must look at these work-life benefits as a key ingredient to attracting and retaining top talent," added King.

Once talent was hired, however, employers needed to work harder to keep them engaged, productive and happy.

Three out of four workers reported being stressed after being in their job for more than three years, while more than half reported job dissatisfaction related to stress after being in their job for less than a year, the survey found.