Several separate reports and surveys have been published recently, highlighting the way in which the employer/employee relationship has changed since September 11th.
There is no doubt that the tragedy in New York and the ongoing conflict has changed the way in which many people regard many things. Employment is no exception.
Not surprisingly, the findings of the reports are, in general, parallel. However, the emphasis and direction differs. What is quite clear from all three is that, if employers want to retain their employees, they will have to carefully examine and revise their employment strategies: not only the way in which they reward their employees but also the relationships they form with them. Employers will have to realise that employees have a life outside of the business as well, and that they will have to contribute in some meaningful way to improving the quality of that life. A salary cheque at the end of the month will simply not be enough.
Give and take
Employees will have to learn that the levels of remuneration that apply when times are good cannot be sustained when times are not so good. There will have to be give and take on both sides. But, with the knowledge of exactly where both sides stand - and a copious dose of honest understanding - it should be possible to work out some form of compromise. An encouraging finding of the reports is that the events of September 11th have led many workers to pause and think, and to become more loyal to their employers.
The report from Charas Consulting Inc., confirmed that the employee/employer relationship has changed in fundamental ways, and that as priorities shift, employers need to re-think their contracts.
According to the report, employees are reflecting on and re-evaluating not only their careers, but the whole purpose and structure of their lives. They want to feel that they are doing something meaningful and that their efforts make a difference. Their whole 'comfort zone' is being challenged, and they want work to feel secure and caring, and employers to show more empathy and support.
But mainly, they want an improved quality of life � a better balance between time spent at home and time spent at work. Earnings are no longer so important; employees want more flexible hours (which may even involve working from home) and having more personal days and holidays. In other words, they want to spend more time with their families.
Clearly, the downturn in the economy doesn't help. Companies can't guarantee job security. According to Solange Charas, principal of Charas Consulting, "In order to reduce overheads, companies will be re-aligning their pay programmes - base, bonus, long-term and recognition. Pay programmes designed in good economic times are inappropriate today and now need to be financially justified while still providing an incentive for employees to be productive. We can expect to see more and more companies tying employee compensation to performance. This may require the reduction of base salaries with an opportunity for higher bonuses and equity based on corporate performance and individual productivity."
Another report, the United States Back@Work study from Aon Consulting's Loyalty Institute, shows that in just seven months, the US workforce's commitment has risen from a five-year low to a five-year high. All six key indicators used in the report rose.
Workers are far less likely to change jobs for a better salary: 54% said they would stay with their employers even if offered a similar but slightly higher-paid job elsewhere (up from 45% in May). But the study's director, Aon Consulting's Loyalty Institute's president, Dr David Stum, warns: "An employee's intention to remain without being productive and having pride can lead to what Aon calls 'false loyalty'. Organizations may be experiencing a 'halo effect', with employees giving them the benefit of the doubt on decisions, given the suddenness and sweep of the changes in the world. These employees can be easily lured away when the external environment changes."
By far the biggest concern of employees was stress and anxiety. Nearly one in five respondents gave their organizations low marks for helping employees who may be suffering stress or anxiety due to recent events.
The study also found that more than four in five employees have re-examined their priorities and want to spend more time away from work and with their families. Women were slightly more likely to take this view than men.
Spherion Corporation and Harris Interactive
Yet another survey, Spherion Corporation and Harris Interactive's Mood of the American Workforce, found that job satisfaction is very high, that fears of job loss are still moderate but have increased, and that employee loyalty has increased. Worker anxiety is higher. But almost half of the workers aged 18-24 see themselves as free agents, and that it was "very likely" that they would change jobs in the next 5 years. The number of workers thinking that it is "very likely" they will be fired or laid off has doubled from 4% to 8% since 1999. In general those who are most satisfied with their jobs live in the West, are white, are college graduates or post graduates, or have household incomes above US$50,000. Those with the least job satisfaction are likely to live in the East, be African-American or Hispanic, or have household incomes below US$25,000.
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