All posts by Tom Starner

Women’s Workplace Engagement Gap

Despite the fact that workplace gender equality is getting the media attention it deserves, women continue to be less than enthused about their current work situations when compared to their male co-workers.

According to a recent survey from Mercer Sirota, female employees are significantly less satisfied and engaged with their organizations compared to their male counterparts. Measuring employee happiness based on three factors — achievement, camaraderie and equity – Mercer Sirota found that 43 percent of women are satisfied with their organization in matching pay based on performance, while slightly more than half of men (51 percent) are satisfied with their pay based on performance.

(Mercer Sirota is the result of Mercer’s December 2016 acquisition of Sirota Consulting LLC, a global provider of organizational assessments, surveys, technology and analytics.)

The Mercer Sirota research surfaced three major areas with significant gaps for women in the workplace: fair and transparent pay, defined career paths, and inclusive work environments. The survey also found that keeping employees engaged not only leads to long-term employment, but also growth within an organization.  Women have a focus on longer term career and collaboration not seen in men, according to Megan Connolly, senior associate with Mercer Sirota, which is something employers need to realize.

“Although the drivers of engagement and satisfaction may vary from company to company, our research clearly illustrates that fair and transparent pay, defined career paths, and inclusive working environments are the key to engaging women employees,” Connelly says.

Other findings found trust to be the key factor in terms of sharing ideas and innovations. For example, one in four female employees is apprehensive to report an ethical concern without fear of repercussions, which creates mistrust between employees and employer.

“Understanding the unique needs of women and taking proactive steps to create more fulfilling work experiences may be the key to solving the puzzle that continues to confound organizations, which is how to increase performance through gender parity,” says Pete Foley, principal at Mercer Sirota.

Stressing over Pay-Ratio Strategies

The Dodd-Frank Act mandated the CEO pay ratio rule — which goes into effect in early 2018 — with the intention of making the public and employees aware of how much a CEO is paid when compared to the median compensation of all employees.

The odd part is employers apparently have little problem coming up with the CEO pay-to-worker data, but the real challenge is figuring out when, how or if they will tell employees about it, according to a recent poll Willis Towers Watson conducted with 360 corporate executives and compensation professionals in September 2017.

No doubt this lack of action is partly because many employers are stressed about how employees will respond to the pay ratio disclosure. WTW believes that’s a mistake, according to Steve Seelig, senior regulatory advisor for Executive Compensation at WTW.

The survey found that roughly half of poll participants report their biggest challenge in complying with the forthcoming pay ratio disclosure rule is forecasting how their employees will react. The poll also revealed that 48 percent of participants haven’t considered how, or even if, they will communicate the pay ratio – even though employees’ reaction to the disclosure is their biggest worry.

“It’s somewhat surprising that so many companies haven’t considered how or if they will communicate the ratio to their employees, given that so many are concerned about how they will react,” said Jim Kohler, director, Communication and Change Management at Willis Towers Watson, in a company news release. Kohler added that employers should view the act as “a golden opportunity” to launch a dialogue with not only employees but also customers, investors and the media about pay positioning and pay transparency.

“In fact, we are working with several companies on developing a communication road map to guide them through the process,” he says.

To help employers out, the Securities and Exchange Commission also issued detailed guidance recently so affected employers can manage their data issues using statistical sampling.

“The clock is ticking for companies to comply,” WTW’s Seelig said.

The good news is of those who have a communications plan in place (a meager 14 percent), 39 percent are prepping  leadership to respond to employee questions. On the downside, just 16 percent of them are prepping managers to have employee discussions. As for a “do nothing” strategy, a similar number as those with detailed plans are not going to say anything at all to employees, according to the poll.

Is Global Mobility Losing Popularity?

Taking a global assignment has been considered a stepping stone to moving up within the organization, but apparently some who have taken that step are having doubts.

A recent survey from Cigna, the health insurance carrier, reports that globally mobile employees see themselves as less satisfied than workers who reside in their home country (and who have chosen to bypass overseas assignments).

Two of the main reasons for that scenario are a loss of family time and support, and the financial consequence and availability of medical care in the event of major illness.  Regarding the latter, the Cigna survey, 2017 Cigna 360° Well-being Survey – Globally Mobile Individuals, found that 40 percent reported having no company medical benefits at all. For the survey, Cigna interviewed 2,003 globally mobile individuals online (ages 25-59) who are working in markets outside of their birthplace across 20 markets in Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa and the United States.

Hard data for globally mobile individuals on Cigna’s favorability index across all categories is 61.5 points, 1.8 points lower than their stay-at-home counterparts. The most dramatic score difference came in family well-being, which was 9.4 points lower for globally mobile workers.

“The results show that globally mobile individuals are more concerned than the general working population about their own health and well-being, and that of their families,” said Jason Sadler, president, Cigna International Markets, in a press release.

Sadler added that without exception, this group is worried about the consequences of personal or family member illness; an issue compounded by the gap in employer-provided health benefits.

It isn’t all bad news. The Cigna survey also found that there is an upside to taking a global assignment, mainly “international exposure, the opportunity to accumulate wealth, better career prospects, good working hours and positive relationships with co-workers” as positive outcomes aspects of the experience.

Even so, the anxiety driven by healthcare concerns is real, Cigna found.

“The survey shows health benefits are a very important factor when deciding to take an overseas posting,” Sadler said. “There is a clear need for employers to pay attention to the health and well-being of their globally mobile employees.”