Category Archives: employee satisfaction

This Just In: Change is Awful

The saying goes that “change is inevitable.” But when it comes to the workplace, Americans would rather have none of it, according to the results of a brand-new survey from the American Psychological Association.

Employees in the U.S. who’ve been affected by change at work are more likely to report chronic work stress, less likely to trust their employer and more likely to say they plan to leave the organization within the next year compared to those who haven’t been affected by organizational change, according to the APA’s 2017 Work and Well-Being Survey, which is based on responses from 1,500 U.S. adults and was conducted on behalf of the APA by Harris Poll in March.

Half of American workers report having been affected by organizational change within the last year, are currently being affected by such change or expect to be affected by it within the next year, the survey finds. Workers experiencing recent or current change were more than twice as likely to report chronic work stress compared with employees who reported no recent, current or anticipated change (55 percent vs. 22 percent), and more than four times as likely to report experiencing physical health symptoms at work (34 percent vs. 8 percent).

Workers reporting recent or current change also were much more likely than other respondents to say they experienced work/life conflict and felt cynical and negative toward others during the workday (35 percent vs. 11 percent) and ate or smoked more during the workday than they did outside of work (29 percent vs. 8 percent).

There’s plenty more in the survey results, much of it dispiriting and depressing. The upshot seems to be that too many U.S. workplaces appear to be afflicted with leaders who’ve adopted a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. However, this article that ran in McKinsey Quarterly a number of years ago (published by the consulting powerhouse McKinsey) offers some interesting food for thought that holds true today. One of its important points, as you may already know, is that people need to understand the point of change–why something is being changed, their role in helping the change succeed and how all of it will lead to better conditions for both themselves and the larger organization. The theme is that while change may be inevitable, the negative side effects shouldn’t be and don’t have to be.

 

Giving Workers a Reason to Stay

If you’re looking for more proof that recognition matters, check out this Friday morning the results of OfficeTeam’s latest survey.

Exactly two-thirds (66 percent) of the 750 workers surveyed said they’d likely leave their job if they didn’t feel appreciated, up from 51 percent who responded that way in 2012. That’s certainly a pretty substantial jump over a five-year stretch. In contrast, just over half (54 percent) of 600 senior managers questioned believe it’s common for staff to quit due to lack of recognition.

Asked to share the best form of appreciation from a boss or colleague that they received, those questioned offered up some wide-ranging answers, including: a handwritten thank-you card from the chief operating officer; a new car; being named employee of the year; an all-expenses-paid trip to Jamaica; and a donation to a nonprofit in my name.

In a press release on the findings, OfficeTeam District President Brandi Britton noted  …

“All professionals like to be acknowledged for their contributions, and not just once or twice a year. While monetary rewards are always crowd-pleasers, companies don’t need to spend a lot to show appreciation to their workers. Regular praise and even tokens of gratitude can go a long way.”

Employees were also asked to share the strangest form of recognition they personally received at work—and their responses included a few dozzies, including a loaf of bread, a custom statuette of the recipient, edible flowers, an expired gift certificate, a $0.03 raise and socks.

Just a few things to consider—and not consider—as you plan for Administrative Professionals Week, which runs from April 23 to 29.

What’s Driving Engagement

Engagement continues to be a hot topic. So I guess it’s no surprise to find at least two vendors at this year’s HR Tech Conference unveiling research studies on the topic.

thinkstockphotos-460766179For starters, Oracle released its first Global Engagement Study earlier this week.

According to feedback from 5,000 full-time employees at a variety of organizations, 40 percent of the respondents said their employers could do more to leverage technology to better enable them to do their jobs.

Employees as consumers are more plugged into technology than ever—so they expect the same level of accessibility at work that they get in their personal lives, says Gretchen Alarcon, group vice president of HCM product strategy at Oracle.

The research found that the quality of the digital working experience impacts how much employees feel they are empowered to do their job.

As you might expect, the research also revealed leadership can be a huge driver when it comes to engagement.

“One of things we learned is that leadership availability really matters,” says Alarcon. “Do employees have the ability to ask questions? Are they approachable? Do they feel trusted [by their leaders]? All of these can have a direct impact on engagement.”

The study, based on 4,706 interviews conducted earlier this year by Kantar TNS, found that 47 percent of the respondents consider their leaders visible and approachable and 44 percent have confidence in the company’s leadership, suggesting that plenty of room for improvement remains.

Meanwhile, Ultimate Software released the results of its 2016 National Study on Satisfaction at Work survey, a study of 1,000 American workers conducted this summer by The Center for Generational Kinetics. This study found that trust, open communication and development opportunities play an increasingly important role in influencing employee satisfaction and commitment. Indeed, these factors typically had equal or greater importance than compensation or financial motivators.

“What the research showed us was that the No. 1 driver of employee satisfaction is how companies treat their employees,” says Adam Rogers, chief technology officer of Ultimate. (Rogers shared some of the findings in an Ideas & Innovators presentation at the conference earlier today.)

Exactly three-quarters of the employees surveyed said they were more likely to stay with a company longer if their concerns were heard and addressed, and 73 percent said they were more likely feel satisfied with their organization if it were to invest in their development.

Their level of satisfaction especially depended on how they were treated by their direct manager, even more so than how they were treated by the organization’s top leaders.

Often, Rogers notes, companies will devote resources to developing executives, but the research suggests that they might be better served if they focus on developing managers.

Reassessing Engagement Surveys

At one time in the not-too-distant past, employees at Lloyd’s Banking Group were being asked to complete employee engagement surveys every three months or so, according to David Littlefield, the London-based bank’s group head of culture, engagement and insights.

“You can’t build an engaged workforce without affecting behavioral change,” Littlefield told attendees at a Wednesday afternoon session at HRE‘s HR Technology Conference.

Indeed. The problem with conducting such frequent surveys, however, “was that [the firm’s approximately 8,000] line managers weren’t gaining any new insights and didn’t have time to digest that much data and take action” on what the latest employee polls told them.

Thus, in 2015, HR at Lloyd’s developed and introduced its Building the Best Team Survey. Including between 60 and 65 questions overall, this new survey added more open-ended questions to the mix, “to give employees an opportunity to talk about what they like and don’t like” about their jobs, and about their roles within the organization.

The goal of adding such new queries was to gain insight into how employees felt in four areas: their satisfaction with their role in the company, their pride in their work, their likelihood to be an advocate for the organization and their intent to stay with Lloyd’s, explains Littlefield.

In addition to internal variables, outside factors can impact employee engagement as well, says Littlefield. External factors such as current economic climates and media coverage of the industry, he adds, are especially vital to perceptions of firms within the financial sector, and some questions were designed to gauge how employees’ views of Lloyd’s culture are affected by how the organization and the industry is depicted outside of the company.

Polling employees less frequently and seeking more substantial input has paid off, says Littlefield.

Currently hovering between 85 percent and 88 percent, “participation rates [for employee engagement surveys] have never been higher,” he says, adding that overall employee engagement scores have increased by 11 percentage points since 2014.  Part of the reason for this rise is attributable to allowing managers to revamp employees’ roles to better match their skills and help them achieve “what they want to get out of their work,” based on responses from the annual survey.

“When we share data from engagement surveys with managers, we tell them to think about that data for a few days, and figure out how they can help employees get energized and engaged,” continues Littlefield. “We’ve found that managers don’t want to talk about the science behind engagement scores, they want insight that they can take action on.”

 

 

 

Does Your Firm Support Well-Being?

limeade_quantum_wbereportDid you know employee engagement and employee well-being are two different things? I kind of did, but this research by Limeade and Quantum Workplace (pictured at left) made the differences about as clear as they could be, given the subject matter.

The report, released last week, defines the two thusly:

“Engagement [is] the strength of the emotional connection employees have with their work, team, company and higher purpose. … Well-being [is] a state of optimal health, happiness and purpose.”

OK, different, yes, but clearly very related. In fact, that’s one of the report’s key takeaways: that when employees feel they have higher well-being, they’re more likely to be engaged in their work.

The survey of 1,276 employees across 45 U.S. markets found, more specifically, that 88 percent of employees who cited feelings of “higher well-being” (i.e., access to healthy options, the flexibility and freedom to pursue them and find balance between work and life, and a sense of belonging and value to an organization) also said they feel engaged at work, versus 50 percent for those citing “lower well-being.”

Moreover, 83 percent of those in the “higher” category say they enjoy their work versus 41 percent in the “lower” one, and 84 percent in the higher category say they’re loyal to their teams, versus 54 percent in the lower camp.

So, is all this an intuitive no-brainer? Well, yes and no, according to Dr. Laura Hamill, Limeade’s chief people officer and managing director of the Limeade Institute. As she puts it,

“The connection between well-being and engagement may seem intuitive, but there has been little research that statistically relates the two. These findings confirm the relationship and can serve as the foundation of taking companies from good to great.

“[This] connection is great news. It means that helping disengaged employees isn’t out of an organization’s control [and can actually, by enhancing retention and productivity, lead to] better business results. “

(Here’s another link to the study’s microsite with a cool video for your viewing pleasure.)

Also key to an employee’s feeling of well-being is organizational support, defined in the report as “the resources and nudges an organization intentionally provides to encourage well-being improvement.” More specifically, it says, “this research indicates that organizations should provide the policies, visible manager and leadership support, role modeling, encouragement and norms to fully support [that] improvement.”

(One interesting note: The study found managers to be the primary source of that support, or nonsupport, over and above executive leaders. “Managers,” Hamill told me, “can be the biggest obstacles to well-being improvement because they don’t understand its connection to team success or they are nervous about how to talk with their employees about their well-being. Organizations should educate managers about the impact of well-being on employee engagement — and give them the tools and support to make it a priority.”)

The numbers certainly bear out the importance of this organizational/managerial support. Seventy-two percent of people who felt their employer cared about their well-being also reported having higher organizational support, whereas only 7 percent of employees with lower organizational support reported feeling higher well-being. In other words, as perceptions of organizational support diminish, so do perceptions of well-being. So why is this finding important? According to the report’s authors,

“You’ve heard it before: It’s more expensive to replace an employee than to retain one. A 2015 study [‘The impact of human resource practices on employee retention in the telecom sector,’ published in the International Journal of Economics and Financial Issues] states that costs associated with a person leaving unexpectedly are usually 2.5 times greater than that person’s salary.

“So why not invest those dollars back in the people who already work for you to help retain them? Employees who feel they have higher well-being and who feel they have higher organizational support are more likely to want to stay in an organization — compared to those [in the lower groups].”

In fact, researchers found, about 98 percent of those who feel they have higher well-being and higher organizational support answered favorably to the statement “I would like to be working at this organization one year from now.” That number dropped to about 79 percent for people who feel they have lower well-being and lower organizational support.

Even more impressive in terms of sheer numbers, 99 percent of employees with high well-being and high organizational support recommend their employer as a great place to work.

“Employee engagement is the holy grail for many companies aiming to attract and retain top talent,” says Jason Lauritsen, director of customer success at Quantum Workplace. “[This report] validates this goal … .”

Forget the Fancy Job Titles

Employees walking around with titles like “chief happiness officer” and “product evangelist” are expected to be exuberant, enthusiastic proponents of a company’s internal and external brand.

And they could very well be crazy about the companies they work for. But they might not be so keen on such creative, “non-traditional” job titles, which a fair number of workers apparently don’t find all that endearing or even accurate.

A quarter of employees, to be exact, don’t care for using exotic monikers to describe their positions, according to a new survey from Spherion Staffing.

The Atlanta-based recruiting and staffing provider’s most recent WorkSphere survey found that 25 percent of employees consider “non-traditional” job titles unprofessional, and are against the idea of being christened with one. Nearly as many (23 percent) feel that flowery designations don’t capture what they actually do in their jobs. That said, 14 percent of employees who favor more tried-and-true titles believe they too could use improvement, saying that labels such as “project manager” and “specialist” are too vague.

Overall, 42 percent of workers said their current titles—be they old-fashioned or more “outside the box”—don’t really reflect their roles and responsibilities.

Regardless of what appears on their business cards, an overwhelming majority of employees expressed confidence in their ability to describe their jobs in a way that’s easy to understand. Eighty-nine percent of those polled said they would have no issues delivering an “elevator speech” that highlights their duties.

Those that don’t have such an easy time encapsulating what they do every day might struggle with summing up the complexities of their roles. Close to one-third (31 percent) of employees polled said their job or industry is too specialized to easily explain to a layperson. Twenty-nine percent said they try to avoid using work jargon in everyday conversation.

According to the survey, employees struggling to articulate their responsibilities may be making things harder than they have to be. Overall, 53 percent indicated they give different accounts of their jobs, depending on the audience. In addition, 11 percent said they sometimes lie about what they do for a living.

Whatever they tell others about their vocation, “employees take great pride in their job titles, and in some cases, a title that is considered limiting or hard to describe can significantly impact their job satisfaction,” says Sandy Mazur, Spherion division president, in a statement.

Faced with growing pressure to recruit and retain top workers, “reexamining how different titles are perceived and applied can make a big difference in building morale,” says Mazur, “and positioning a company as a favorable place to work.”

 

Ratedly Review-Tracking App Rates

I guess my biggest surprise after speaking recently with Joel Cheesman — creator of the new Ratedly anonymous employee-review monitoring service for employers that launched in May — is that competitors don’t seem to be furiously chasing or even nipping at his heels since the launch.

Joel Cheeseman and his Ratedly app.
Joel Cheesman and his Ratedly app.

Equally surprising is Cheesman isn’t that concerned about competition or heel-nipping at all. He’s doing just fine with the 10 primary review sites he spiders to — including Glassdoor and Indeed — and Ratedly’s slow-but-steady clientele growth.

But the app — which he was good enough to demo for me — is so simple and straightforward, and the most logical next step for helping employers through the employee-review revolution, you’d think other vendors would be clamoring to partner with him or give him a run for his money. If either of those things happens, he tells me, “we’ll welcome it.”

Bottom line, he adds, “we want to be the best at what we do, so we’re not against people looking into what we’re doing and trying to take us on.”

At the same time, says Cheesman, without giving away too many numerical specifics, “there’s no pressure to make a ton of money real fast here. We’re building customers at a rate that I’m comfortable with. It’s all going well, and self-funded, and I’m going to keep it that way.”

It didn’t take long for Cheesman, a 20-year veteran of the recruiting and employment industry, to walk me through his brainstorm several days ago. It’s really that basic. Resembling a Twitter feed, if you will, Ratedly is, in essence, a mobile-enabled real-time index for iPhones, iPads and iPods that constantly checks for subscribers’ company pages and or company mentions on anonymous employee-review sites.

“Employers waste so much time these days hitting the refresh button to track reviews about them online,” he says. “We saw a real need out there to take that task off the plate of HR professionals across every industry category. No one is immune to anonymous reviews.” He adds:

“The days of putting your head in the sand are over. Companies NEED to know what’s being said out there. If you have someone flaming your company and you don’t know about it, you’re at a real disadvantage. People you’re interviewing are going to these sites. That’s your brand … not what you’re spending on your website. If the community at large says you ‘suck,’ all that [other] branding stuff [you’re doing and paying for] doesn’t do any good or make any sense at all.” 

Anyone who signs up for the $150-a-month service gets automatic access to the data Ratedly’s bot scrapes every day from the 10 main review sites in its arsenal. Clients can also ask that custom feeds be added if their company happens to be showing up regularly on an additional site as well. They can bookmark whatever comments they choose and/or share them with whomever they want.

They also get push notifications whenever their company is mentioned so they can get on with the work they’re supposed to be doing, as opposed to constantly watching and waiting for what employees and job candidates think of them. Or worrying about missing another anonymous review. In addition, Ratedly will warn them if their reputation appears to be trending up or down on any given week.

Next on Cheesman’s to-do list is enhancing the analytics and metrics with word-search capabilities, being able to tie an organization’s trending reputation to stock fluctuations and company news, and getting more consultancies and agencies involved with the product.

“A lot of agencies are being sought right now to help employers with their reputations and employer brands,” Cheesman says, “so working more with and in that space will be our next big thing. That will be huge.”

He also plans to work harder with clients’ CEOs and other top leaders such as CHROs to get them more personally and regularly involved with social media, especially as it pertains to employee-review sites. In his eyes, this will speak volumes to younger workers and job candidates. Think about it, he says:

“You’re a CEO. You go out and find a positive comment posted by one of your younger employees on Glassdoor. Instead of moving on, you take the time to post [to Twitter, Facebook, etc.] something like, ‘Hey, another happy employee!’ with a link to Glassdoor. That shows that young person [and all his or her friends] that you’re a CEO who’s on top of social media and took the time to notice someone’s post; that looks really, really good in the public eye.”

Workers Open to Working Elsewhere

dissatisfied employeeAs you walk through the cubicle farm/office maze/factory floor of your organization, know this: More than half the people you’re passing are open to finding a new job elsewhere, and of those employees, 44 percent are actively looking for new jobs.

That’s according to Aon Hewitt’s latest Workforce Mindset study, which surveyed 2,000 employees. What are the factors most likely to lure employees away from their current jobs? The following are the five key differentiators, according to the survey:

1. Above average pay (62 percent)

2. Above average benefits (61 percent)

3. A fun place to work (58 percent)

4. Flexible work environment (57 percent)

5. “Strong fit with my values” (56 percent)

Of course, the common prescription for avoiding turnover has been keeping employee engagement levels high. But that’s hardly a cure-all either, according to “The Dark Side of Employee Engagement,” a new Harvard Business Review piece by Lewis Garrad and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. They cite a number of studies showing that highly engaged employees can be too satisfied with the status quo, more prone to burnout and its attendant ill effects and “too positive” — in other words, highly engaged people can crowd out the more introspective, less-extroverted types who nonetheless are often key to a company’s overall success.

So what to do? Try “training employees to leave their jobs,” writes Hootsuite’s Ryan Holmes, particularly if you want to retain your star employees. Many workers, particularly younger ones, leave companies not necessarily because they’re dissatisfied with their compensation or their manager but because they want to try something new, acquire new skills and push themselves in new directions, he writes. Holmes found that giving employees stretch roles at Hootsuite to try out new positions and acquire new skills without having to leave the company has yielded positive results.

Job Satisfaction Hits New High

According to the Conference Board’s latest job satisfaction survey, the rate of job satisfaction among U.S. workers is at the highest level it’s been since 2005, with nearly half (49.6 percent) of workers reporting that they’re satisfied with their jobs. The Conference Board notes that job-satisfaction rates have increased steadily since 2010.

Of course, this also means that half of U.S. workers are not satisfied with their jobs. The latest number is also a far cry from the highs hit in 1987 and 1995, when the Conference Board’s survey found that 60 percent of American workers were satisfied with their jobs.

The strengthening economy is a big factor in the higher job-satisfaction rates in the latest report, says the Conference Board’s Michelle Kan, who co-authored the report. “The rapidly declining unemployment rate, combined with increased hiring, job openings and quits, signals a seller’s market, where the employer demand for workers is greater than the available supply.”

In other words, employees today have more options than they’ve had in some time, and they know it — and HR needs to pay attention to their needs. Indeed, while the Conference Board report finds that workers are most satisfied with their colleagues (59 percent), interest in their work (59 percent) and their supervisors (57 percent), they’re much less satisfied with their organizations’ pay and promotion policies. In fact, the five job components with the lowest satisfaction are promotion policies (24 percent), bonus plans (24 percent), the performance review process (29 percent), educational/job training programs (30 percent) and recognition/acknowledgement (31.5 percent).

Gad Levanon, the Conference Board’s chief economist for North America, tells the Wall Street Journal that the high satisfaction rates of 1987 and 1995 are unlikely to be repeated soon.

“It was a whole different world in terms of employee-employer relationships,” he said. “There was much more loyalty. People looked to their employer for more than a job, in many cases.”

Nevertheless, said Levanon, a satisfaction rate of 55 percent may be achievable.

The Benefits That Employees Like Best

So it’s not all about the money.

Countless studies have shown employers that much over the past few years, as benefits packages—retirement plans, leave policies, wellness programs and so on—figure more and more prominently in employee satisfaction scores.

But which benefits matter most to workers?

Glassdoor Economic Research, the research arm of Sausalito, Calif.-based job and career website Glassdoor, sought answers to that question in a pair of recent studies.

The first, Which Benefits Drive Employee Satisfaction?, sampled more than 470,000 benefits reviews left anonymously on Glassdoor by employees over the course of roughly 15 months. The sample included 1,226 U.S. employers with at least 20 benefits reviews, across all sectors and ranging in size from 50 employees to more than 10,000 employees.

Not surprisingly, health insurance had the biggest effect on how employees rated their satisfaction with employers’ benefits offerings, followed by retirement plans and vacation and paid time off.

Conversely, employee discounts and maternity/paternity leave were found to have little impact on overall satisfaction.

The latter finding may seem surprising when you consider the trend toward more generous leave policies. But, while many employers have indeed added maternity and paternity leave benefits in recent years, “it is possible benefits that are not used by a large subset of employees do not impact overall benefits package satisfaction,” according to Glassdoor.

For its Benefits Review survey, Glassdoor dug a bit deeper, collecting data from employee reviews of 54 distinct employer-provided benefits, such as pet-friendly workplaces, employee adoption assistance, travel concierge services, company cars and mobile phone discounts.

Some of the results were similar, with health insurance deemed to be the top predictor of employee satisfaction with benefits. Vacation and paid time off, pension plans, 401(k) plans and retirement plans rounded out the top five.

Parental leave policies, however, ranked much higher in this study, with maternity and paternity leave ranking as the seventh-best predictor of employee satisfaction with respect to benefits.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, benefits and perks such as gym memberships, reduced or flexible hours, and childcare barely register on the employee satisfaction scale, coming in at 43, 50 and 53 on the list, respectively.

“Overall, the above results echo the findings of our earlier study,” according to Glassdoor. “The core benefits that matter most to workers are health insurance, vacation and paid time off, and retirement plans. These core benefits are most highly correlated with employee satisfaction with benefits packages.”

Still, Glassdoor advises caution in attempting to parse these numbers.

“These are just simple correlations between benefit ratings, and don’t statistically control for factors like company size or industry, as in our previous, more rigorous analysis of Glassdoor benefit ratings.”

Such limitations aside, the lesson that lies within these figures should be clear, according to the company.

“While less common benefits tend to dominate media coverage, employers should not neglect core benefits such as health insurance and paid time off. The data clearly show these benefits—while less exciting than many of today’s flashy workplace perks—are still the main drivers of employee satisfaction.”