With the economy still struggling, employees face continued uncertainty when it comes to issues such as job security and career development and there is a sizeable number of workers unhappy with their lot, according to surveys by three HR consulting firms.
Nearly one-third (31 per cent) of the 800 respondents to a Ceridian Canada survey expressed dissatisfaction with their career progression — an eight percentage point increase over 2011. And while 75 per cent of Canadians feel secure in their jobs, that is down from 80 per cent in 2011.
“When you have a lot of career progression, it means the company is growing, the company is successful, but it also means opportunities for employees to move ahead,” said John Cardella, executive vice-president of human resources at Ceridian in Markham, Ont. “It’s about learning new skills, becoming more marketable and it’s about commanding more money and becoming more senior in what they’re doing. So, it’s a very key component of overall employee engagement.”
Two-thirds of employees are unsatisfied with their current job, according to a survey of 411 workers in Canada and the United States by Right Management. It is not a surprising statistic, given where the economy is today, with “such tremendous pressures in the workplace to perform, to deliver more with less, to be productive,” said Bram Lowsky, group executive vice-president of Americas at Right Management in Toronto.
Many industries have seen no salary increases and people are worried about taking time off — for a lunch break or vacation — or not bringing their BlackBerrys and laptops home for fear they’ll be seen as not carrying their weight, he said.
“All of that really rolls up into employee dissatisfaction.”
While a Randstad survey of at least 400 Canadian employees found 31 per cent were “very satisfied’’ with their employer, 25 per cent were absolutely not satisfied, said Stacy Parker, executive vice-president of marketing at Randstad Canada in Toronto.
“We can spin it with the positive but it’s pretty alarming that one-quarter of your workforce is not satisfied at all.”
In considering an employer, more than one-half (53 per cent) of more than 7,000 Canadian jobseekers and workers ranked job security as the most important factor, according to another Randstad survey.
“Because of the uncertain economy, because of the length of time that this economy has been in this uncertain phase, because of the volume of organizations that have had to do downsizing, or there’s this potential, job security is just number one,” said Parker.
Some employers are definitely in a holding pattern, said Cardella, but they should be concerned about losing key talent. Employers need to recognize employee efforts, be cognizant of their career aspirations and stay connected through performance reviews.
Seventy per cent of the respondents to Ceridian’s survey who did not receive a promotion were not told about the underlying reasons. Too often, leaders are preoccupied with other activities, said Cardella.
“It is important to reach out to these people or they will walk.”
When it comes to recognition, 44 per cent are not satisfied or indifferent with the level of recognition they receive at work, found Ceridian. There is a major, untapped potential to really connect with workers, said Cardella.
“The cost of having people not fully engaged is tremendous, so it makes sense to have an environment where people can be made to feel appreciated for the effort that they expend.”
For many employees, it’s the manager or leader who makes them feel valued and recognized and, therefore, OK with taking on additional responsibilities, said Lowsky.
“Smart organizations today are providing support for their managers, for their leaders, on how to do that, providing the time to do that, some training on how to be better at that, and creating some balance for their managers and leaders that, ‘Hey, numbers are important, financial results are important but we’re going to carve out some time for you to do those little things that make our employees, your employees, feel valued and respected and recognized.”
When it comes to flexible work hours or work settings, managers also have to change how they measure performance, said Parker. Rather than being tactical, it’s about trusting employees to deliver on projects and measuring on that. Access to social media while at work is also appreciated, she said.
“So many of our employees are taking home work through BlackBerry and web access, it’s also important that employers recognize as (employees are) adding those hours in their personal life, they are also going to be required to do some personal things during work hours, which might mean social media access.”
And in the area of career development, employees need to recognize they too share the responsibility, said Cardella.
“Employees should look around, see if they can step out of their comfort zone and look to do something that really can help the organization — and not necessarily expect to be paid for it.”
If there are no promotion or succession opportunities, employers can get people involved in projects or investigations from a research and development perspective, said Parker.
“People want to be stretched; it doesn’t mean they need formal training and development programs.”
Another area to consider is job bands, said Cardella. Instead of having the usual seven or eight non-executive levels, maybe have 10 or 12. That could mean not just a business analyst position, for example, but an intermediate and senior business analyst also, to show employees their employer cares about them moving forward.
“Employers need to be cognizant that having very, very wide job bands and having very compressed job levels, those are perhaps elements of the ’80s and ’90s,” he said. “And with the need for having career progression, perhaps employers can look at having more job levels.”
But increased compensation might not necessarily come with the changing titles — the employee is being given added responsibility and made to feel valued, he said.
“It’s not necessarily money that always drives people’s satisfaction in a job,” said Cardella. “Employees want to feel valued… You’ve got to feel good about the fact that the company is at least aware of what you’re doing and wants to see you move forward, succeed.”
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