Gap exists between worker, employer values

Mismatch could cost firms top talent and productivity

If employers don’t better align their values with those of their employees, they’re likely to lose valuable talent, according to a University of Toronto psychiatry professor.

In a new survey by Montreal’s Desjardin Financial Security, nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of 1,508 respondents said there is a gap between their employers’ values and their own personal values. And that kind of value mismatch can be bad for employees’ morale.

“It can lead to disenchantment,” said David Goldbloom, adding that it also naturally leads to problems with retention.

Previous generations worked for the same employer for their entire careers, but that kind of loyalty doesn’t exist anymore, said Goldbloom.

“Now people are much less likely to attach for the long haul in terms of employment situations,” he said. “If retention is indeed a goal, employers need to do the kinds of things that both inspire loyalty and inspire a sense of appreciation. Respecting what it is that employees need and value is part of culture matching.”

Many employees don’t believe employers fully support their need for work-life balance. Only 25 per cent of respondents said their organization “walks the talk” when it comes to work-life balance and only 29 per cent said they feel their employer truly cares about work-life balance.

For employees who feel like they can’t leave the job, this lack of confidence in their employer will reduce their productivity and engagement.

“People may feel trapped in their situation or resentful in their situation,” said Goldbloom.

A recent report from employee assistance provider Shepell-fgi found a lack of engagement can cost employers up to $1.8 million for every 1,000 employees. Once employers factor in the costs of hiring and training new employees to replace the ones who are fed up with the workplace culture, the values misalignment becomes very expensive, said Glen Thompson, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

For employees who don’t leave, but who still feel as if their values aren’t respected, this can lead to feelings of stress, which can also be costly for the employer, said Thompson.

“Repetitive and continuous stress sometimes precipitates depression and anxiety disorders and other mental health disorders,” he said.

Many employees are cynical about the whole concept of work-life balance, with only 27 per cent of respondents convinced it is attainable.

“Some of the skepticism has been because of the greater encroachment of work on life outside of work,” said Goldbloom.

While technology has blurred the boundaries between work and home, there are steps employers can take to make sure the boundaries are clear.

“Every BlackBerry manufactured has an off button,” said Goldbloom. It’s just a matter of knowing when to use it.

One pharmaceutical company shuts down its server so e-mails won’t be sent at night, said Goldbloom. While employees can still compose e-mails after work, the recipients won’t receive them until the next morning.

“That sent a clear statement that there’s a time not to be working,” said Goldbloom.

But moving from an organizational culture that simply pays lip service to work-life balance to one that fully embraces it takes time, said Thompson.

“This is a slow, methodical process to make these changes,” he said.

One catalyst in the work-life balance movement has been the increasing numbers of women in the workforce and in the higher ranks, said Thompson. Women are traditionally more focused on family responsibilities than men and have been pushing employers for more workplace practices that support their family life, he said.

Giving employees flexibility isn’t about giving them time off work, it’s about allowing them to choose when it’s best for them to do the work, said Thompson.

“The best employees are more likely to be working too long hours than too short,” he said. By allowing them flexibility, employers will actually “get more work out of their workers.”

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