Most workers worry about not having the right skills

Just saying work harder doesn’t cut it, employee survey says

Most Canadian workers aren’t feeling upbeat about where they work, about how their managers handle poor performers or about opportunities for development, according to a survey released last month.

And when asked whether their companies are a good place to work compared to others, only 43 per cent of 3,000 survey respondents agreed. Two years ago, that figure was 55 per cent.

“This is a slippage that employers need to look at,” said Graham Dodd, Canadian practice leader of the Human Capital Group at consultancy firm Watson Wyatt, which conducted the survey called, WorkCanada 2004/2005.

Whereas a majority of respondents would still recommend their companies to others, their number fell 10 per cent from 67 per cent in 2002. The share of those who said they prefer to stay with their current jobs even if a comparable employment becomes available likewise fell from 63 per cent in 2002 to 54 per cent in 2004.

One reason for the slippage, said Dodd, is employees are starting to feel buoyant about the Canadian economy. “Times like that, people tend to put their heads up and say, ‘Wonder what else is out there?’”

But another reason may be employees are concerned about not knowing what needs to be done day to day to support business goals.

They’re also worried about not having the skills needed in a changing business environment. Asked about training,

•43 per cent said their company has prepared them to work effectively in a rapidly changing business environment;

•45 per cent said their company provides them with training at an appropriate time; and

•49 per cent said their company ensures their knowledge and skills are up to date and meeting the changing requirements of the job.

“On the motivation side, you’ve also got things to worry about. Only three out of 10 employees give their companies high marks for creating a high performance culture. A couple of big things that employees are concerned about is: Do they see their organizations managing poor performers appropriately? And on the other side of the scale, do they see organizations giving the right feedback and encouragement to high performers?” said Dodd.

Despite talk in recent years about pay and performance, only one-third of employees see a clear link between job performance and pay at their workplace, noted Dodd.

“Employees are saying that they understand there’s a need for organizations to be more effective, more efficient and more productive. They get that,” said Dodd.

“What they’re saying is, ‘That won’t happen just by you telling us to work harder. You actually have to put together the systems and processes and training and development to help us work better, to do more, to be more efficient. You need to make sure you’re equipping our managers to be able to help us work better and smarter.’”

The Watson Wyatt study came out on the heel of another survey showing the “C-suite” ranking human resources issues among the top five of business threats in 2005. In the survey conducted by Accenture in eight countries, 900 CEOs, CIOs and CFOs were asked to choose from a list of 10 threats to their companies’ success.

The “inability to attract and retain the best talent” and “low employee morale” placed fourth and fifth, with 53 per cent and 50 per cent of the votes respectively.

“The health of the global economy” placed first at 74 per cent, followed by “the competition” at 72 per cent and “my company’s reputation” at 64 per cent.

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