This week here at the annual HR Technology conference in Las Vegas, I did a video interview with John Sumser of HR Examiner fame. One of our discussion points: how unhappy are workers today, and what are employers and employees doing about it?
John and I disagreed about this a bit. I said that all these surveys that show workers ready and willing to bolt for a new job point to a huge disengagement problem for organizations, the result of such terrible people management practices during the Great Recession and beyond.
My friend John Sumser took a more pragmatic view: so what if they are unhappy? There are not a lot of jobs out there, and unhappy or not, these workers have nowhere they can really go, so does it really matter that they keep saying how ready they are to leave?
Insights into the current pulse of the worker
I’m a sucker for a pragmatic argument, so I agree somewhat with Sumser’s view, but I also believe that whether employees CAN leave or not is besides the point. That’s because it can’t be good for companies that employees are so disengaged that they SAY they are ready and willing to bolt. That can’t be a good value proposition for anyone.
You can weigh in on either side of this argument — and I hope you will in a comment below — but here’s one more example of what I’m talking about — another survey, this time from Globoforce, that shows clearly that “employees are less satisfied in their current job and feel less appreciated for the work they do.”
Here are the highlights from the September 2011 Globoforce Workforce Mood Tracker, a “semi-annual survey provides key insights into the current pulse of the U.S. worker.”
- Some 38 percent of employees are actively looking for a new job, up from 36 percent in the last survey.
- 39 percent of workers don’t feel appreciated at work, up from 32 percent.
- 52 percent are dissatisfied with the level of recognition they receive, up from 41 percent.
- Only 24 percent are satisfied with the level of recognition they receive at work. Conversely, 63 percent of employees who have no plans of leaving are satisfied with their level of recognition.
- 32 percent say they have been recognized at work in the past three months. By contrast, 52 percent of those who have no intention of leaving had been recognized in the past three months.
- 78 percent of U.S. workers said being recognized for their good work motivates them in their job.
- 69 percent felt they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized.
The need to avoid a “thankless recovery”
These are interesting numbers, and they point to the huge disconnect workers have with their companies and how they feel about their job. And make no mistake: the latest Globoforce Workforce Mood Tracker survey found that “nearly half of all surveyed said they would leave their current job for a company that clearly recognized employees for their efforts and contributions.”
If that doesn’t speak to a huge issue for organizations everywhere, I don’t know what does.
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“It’s been often stated that we’re in the midst of a jobless recovery,” said Eric Mosley, CEO of Globoforce, in a press release about the survey. “While that may be true, it’s critical for companies to avoid a ‘thankless recovery’ for their current employees, as that could have damaging consequences on employee productivity, company culture, and employee retention. Our latest survey shows that if you recognize and appreciate your employees in relevant ways, they will want to continue to work for you.”
The Globoforce Workforce Mood Tracker study was commissioned by Globoforce and conducted on August 5-6, 2011, by independent market research firm MarketTools, Inc., through an online panel of fully employed persons (age 18 or older) at companies with 500 plus employees in the United States. There were 630 responses generated for the survey, resulting in a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence.
It doesn’t matter if you agree with me or with John Sumser — although I would love to get you thoughts on that below in the comments — but it is clear to me from this survey that organizations everywhere need to do really get serious about re-engaging with their employees.
After three plus years of furloughs, cutbacks, layoffs pay freezes (and even pay cuts), workers are fed up and perhaps not giving the organizations they work for their full and best effort. Even if they are muddling through, they are unhappy and ready to leave, and that has got to be a red flag for C-Suite executives and HR pros everywhere — if they are willing to listen and do something about it.