Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. UK at workOn 22 May 2001 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Asnapshot of UK employees’ attitudes to work seems to suggest companies arefailing to address some of their basic grievances and risk losing skilledstaff. Complacent employers beware, findings by the Aon Loyalty Institute andPersonnel Today may shock. Jane Lewis reportsBritishemployers are homing in on the wrong priorities in the drive to attract andretain talent, according to the Aon Loyalty Institute and Personnel Today’s annualstudy of workplace commitment, UK @ Work 2001. The message is that companiesare still not listening to what their staff really want, with many ignoringbasic needs in favour of what might be termed the bells and whistles of companylife.Inthe rush to prove their fashionable credentials as enlightened employers,companies are concentrating too much on issues like work-life balance, says thereport. Many are so preoccupied with the minutiae of achieving the rightworkplace utopia and dreaming up ever-more imaginative benefits, that they’vetaken their eye off the main ball. Fundamental issues such as improving payrates, keeping job security strong and reducing stress, have been relegated tothe sidelines.Yetit is clear from the responses of the 1,507 employees canvassed – across age,employment sector and position – that these basic needs remain their mainpriority at work. And the failure to meet them could have some fairly drasticconsequences for employers. Certainly, the survey – which above all aims toreveal the perspective of the employee – demonstrates surprising levels ofapathy, if not outright discontent, with companies. Only four out of 10 of thepeople canvassed would recommend their organisation as the best place to work.And over half give their company a “failing grade” when assessingbenefit and pay programme terms. Roughly the same percentage would happily swapsome of their fancy new benefits for more take-home pay. Loyalty, it seems, isa cheap commodity. Two-thirds of those polled would quit their job without asecond thought for a pay rise of 10-20 per cent or less elsewhere.Thepicture painted by the survey will clearly worry employers – particularly giventhe current economic backdrop of high employment rates and skills shortages,which 70 per cent of companies say are causing them major headaches. It’s timefor employers to get back to basics, says Aon. Forget the fancy stuff and startworking on what really counts. “First companies must create organisationsin which employees are safe, secure and as stress free as possible,” saysmanaging consultant, Craig Lydiate. “Then they must enhance this byproviding pay and benefits that are competitive and meet employee needs.”Becausethe survey shows a wide disparity between the levels of contentment shown bydifferent employee groups – men, on the whole, were chaffing at the bit farmore than women – Aon suggests that employers start evaluating the needs ofthose most “at risk” of defecting. Then they must act quickly to putin place the right plans to assuage these malcontents.Noone needs reminding of the importance of becoming a properly responsiveemployer. “Organisations that listen to their employees’ collective voicewill gain the information to manage human capital risks more effectively,”says the survey. And what that means in practice is competitive advantage.”By getting back to basics, organisations can attract and retain committedemployees and ensure their success in an uncertain future.”1.Investigating commitmentThisyear’s survey builds on the Workforce Commitment Index developed by Aon lastyear. The 2000 baseline index was created by combining six component questionsinto a single measure with a possible score of 100. The nearer the score is to100 – or even beyond – the higher level of commitment. In 2001 the overallindex fell slightly to 99 – “indicating very little change in overallcommitment”. But that’s no reason for companies to rest on their laurels.Thisfigure stands out in marked contrast to the much more positive 70 per cent whorated their organisation’s products and services highly – indicating that whileUK workers are proud of what they produce, they are far less enamoured with theenvironment in which they do it. And although the vast majority is not activelylooking to jump ship, they would be easily persuaded to do so for a slight payincrease. Nearly two-thirds say they would move if offered a similar job with aslightly higher salary.Butlevels of commitment vary widely according to different demographic andgeographical factors. Unsurprisingly, those organisations perceived to be onthe up (perhaps having undergone a recent expansion) can expect much higherlevels of commitment from staff than those engaged in downsizing. Insecurity isclearly the most effective recipe for disloyalty. And size does count. Whileorganisations with a head count larger than 1,000 staff scored commitmentpoints above the 100 level, and small companies achieved a respectable 98,those in the middle, the SMEs with a head count of between 500-1,000, scoredway below average on 94.Oneof the most optimistic findings for Britain as a society was that the muchput-upon workers in education, healthcare and the public sector as a whole,continued to display the highest commitment levels of all. The lowest were tobe found in manufacturing, the service industries and transportation,communications, and utilities – no doubt reflecting a greater sense of uneasewith future prospects in these increasingly troubled sectors.Unsurprisingly,the higher up staff are in an organisation, the greater their sense of buy-in.While executives scored a whopping 112 on the commitment stakes, manuallabourers repaid their comparatively lowly status with a nonchalant 90.8.Thesurvey shows that issues like age, gender and geographical location can alsohave a big effect on how employees see their companies. If companies are aftera really loyal workforce, they need to be in either Wales (104.5), or to theEast Midlands (104.1). Predictably enough, London-based workers are some of theleast reliable in terms of overall commitment. But the real flibbertigibbetsare to be found in Yorkshire and Humberside (93.3). When it comes to stayingpower, the group most at risk of defection is males under 30 who have alreadybeen with the company between six and 10 years. If this group makes up the bulkof your workforce, start worrying.2.Workplace practicesWhatreally drives the commitment of your employees and how good is yourorganisation at matching these needs? To assess this, Aon and Personnel Todayidentified five conditions or factors which impact on commitment – safety andsecurity (physical and psychological); rewards (remuneration and benefits);affiliation (the extent to which employees feel “part of the team”);growth (the opportunities for learning and gaining experience) and finallywork-life balance.Althougha high percentage (70-80 per cent) scored their companies well in terms ofensuring job security and a safe environment in which to work, companies felldown when it came to managing stress levels. In fact nearly 40 per cent ofthose canvassed reported “they had problems” with this over the pastyear, with most citing overwork, long hours and poor management as underlyingcauses.Inother words, nearly half of UK employees feel they are not being adequatelyrecompensed for their labours. And between 26 and 29 per cent claimed theirbenefits’ packages are below both their expectations and what they and theirfamilies needed. Given that the overwhelming majority believe that a goodpackage is an important factor preventing them from looking for a jobelsewhere, this rising groundswell of discontent is clearly significant.Andit is equally clear that employers frequently get the wrong end of the stickwhen it comes to assessing the right balance of pay and benefits. Over half ofrespondents would rather forgo some of their current benefits in exchange formore pay. Thegood news for employers is that internal company division over pay is not areal issue – most people surveyed believed they were fairly paid compared toothers in their organisations. But a larger number remained convinced that thegrass is nonetheless greener elsewhere. Nearly a third believe the same jobwould pay more in a different company. “Beingpart of something larger than oneself has been understood as part of humanpsychology for decades,” states the survey. “UK employees want to bepart of a team. They want to have input in making changes.” But although ahigh percentage (83 per cent) are convinced their organisation trusts them todo what is right for the company, nearly half feel they hadn’t had theopportunity to prove themselves in a change situation. Another tranche ofrespondents (nearly a third) claimed their organisation wasn’t doing enough toencourage a sense of company spirit and pride. The overall picture appears tobe one of frustration – employees feel they are neither sufficiently inspired,nor empowered to work for the good of the company.Despitepersonal gripes about lack of action, the survey showed most employees thinktheir companies are heading in the right direction – embracing change andcommunicating and managing it effectively.Evenmore reassuringly, a high percentage (85 per cent) are impressed with theirmanagement’s commitment to continuously improve products and services. But onceagain, this rosy picture of successful company life begins to fade whenemployees start considering their personal growth opportunities. Nearlyone-third report their expectations aren’t being met, and a similar numberclaim they are not being well enough informed about opportunities fordevelopment within the company.Thehard work many companies have put in to help employees strike the rightwork-life balance appears to be paying off – in part. In fact, respondents aresplit on this point. Just as many claim their management’s attitude to theirpersonal concerns falls below expectations. What is clear, says the survey, isthat a little more give and take is needed. “Committed employees arewilling to ‘go the extra mile’ for their organisation. Employers mustunderstand that committed employees still need to manage their personallives.” The majority of respondents are much more positive about the day-to-dayhelp they got from their peers with over 83 per cent claiming they enjoy goodsupport “as a person, not just as a worker”.3.ConclusionsUKworkers are only moderately committed to their workplaces, despite the factthat most think their organisation is performing well. At the root of theproblem is their poor perception about what they are getting out of companiesas individuals. Many clearly think they should be paid more, and a large numberbelieve their talents remain unexploited – both in terms of developing newskills and progressing within the company. The fact that so many complained ofa lack of spirit and pride in their companies is equally damaging.Ultimately,concludes the survey, the solution lies in a return to first priorities. Unlessthe basic needs of employees are met, “further investment in the areas ofwork-life balance and strategic organisational development will not achieve theexpected return on investment.” So it’s back to basics, then.