T+D July 10 // Intelligence //
Shifting Away From an Employer’s Market
By Alexandra Bradley
Companies that don’t engage their employees will see a quick exodus when the job market turns around.
Since the economy went south, the workforce has become an employer’s market. With jobs still scarce, businesses do not have to worry as much that employees will look elsewhere if they are not happy. As a result, employers have created an environment in which employees do not feel that they are valued by executives and their superiors, according to a survey released by Cornerstone OnDemand.
The Cornerstone OnDemand “Employee Attitude” Survey, conducted by Kelton Research, “takes the pulse on what employees are feeling right now in their organizations,” says Julie Norquist Roy, vice president of marketing at Cornerstone.
Of the 584 working Americans surveyed, 68 percent have not received useful feedback from their supervisors; 82 percent have not established their career goals with their supervisors; and 53 percent do not have a clear understanding of how their role contributes to company objectives. Roy says the economy has forged a “marriage of convenience”—an agreement in which employers feel they do not have to invest as much into their workforce because employees are just “lucky to have a job.”
While employees struggle to feel valued or appreciated, the survey found that employers are overlooking simple solutions to improve employee morale and loyalty. When respondents were asked what they would like as a token of appreciation for staying at their companies following cutbacks
- 33 percent would like proper training for new duties and responsibilities
- 33 percent would like a promotion or new title
- 32 percent would like verbal appreciation by their supervisor
- 26 percent would like specific feedback on their work
- 25 percent would like a discussion about their career path at the company
- 24 percent would like companywide recognition for their accomplishments.
All of these solutions boil down to one issue—employee engagement. Supervisors are not providing feedback, and businesses are not investing in development, and as a result, employees are becoming actively disengaged. And ultimately, disengaged employees influence the overall health of an organization.
“American workers simply want to be empowered to do a good job and be recognized for their contributions,” says Adam Miller, president and CEO of Cornerstone. Unfortunately, according to the survey, most employees feel that their colleagues are the ones who appreciate them the most, while only 30 percent feel that their supervisors appreciate them the most.
As the economy strengthens, employees will have more freedom and security to leave their current jobs for greener pastures. So what happens when the employer’s market becomes the employee’s market?
If employers ignore these findings and do not take advantage of opportunities to boost employee morale, there will be “an exponentially negative effect,” says Roy. Businesses will find it increasingly difficult to retain disengaged employees and risk losing their best workers.
But hope is not lost. “Companies that are more agile when the economy turns around are the ones that, even during hard times, invest in their people,” says Roy. She stresses that now is the time to develop employees, and in doing so, show them how much they are valued and appreciated.
T+D July 10 // International //
Union-Led Learning:A Success Story forthe UK
By Ann Pace
A recent report by the University of Leeds boasts the success of union-led learning efforts in the United Kingdom.
There is no one-size-fits-all method for workplace learning. From external consultants and internal learning departments to decentralized training units, the models are plentiful. Many organizations in the United Kingdom have found their learning niche with another unique approach: union-led learning.
Fifty-five percent of employers say that their employees have improved their qualifications thanks to union-led projects, according to “Assessing the Impact of Union Learning and the Union Learning Fund: Union and Employer Perspectives,” research from Leeds University’s Centre for Employment Relations Innovation and Change (CERIC). Nine out of 10 employers report that unions should continue to develop their learning role.
“The latter finding was surprising,” says Mark Stuart, director of CERIC and professor of human resource management and employee relations at the University of Leeds, “as was the extent to which employers reported that union learning had benefits for employer learning strategies and practices and wider organizational outcomes.”
The Trades Union Congress in the United Kingdom established Unionlearn to support union-led learning through sources such as the Union Learning Fund (ULF), which has enabled individuals to access 615,000 learning opportunities since its inception in 1998.
The research team conducted telephone surveys of 57 Union Project Officers (UPOs) between August and September 2009 and 430 employers between November 2009 and March 2010. Respondents represented individuals from 34 unions and a variety of industry sectors including government, manufacturing, health, construction, and retail.
Stuart explains that UPOs operate as external consultants and manage learning projects that often involve numerous companies and are fed into company practice. Myriad learning activities are offered depending on employee learning needs. Examples include self-assessments, literacy and numeracy tests, e-learning, informal learning, and apprenticeships.
The study found that union learning was inclusive, with 91 percent of projects open to all employees, not just union members. Projects were reported to be generally successful, with 57 percent of UPOs reporting that they had exceeded their targets. More than eight out of 10 UPOs reported that company policy on learning had improved, and 65 percent said that senior management was more supportive as a result.
Forty-six percent of employers reported that union learning was contributing to the upskilling of the workforce through addressing basic skills gaps. It also led to an increase in organizational performance (32 percent) and a rise in the trust level between management and unions (42 percent).
Key barriers to ULF activities include a lack of time for employees to access learning opportunities and for union learning representatives to effectively fill their roles. The degree of these barriers’ existence per company depended on the level of employer support.
The future of union learning looks bright. The study shows that employers are in favor of the continuation of union learning activities, with 9 out of 10 reporting that unions should continue to develop their learning role.
“The future [of union-led learning] to some extent will be influenced by whether the government will continue to support this provision with funding,” Stuart adds.
T+D July 10 // Engagement //
The Battle of Falling Engagement
By Eileen McKeown
The latest engagement numbers indicate an uphill struggle for recapturing the hearts and minds of U.S. employees.
Although the economy has begun to improve, company loyalty has declined significantly and employees are feeling less engaged than anticipated, according to a national study on employee engagement in the U.S. workforce.
Modern Survey, a Minneapolis-based survey provider, polled 1,000 U.S. working adults to gauge the extent to which employees take pride in their company, believe they have a promising future there, recommend their company as a great place to work, go “above and beyond” their normal job duties to help their organization succeed, and intend to stay.
One might expect that at the dawn of an economic rebound, U.S. workers would become increasingly optimistic about job prospects within their organizations; however, this study found the opposite to be true. Employee engagement actually increased sharply between August 2008 and August 2009 as the economy bottomed out. When asked if they intended to stay with their company in August of 2009, 63 percent of employees responded with a “yes,” but when asked the same question in February of 2010, only 57 percent of respondents answered affirmatively—a statistically significant decrease of 6 percentage points.
Similarly, the percentage of U.S. workers who took pride in their company dropped from 79 percent in 2009 to 73 percent in 2010. Furthermore, fewer employees saw a promising future with their company, down 3 percentage points to 52 percent in 2010.
In 2009, as the U.S. economic recession deepened, and job losses grew steadily, most organizations found that it was necessary to ask their employees to do more with less. Job loads increased as support and available resources decreased. Beleaguered workers who survived the onslaught of layoffs and pay cuts were thankful to have just kept their jobs.
According to Don MacPherson, president of Modern Survey, “the increase in employee engagement levels from August 2008 to August 2009 came from a willingness to do more in the face of adversity, followed by employees feeling hopeful that they had survived the worst of the recession. But, as recovery has proven slow, we’re seeing hope being replaced by exhaustion.”
This study should act as wakeup call to organizations across the United States that lack of engagement can cost a company dearly. To fight the waning engagement trend, companies should “find as many ways as possible to express sincere appreciation for employees and recognition for their contributions,” McPherson says.
“This should start with the organization’s most senior leaders, and then be frequently repeated and reinforced by managers at all levels. Companies that don’t make every effort to ensure their top performers stay engaged will be highly vulnerable to a loss of key talent in the coming months.”
T+D July 10 // Skills Gap //
By Aparna Nancherla
The uptick in joblessness has not widened the pool of viable skill sets for company recruiters.
It’s no stretch of the imagination that the economy has left a staggering number of people unemployed, but some companies may be somewhat delusional about their prospects when it comes to hiring for open positions. In fact, the amount of qualified talent has not significantly shifted for specific positions despite the growth of the available labor pool, according to a Manpower Business Solutions (MBS) whitepaper, “Optimizing the Talent Pool: Best Practices for Driving a Successful Talent Acquisition Strategy in Any Economic Climate.”
Hiring managers want to find the best candidate with all the desired skill sets, but there’s only so many of those people who exist, regardless of layoffs, says Sarah Peiker, author of the whitepaper and director of recruiting at MBS.
In fact, skill sets available from industries such as construction, manufacturing, retail, real estate, and the auto sector that have taken a hit in terms of job loss do not necessarily align with industries such as education, health services, government, and business and professional services that are predicted to rebound and grow.
“Structural unemployment is defined by economists as the disconnect between skills sets prevalent in the labor pool and those demanded by employers, so it’s a talent mismatch,” says Peiker.
In addition, the Baby Boomer brain drain forecasts even more labor shortages on the horizon within the next 10 years.
“When we’re talking about QIAs (qualified, interested, and available candidates), there are a lot of available and interested candidates, but it’s that qualified piece that’s not always the case,” says Peiker.
However, despite these realities, many hiring managers still think they can afford to be picky when it comes to recruiting new talent.
Recruiters should be on the lookout for workers with transferable competencies that match those desired for a given position. For example, a journeyman carpenter would have supervisory skills including training new employees.
Many soft skills, such as working well within a team and being a good communicator, cannot be validated by a résumé, and so it’s the responsibility of the recruiter and hiring manager to see if a candidate excels in these areas. Soft skills are frequently the dealmakers or breakers when it comes to cultural fit within a company.
Peiker hopes that companies will take away a realistic view of the current workforce talent pool from the whitepaper. She suggests that companies do some strong workforce planning exercises to figure out their immediate needs in terms of looking at the big picture of where their industry is headed and who their main competitors are.
For example, if a company wants its workforce to become more diverse, does the organizational culture support these goals? If not, can training be implemented to align with the initiative?
Companies need to start rebuilding their bench strength by recruiting and constructing a pipeline of knowing what talent is out there and placing people in the right positions when a need opens up, says Peiker.
T+D July 10 // Fast Fact //
Are You Ready to Start Your Own Business?
The tough job market is forcing many out-of-work professionals to consider starting their own businesses, but according to Andrew Oman, founder of Olive Tree Network, there are a few very important questions that need to be answered before you leap into being your own boss.
- What is your product or service and how is it different from your competition? If your product is not unique, then the odds may be stacked against you.
- What is your management background and expertise that allows you to provide your product or service? Credibility is important, so if you haven’t walked the walk, you can’t talk the talk.
- Who are your customers? To find success, you need a wide, diverse audience.
- How will you market to your customer? It is not only important to know your customers, but it is crucial to know how to reach those customers.
- Who are your major competitors?
- What are your start-up expenses—the one-time expenses that need to be considered prior to beginning business operations? Don’t forget business cards, office supplies, healthcare insurance, and software.
“One of the greatest concerns that most entrepreneurs face is whether their business will be sufficiently lucrative to replace the income that they are giving up by taking themselves off the job market,” says Oman.
According to myownbusiness.com, the primary value of a business plan is to create a written outline that evaluates all aspects of the economic viability of your business venture. It will be valuable in a number of ways. Do not skip this valuable tool and roadmap because
- It will define and focus your objective, using appropriate information and analysis.
- You can use it as a selling tool with lenders, investors, landlords, and banks.
- Your business plan can uncover omissions and weaknesses in your planning process.
- You can use the plan to solicit opinions and advice.
“Everyone’s got an exciting idea. The secret is to make sure it’s also a great idea,” writes Tony Heywood, CEO of Yoodoo.biz, on FreshBusinessThinking.com. “You might love the idea of bouncy castles for dogs, but chances are, not everyone else will. Ask yourself what problem your idea solves, and for whom. So, if you want to open a café on the high street, you may successfully be solving the problem that ‘there is currently no café on the high street for tired shoppers.’”
T+D July 10 // Infograph //
Job seekers need to understand the culture of the prospective employer in advance of the interview, and should highlight on their résumés and during interviews how their interpersonal and work skills will align with the company’s culture.