What bosses believe their employees want is far from true.
For no particular reason I can tell, a slew of insightful work-related surveys have been released in the past few weeks. Taken together, I believe they reveal something about where we stand as a workforce.
Clocking in, shopping online
In the only poll whose timing is obvious, a tech employment firm called Robert Half Technology asked chief information officers if they allow employees to do their online holiday shopping from work. It’s a question they’ve posed since 2012, and the most interesting result is this: In 2012, only 10 percent of CIOs allowed employees “unrestricted access” to shop online, but 27 percent do today.
Why the change?
“Employers recognize that some flexibility is needed to help workers successfully manage their time during the hectic holiday season,” says John Reed, a Robert Half senior executive director. “Allowing professionals to attend to the occasional personal errand at work, like holiday shopping, can make all the difference to them during this busy time of year.”
My observation: As a boss myself for more than two decades, I can remember a time when we prevented employees from logging onto that scary new thing called the Internet. We feared employees would get nothing done — and in those days, we may have been correct. Today, both employers and employees have matured about technology, and there’s much more trust in both directions.
Overtime and overload
One reason bosses might be easing up on Internet use at work is the acknowledgement that employees are working harder and longer than in the past.
A new study from talent management firm Cornerstone OnDemand reveals “68 percent of U.S. full-time employees are suffering from work overload, a 14 percent jump from 2013.”
Work overload is defined here as when “the amount of time needed to complete their assignments on a daily basis outnumbers the hours in the day.”
Researchers point out, “This amplifies the frustrating paradox of today’s hyper-connected workforce: the more overworked people are, the more they have to work longer hours; the longer they work, the less productive they become; and the less productive they become, the longer they must work.”
My observation: The most interesting stat was buried at the very end of this report: “26 percent of those surveyed said they feel like they can’t turn off their job outside of work hours or even while on vacation.”
To a boss like myself, this matter because — let’s be really honest — not all employees work hard. Employees really thinking about work nonstop are the ones bosses worry about most. We don’t want to lose them. As we recover from recession, I predict you’ll see bosses paying more attention to this problem.
What workers really want
Robert Half also conducted a survey that simply asked employees what would cause them to quit their jobs. Not surprisingly, “inadequate salary and benefits” was the top answer. Surprisingly, only 38 percent gave that as the reason.
Even more surprisingly, “overworked” clocked in at 9 percent — behind “bored with their job” at 10 percent. That also trumped “lack of recognition” at only 6 percent.
My observation: Some bosses blame their lack of success on lazy and greedy employees. The ones above reveal employees are far from lazy, and this one reveals they aren’t greedy. While many want more money (who doesn’t?), not even half cite salary as a reason to leave a job. They want challenges, and they want to contribute to their company’s success in meaningful ways.
Bosses: look in the mirror
The saddest survey of the past few weeks comes from consulting firm Interaction Associates, which claims only 45 percent of employees agree with the statement “My organization has effective leadership.” One harsh detail was this:
54 percent say they feel safe communicating their ideas and opinions with colleagues and peers. The comparison with leaders is significant: Only 38 percent of those surveyed say that people feel safe communicating their ideas and opinions with leadership.
Why don’t employees trust their bosses? Among the reasons: Bosses expect employees to admit mistakes but don’t themselves, and they ask for input but punish honest answers.
My observation: Being a great boss is difficult, and there are intense leadership courses that teach those techniques. However, being a good boss is often as simple as not behaving stupidly. The reasons employees cited for disliking their bosses aren’t complicated. They’re quite easy to fix.
While many political commentators on the left and right complain about greedy bosses or lazy workers, I see just the opposite. I see bosses trying to keep up with technology to keep their employees both productive and happy. I see employees who have sacrificed since the recession and are working longer and harder.
My hope: The next time these surveys are conducted, bosses and employees are communicating better, and the results will speak for themselves.
Howard Dvorkin is a CPA and chairman of Debt.com, an educational resource for those who want to conquer all forms of debt in their lives.