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PHIL HARDWICK: Do you like your employees? Do they like you?

PHIL HARDWICK

It’s often been said that employees don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses. With job dissatisfaction so high, and yet so much training on leadership and management, what gives?

There sure does seem to be a huge disconnect. Generational differences, technology, no career advancement, the human resources department and the jobs themselves have all been to blame. Perhaps it’s a combination of all. Perhaps we are simply at a convergence of all those things. So let’s discuss.

Question: What is employee engagement? I hear that term a lot nowadays.

Answer: Blame it on or credit it to Gallup, the surveying company. Each day Gallup publishes on its home page a measure of what it calls employee engagement. Right now it’s in the low 30 percent range. It’s highest point was back in February when it got up to around 38 percent.  One day in September 2015 it was down in the 27 percent range. It’s based on a survey of over 1500 adult workers every working day and has a margin of error in the 3 point range. Human resource people follow this number often. Gallup defines engaged employees as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.”

Q. Speaking of human resource people, don’t they have a lot to do with employee engagement?

A. Yes, but more importantly it’s the top leadership that has the greatest impact on employee satisfaction.

Q. What do employees want?

A 2015 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management reported the following factors to be the most important factor for job satisfaction:

  1. respectful treatment of all employees at all levels (72%);
  2. trust between employees and senior management (64%):
  3. benefits (63%);
  4. compensation/pay (61%)
  5. job security (59%)

Q. Are companies that value employees more successful than others?

A. In general, the answer is a hearty yes.  Stock in Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” way outperformed both the S&P 500 and the Russell 3000 indices for the 15 years prior to 2014. Those companies’ value had an 11.8% increase in share price, while the S & P 500 had a 6.04% increase and the Russell 3000 had 6.41%

Q. Is there a relationship between job satisfaction and suicide?

A. Interesting question. We can’t really say that for certain. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the highest suicide rates are among farmers, lumberjacks and fishermen. High rates were also seen in carpenters, miners, electricians and people who work in construction. Mechanics were also high on the list. The difference in rates among those workers and professional workers is substantial. For example, dentists, doctors and other health care professionals had an 80 percent lower suicide rate than the farmers, fishermen and lumberjacks. The lowest rate was in teachers, educators and librarians. By the way, suicide rates have been rising, increasing 21 percent from 2000 to 2012 for Americans at least 16 years of age.

Q. What trends do you see in this area of employee engagement?

A. Three things immediately come to mind. One that is of interest to me is the subject of annual employee reviews. It’s been a standard practice for a long time, but one that employees and employers seem to dislike. Interestingly, in many, if not most, cases of employee wrongful termination lawsuits the first exhibit is the employee review showing that the plaintiff was a good employee. Indeed, some well-known companies such as Accenture (ACN), Cargill, General Electric (GE) are abandoning the oft-dreaded annual performance review in favor of frequent, less-formal “check-ins” between managers and workers. Yearly reviews often leave employees feeling less motivated. The new trend is to have regular checkup-type reviews.

Secondly, another area of interest is how employees interact with robots on the job, especially in manufacturing jobs. We are seeing more research and study into this area. Finally, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) implants into human workers is getting a fair amount of press lately. A Swedish company, Epicenter, offered its employees the option of having a chip about the size of a grain of rice implanted in the fleshly part of their hand. The RFID-implanted employee can now open doors, operate the copier, switch on lights and even store personal data. Think of it as having a magnetic strip.

Q. What are your thoughts about an increase in the minimum wage, especially for workers in fast food restaurants?

A. I’ll leave that to the public policy makers and politicians to sort out. However, I do hope that technology does not eliminate entry-level jobs. These jobs provide a vital role for people to learn workplace skills and expectations such as arriving for work on-time, how to deal with customers and dealing with managers and fellow employees.

The bottom line is that there is a new breed of workers in a changing workplace. But here is the one thing that employers should remember:

51% of employees are actively looking for a new job or watching for new job openings, according to Gallup’s State of the Workplacereport.

» Phil Hardwick is a regular Mississippi Business Journal columnist and owner of Hardwick & Associates, LLC, which provides strategic planning facilitation and leadership training services. His email is phil@philhardwick. com and he ‘s on the web at www.philhardwick.com.

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