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Making Change: The Workplace According To…

Monday, November 21, 2005 at 2:09 PM

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Do employers know how to keep their workers happy? Results from a recent workforce study released by Spherion Corporation suggests most don't. As part of Making Change: Building the Region's Future, ideastream's Cindi Deutschman-Ruiz reports on the study's findings.

Spherion Corporation - a staffing and recruiting firm - released its ninth annual workforce survey earlier this month, for the first time including employer attitudes in the mix.

Among the findings, salary and benefits are the top two factors employees consider when they decide whether to stay with a company. But employers believe management climate and relationships with supervisor claim the top two spots.

Dick Lamond is Spherion’s head of human resources. He says much in the 2005 workforce study did surprise him, but one trend it revealed was entirely expected.

Dick Lamond: An increasing number of workers are interested in a work/life balance. You know, they need their space and time for their personal lives.

Cindi Deutschman-Ruiz: It seems like more and more people can’t seem to get away from the job at all.

Dick Lamond: That’s the other dynamic. If you look at what has occurred over the last several years, with the increase in productivity, most companies are doing more with less resources. The ability to be on the job 24 by 7 is becoming much more the norm. And I think that’s starting to reach a point where workers are saying, ‘You know, this is really getting to me, and I just can’t keep this pace.’

Cindi Deutschman-Ruiz: One of the things I noticed as I was looking at the numbers from this most recent survey, the top two issues for workers were about money.

Dick Lamond: That was a very big surprise for us. That usually is something that in employee surveys is well down on the ladder. It was rather shocking that it went to the head of the class.

Cindi Deutschman-Ruiz: I wondered if those things are more important to people right now because of a sense of insecurity about the economy.

Dick Lamond: I don’t know that I can point to that. What I think we can point to is a couple of things. Over the years, people have become more self-confident in their ability to change jobs frequently because it’s happened to them involuntarily. We’ve had downsizing and right-sizing over a sustained period of time, and people have been put out in the street, so they’ve actually been developing a higher level of self-confidence.

I think the other thing is that, as the job market has been stabilizing, and in some cases improving, the demand for skilled employees is increasing, while at the same time the number of people with skills is decreasing. So there’s a gap and you therefore get to a fundamental law of supply and demand. And that worker is saying, ‘You know, I’ve got the skills you want, and I want you to pay me accordingly.’

Cindi Deutschman-Ruiz: As you’ve been looking at the data, I wondered if there were any regional differences.

Dick Lamond: By and large, it’s been fairly consistent. But I would say we’ve noticed that the temporary staffing market has been on the uptick in the Greater Cleveland area, particularly with respect to manufacturing and light industry, and a little bit also in banking and retail. We’ve also seen the beginnings of a skill shortage, particularly in the professional areas.

Cindi Deutschman-Ruiz: I’m glad you brought up this notion of a skill shortage, because I was going to ask you… let’s say I’m a business owner, or a large business, and I’m struggling sometimes to find people with the right qualifications and qualities. What are some of the things I can take away from this study to improve my situation?

Dick Lamond: I think some of the things you can take away would be, examine your workforce from the perspective of what are those jobs that are mission critical, and really focus on targeting, recruiting, training, and retaining those people, versus the mission supportive, where you can fill those in with a flexible workforce.

I think you need to examine whether you offer those programs that provide some form of work/life balance, such as a flexible work schedule or telecommuting. Do you offer time off, for example, for people to spend time in their community or charitable organizations? Do you offer such opportunities for continuous learning? Such as the ability to work on problem-solving teams, provide tuition reimbursement; those kinds of things.

You really don’t have to spend a great deal of money. It’s kind of fundamental that you offer those kinds of flexible things. This is what employees are looking for. We’ve also found that when employees ask employers, ‘Well, do you have some of these things? And when the answer is, ‘Yes,’ they’re more likely to come with your organization.

You know, the good employers are going to follow these things. They’re going to have the best-quality employees, and they’re going to retain them.

That’s Dick Lamond, senior vice president and chief human resource officer for Spherion Corporation, explaining what the most recent survey of employee and employer attitudes has to say about life in the American workplace. Cindi Deutschman-Ruiz, 90.3.

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Making Change, Regional Economy/Business - Analysis and Trends, Regional Economy/Business - News

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