Economic Good Times? Not for All U.S. Employees
A booming U.S. stock market and low unemployment might sound good in headlines, but for a decent percentage of American workers, financial stress is closer to reality. In the past two years, and after several years of positive trending, the financial well-being of employees reversed direction in 2017, according to a new survey from Willis Towers Watson.
The survey reported a fairly large increase in the number of employees who said their financial woes are hurting their lives and are worried about their future financial situations.
The “2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey” found that just 35% of nearly 5,000 American workers polled were satisfied with their financial situation, down 13 points from 2015 (48%). In fact, the number of employees feeling satisfied with their financial situation had been improving steadily since 2009, when only 25% felt that way.
The survey also found that more than one-third of U.S. workers (34%) believe their current financial concerns are hurting their lives, compared with 21% two years ago. Additionally, nearly six in 10 employees (59%) said they worry about their future financial state. Two years ago, a little less than half (49%) were worried about their future finances.
The research found that more than half of all respondents experienced a major financial event in the past two years, including divorce, a significant medical experience or borrowing money from a friend, family member or payday loan.
Apart from personal stress, a downturn in financial well-being is negatively affecting employee productivity, engagement and health — especially among "struggling" employees, identified in the research as those worried about their short- and long-term finances (around 30% of the employees surveyed identified as struggling).
Among these struggling employees, 31% said money concerns were keeping them from doing their best at work. Higher levels of absenteeism were found among struggling employees.
Additionally, seven in 10 struggling employees reported high (37%) or above-average (33%) stress levels, while 30% described their health as poor. Only 29% of these employees were fully engaged at work compared with more than half of employees without any worries who were fully engaged.
Millennials and Gen Z: Different Workplace Outlooks
Business has felt the effect of the digital revolution in many ways. Yet, according to recent Canadian-based research, one area businesses haven't yet readily embraced is how the digital revolution affects strategies to recruit, train and retain the next generations, aka Millennials and their younger peers, Generation Z.
As Baby Boomers continue to retire, employers, government and educators alike need to consider how to better connect with and advance these younger talent cohorts.
In North America, Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce and, according to the United Nations, more than 40% of the world's population is younger than 25, making it the largest youth generation in history.
Lovell Corp., a Millennial consultancy and marketing agency, has released phase one results of a two-part, in-depth comparative research study on the workplace values of Millennials and their predecessors, Generation Z. The data, the company said, can lead to strategies to encourage youth-led innovation, create better quality job opportunities, and retain young talent.
Working with the University of Guelph, Lovell surveyed more than 2,000 people between the ages of 14 and 36 years old across Canada to define the characteristics of this emerging new cohort, and how their career expectations and workplace values compare to Millennials'. With
the findings as context, the next generation of the workforce is motivated by personal growth and passion, according to Lovell.
Employer Early Adopters See Results from Emerging Technologies
Employers looking to build a better bottom line and retain talent should take a good look at artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive technologies.
According to a report from Deloitte, early adopters of those two technologies are seeing positive outcomes. All told, 63% of companies surveyed already have training programs underway for employees to learn how to develop cognitive technologies or work alongside them.
The report, titled "Bullish on the Business Value of Cognitive: 2017 Deloitte State of Cognitive Survey," is based on responses from 250 "cognitive aware" U.S. executives and provides a view from the front lines in terms of realized successes, current challenges and outlook on the future effect on business.
For example, 73% of early adopters are exploring mature cognitive technologies such as robotic process automation and 70% statistical machine learning. Almost half (49%) are employing deep learning neural networks.
More than four out of five (83%) of respondents reported moderate to substantial economic benefits from AI and cognitive technologies. Organizations that claimed the greatest economic benefits feel that cognitive should be used for transformational change versus incremental improvements.
Survey respondents did not see job loss as a key outcome of their AI-related efforts, as 69% of respondents expecting minimal to no job loss within the next three years. In fact, 29% see the addition of new jobs taking place in the same time frame with the adoption of AI and cognitive technologies. Furthermore, when asked about perceived benefits of AI and cognitive technologies, workforce reduction was ranked the lowest (22%).
Recruiting, Retention Concern Otherwise Generally Optimistic HR Leaders
HR leaders are bullish about the HR business direction for the next five years. At the same time, recruiting and retention have those same leaders concerned.
Human capital management company Paycor revealed those and other HR-related findings in its HR Trendcast, an independent nationwide study (conducted by Harris Poll) that surveyed more than 500 HR professionals and C-suite executives within small and mid-sized (SMB) organizations.
To address their two biggest challenges — finding the right people and keeping them motivated — respondents indicated that the next five years will see heavy investment in people and data. Of respondents, 47% said they will be more data-driven in 2022. Survey findings reveal that SMBs will become much more focused on using information that can be immediately interpreted and put to use by a human without extensive processing (small data) for practical insights that drive business decisions and help solve critical challenges.
In the next five years, human resources is expected to become less about administrative tasks and more about adding strategic value, with 82% of respondents believing "soft skills" will become more important and 47% expecting their jobs to become more strategic. Also, 48% said they believe many core HR functions will be automated by 2022.
HR professionals predict that by 2022 their teams will be focused on three top priorities: training and development, employee morale and employee retention.
Pay Fairness, Transparency Can Fuel Employee Engagement
Employee engagement continues to be a much-desired (and lagging) business objective for employers. But a surprising finding from a recent survey found that to boost worker satisfaction, employers should pay close attention not to just what they pay, but how they pay it.
Research from PayScale Inc. revealed that how employees feel about the pay process at their organization — in terms of fairness and transparency — is 5.4 times more impactful on how satisfied they are than how they're paid relative to market.
In its survey of more than 500,000 employees, results also show that when employees feel appreciated by their employer — and they believe their company has a bright future — they are far more likely to be satisfied at work and remain at the company.
These results demonstrate the importance of fostering open communication with employees about their role and performance, including talking with them about their compensation, according to a PayScale official.
Paying fairly matters a lot: 75% of respondents who think they are paid at or above the market rate said they were satisfied with their job, compared to only 59% of workers who felt they are paid below the market rate.
Stark Gender Differences Emerge in Workplace Benefits Perception
Are employer benefits equally meeting the needs of men and women? Research suggests there may be room for improvement.
Data from Businessolver, which offers benefits administration technology, indicates that men are more satisfied with their benefits than women. In fact, the company's “2017 Workplace Empathy Monitor” found a double-digit divide between how men and women perceive their
company delivers on benefits. For example, nearly 90% of men think their employers hit the mark when it comes to paid maternity leave versus 75% of women. And 90% of surveyed men think their employers are doing well when it comes to employer contributions to retirement plans versus 77% of women.
"Today's workforce is more diverse than ever and employers must consider the unique needs and priorities of all its employees," said Rae Shanahan, chief strategy officer at Businessolver. "Empathy is an important tool to do this — it requires leaders to figuratively put themselves in their employees' shoes. This allows organizations to better understand what employees go through every day and how benefits can support their lives."