Benefits and Compensation, Talent

Employees Seek Greener Pastures

Summer’s here and employees are eyeing the exit door. And it’s not with yearning for fun in the sun. One-fourth of the workforce plans to look for a new job this summer, according to a study from Spherion Staffing Services.

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Salary is the prime motivator, although not the only one.

Survey Overview

The 2017 Spherion Emerging Workforce Study is based on responses from 733 human resource managers and 2,062 employed U.S. adults ages 18 and older.
It finds that while employee retention is not a new concern for employers, the race to keep top workers in-house has escalated significantly in the past year.
“In the 20-year history of the Emerging Workforce Study, we’ve never seen employees have this much leverage to improve their situation and fulfill their demands for better salaries and working conditions,” said Sandy Mazur, division president of Spherion. “This year’s study reinforces the need for employers to reevaluate their retention strategies and take a closer look at the factors – both financial and non-financial – that influence their workers’ professional decisions. While not all businesses will have the flexibility to raise wages right away, our data indicates that there are a range of alternative measures that may prevent an employee exodus.”

What Workers Want Most

Given the improved economy and job market, workers believe they have more options available – and therefore the ability to demand a higher salary either from their current employer or a competitor.
Twenty percent of U.S. workers cite compensation as the primary reason they plan to explore their professional options, more than any other employment factor. Similarly, 35 percent of workers believe that although they accepted a lower salary when they started their current role, they should be paid more today.

Where Employers Stand

Despite employees’ desire for higher compensation, and the demand for talent, employers remain indifferent about how to proceed.
The study finds that businesses value retaining high-performing and productive workers, but are mindful of overall fiscal responsibility. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of surveyed companies say they recognize a need to pay higher wages to remain competitive, but simply cannot afford to do so at this time. A significant segment (74 percent) also note that their competitors are raising wages to attract top talent, and that their own reluctance to raise pay may force employees’ hands.

Other Reasons for Moving On

The study finds other factors besides salary have the potential to impact employee turnover. These include:
Equal pay for equal work. Beyond their own salaries, workers are paying greater attention to comparable wages, and are not pleased by what they see. The study finds that perceived pay scale inequality is more prevalent in today’s workplace, and this perception risks furthering the divide between employers and employees.
While more than three-fourths (82 percent) of employers believe they offer equal pay for work regardless of gender, a far lower number (54 percent) of employees feel the same way. Additionally, the study finds that males are far more likely to perceive pay equality in a given company than females, among both the employer and employee audiences. Although wage equality is both a hot-button issue and potentially sensitive subject in today’s workplace, the study suggests it’s a topic employers must be prepared to address.
Work where I’m wanted. Some workers believe their employers do not value their contributions, making them more likely to consider moving to a company that will appreciate them. “Feeling undervalued” tops the list of non-financial reasons workers give for their interest in exploring alternate job opportunities. Likewise, 23 percent of workers feel their employers put in less effort to retain them this year than last.
This perceived lack of interest in keeping employees stems from disconnects around critical retention drivers. Employers believe that employees are more concerned with intangibles such as their supervisor relationship and overall work environment, while employees cite financial compensation, benefits, growth, and earnings potential among the top factors influencing their decision to remain at their current company. Not coincidentally, one-fifth (20 percent) of workers say their employer has reduced their benefits package in the last year.
A widening skills gap. Employees also seek new professional opportunities to find a better environment to showcase and develop their skills.
More than one-third (38 percent) of workers say they are worried about falling behind in acquiring new skills needed for the future, while an almost equal number (37 percent) feels they cannot achieve a promotion with their current skills.
The study also suggests that a lack of adequate training and development may be shaping employees’ fears. Only 18 percent of workers would give their companies’ training and development programs an “A” grade, while nearly half (46 percent) would instead offer a grade of “C” or lower. In particular, employees are concerned that the training programs their company offers are not relevant to their skill sets, and nothing more than a distraction from their job duties.