Global Talent Monitor: Discretionary Effort Continues to Fall in US as Employee Confidence Dips

Global Talent Monitor: Discretionary Effort Continues to Fall in US as Employee Confidence Dips

In the past three years, the number of US employees willing to go above and beyond their employers’ expectations at work has fallen by 10 percent, from 27 percent in the second quarter of 2015 to 17.8 percent in Q2 of 2018, the latest data from Gartner’s Global Talent Monitor shows. Globally, employees’ confidence in business conditions has fallen for the first time since Q1 of 2016.

One possible driver of employees’ declining levels of discretionary effort is a lack of satisfaction with opportunities to grow and develop in their careers. Nearly 40 percent of employees in the US and globally ranked a lack of future career opportunities as their main source of dissatisfaction in a previous job, displacing compensation as the number-one driver of attrition both in the US and around the world. Over the past few years, we have seen development opportunity grow to be an increasingly critical element of the employee value proposition, both as a driver of attraction for new employees and, in its absence, as a reason for quitting.

“With recent U.S. reports showing little growth year over year in real earnings, workers hope to achieve more satisfaction in their jobs through better titles and opportunities to advance and grow in their current careers,” Brian Kropp, group vice president of Gartner’s HR practice, said in a statement. “To prevent further reduction in workplace effort and to retain top talent, employers should pay closer attention to employee dissatisfaction about the lack of career opportunities, particularly if wage growth remains stagnant.”

“Leading organizations are able to use their employment brand to illustrate why their career opportunities are better than their competitors,” he added. “A company’s EVP directly correlates to employee engagement levels, as workers are more likely to work harder and stay in their current positions if they are highly satisfied with their company’s EVP offerings. Gartner data shows that organizations with high levels of employee engagement report financial outcomes three times higher than firms with lower engagement levels.”

The trends in the US were replicated to some extent in Australia, where discretionary effort decreased by more than 2 percent, confidence in the business environment by almost 1.5 percent, and intent to stay by 3.2 percent in the second quarter of this year. “The typical employee reaction to uncertainty is for workers to put their heads down, focus and ride out the storm with their current employer. However, employees are getting itchy feet and they know that if they don’t move now, the looming Christmas recruitment cycle means they’re unlikely to find a new job until 1Q next year,” Aaron McEwan, HR advisory leader at Gartner, explained.

Australian employers, too, need to make sure their EVP is focused on what matters most to employees, McEwan added. Engagement strategies should be personalized wherever possible, taking into account the diversity of employees’ needs rather than trying to be all things to all employees. “For example, parental leave has a greater emotional investment compared to other types of leave and often results in lots of questions and concerns about status, pay and benefits. It requires a unique approach and must be handled differently depending on the needs of the employee.”

An interesting outlier in the global data was the UK, where employees’ views of business conditions and levels of discretionary effort improved in Q2. Nearly 40 per cent of UK employees reported somewhat high to high confidence in the economy: the first sign of optimism in the UK talent market since the Brexit referendum in the summer of 2016. Perceptions of their own individual job prospects have increased steadily over the past year, by close to 4 percent, while job opportunity perceptions in the UK are almost 1.5 points higher than the global average.

UK employees are putting in more effort at work, rather than less: Nearly 13 per cent of employees reported a high willingness to go above and beyond in their role, and an additional 43.8 per cent leaned toward high. However, many of them are also looking for new job opportunities, with 18.8 percent indicating a very low intent to stay in their current role (the second highest after India at 40 percent). Those who are looking to change roles ranked work-life balance, location, and stability as their top priorities in a new job. This is a marked change from previous quarters when vacation, camaraderie and product or service quality were their main concerns.

In Germany, on the other hand, employees are bullish about their country’s economic trajectory, with 45 percent reporting high levels of confidence. German workers are also optimistic about their personal job opportunities, but unlike their British peers, this is not making them want to change jobs. Only one in four German employees said they were actively seeking a new job, while 34 percent reported a high intent to stay in their current job (2 percentage points above the global average) and only 10 percent reported low intent to stay (2 percentage points below the global average).

For German employers, the downside of this stable labor market is that new talent is harder to come by. “With nearly one-third of employees reporting a strong intent to remain in their current role, and few to no layoffs across most industries in Germany, employers are struggling to find available, skilled candidates,” adds Daniel Dirks, Gartner’s consulting director for the HR Practice in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.