A recent survey conducted by LinkedIn and Harris Poll examined what success means to the typical US employee today. The results underlined several trends we’ve been seeing in recent years in what employees care about the most. Corner offices and fancy titles are no longer seen as status symbols the way they once were, while employees are more interested in learning new skills, not missing out on career opportunities, and helping others succeed as well as themselves.
LinkedIn also found, however, that Americans are heavily preoccupied with paying their bills and getting or staying out of debt:
Two out of five professionals don’t list being passionate about their job as a measure of success – instead they’re in it to pay the bills (69%). And living problem-free is a top priority, as nearly three-quarters (74%) are in it not to worry about money. This motivation is helping to usher in the age of the side hustle. Whether it’s moonlighting in an art gallery or building websites on the weekends, more than one-third of professionals today (36%) find success in pursuing a passion project or side job.
Fast Company’s Rich Bellis remarks on the dark side of these findings, noting that 68 percent of men and 76 percent of women said they considered “not living paycheck-to-paycheck” a measure of success, compared to just 17 percent of women and 23 percent of men who defined success as “having material wealth.” These gender differences, Bellis suspects, are illustrative of the gender pay gap and the relatively greater financial insecurity women experience as a result. Yet it’s “a little troubling,” he writes, that most Americans would consider themselves successful just for keeping their heads above water.
A member of the Scottish National Party plans to urge his fellow MPs to support a bill in the UK parliament that would ban the use of zero-hours contracts, Emily Burt reports at People Management:
Chris Stephens, MP for Glasgow South West, has urged fellow parliamentarians to back his Workers (Definition and Rights) Bill 2017-19, which will receive its second reading in the House of Commons on 19 January. The SNP MP said his bill would ban zero-hours contracts, boost employment rights for gig economy workers and protect younger workers in an increasingly uncertain economy. …
Under the draft bill, a worker could only be employed on zero-hours terms where there was a specific agreement with their trade union. This goes further than recommendations made in Matthew Taylor’s Good Work: The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, made earlier this year, which held back from endorsing a ban on zero-hours contracts, which it said would damage both employers and workers.
Instead, the Taylor Review had suggested introducing a higher minimum wage for employees on zero-hours and other flexible contracts. Stephens’s bill targets the issue of income stability among the UK workforce, but also comes in response to anxieties over the future of employment law in the UK after Brexit:
The controversial practice of zero-hours contracts, in which employees are not guaranteed work in any given pay period, is showing signs of rapid decline in the UK, Hayley Kirton reported at People Management this week, citing new official figures:
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published this morning, showed there were 1.4m employment contracts that did not guarantee a minimum number of hours in use in May, down a third (33 per cent) from a peak of 2.1m in May 2015. …
The [Labour Force Survey] found 883,000 people, or 2.8 per cent of all people in employment, had a zero-hours contract role as their main job between April and June 2017, compared with 903,000 people, or 2.9 per cent of all those in employment, between April and June 2016. The number of zero-hours contracts in use has also fallen by 17.6 per cent from 1.7m in May 2016, while the proportion of organisations using zero-hours contracts has dropped from 8 per cent to 6 per cent in the same time period.
Although the ONS also found that the typical zero-hours employee worked an average of 25.7 hours a week, it also found that over a quarter of them wanted more hours than they were getting. Another recent report highlighted the insecurity of employees on these types of flexible contracts, whose home lives and mental health suffer due to inconsistent schedules and incomes, and found that many of them ended up “begging” their managers for schedule changes or more hours.
Recent surveys of US organizations on their 2018 salary budgets show that more of them are moving toward an increasingly differentiated compensation strategy, with high performers getting rewarded with variable incentive pay and bonuses, while average and low performers receive smaller annual raises, or sometimes none at all. Employers like these more targeted pay schemes because research, including our work at CEB (now Gartner) shows that they tend to be more effective at motivating performance than routine raises for everyone.
The other reason for the increasing popularity of variable pay is that it gives employers more flexibility in their compensation budgets from year to year. It is practically impossible to take back across-the-board raises, or decline to give them when employees have come to expect them each year, without incurring a huge hit to employee morale. Variable raises and particularly bonuses tied to individual performance are more malleable: Giving an employee a substantial bonus for the great work they did this year this does not obligate you to give them that bonus again next year.
While beneficial to employers, and arguably good news for top performers, this change does have a downside for employees, making their incomes less predictable and leaving them more vulnerable to macroeconomic shifts. The other challenge here is that focusing raises exclusively on top performers can leave less room to differentiate rewards between average and low performers. As our own Brian Kropp tells NBC News’s Martha C. White, this carries its own set of risks for employee engagement:
Recently published research by sociologists at Cambridge and Oxford paints a dismal picture of the UK’s flexible workforce. Flexible contracts, which give hourly employees a minimal number of guaranteed hours (or none at all, in the case of zero-hour contracts), damage these workers’ home lives and mental health, and force them to beg their bosses for schedule changes or more hours to make ends meet, according to the Independent:
Dr Alex Wood, of Oxford University, embedded himself as a shelf-stacker at a UK supermarket while formerly a researcher at Cambridge’s Department of Sociology, where he experienced first-hand the “toxic” interactions between shop management and workers, witnessing employees “begging” their bosses for additional hours.
“People are put on contracts that are one or two or four hours a week, and it’s not possible for them to survive on this. But often they are hired under the assumption that they will get more hours than that,” he told The Independent. “It creates this situation whereby in order to be able to survive, people have to constantly go up to their manager and ask them for more hours, saying they can’t make ends meet without more hours, asking: ‘Please can you help me.’ Then if and when the manager helps the workers out, it means they feel very indebted to their manager to work hard.”
Zero-hour contracts, which do not obligate companies to give employees any work in a given pay period, have been a hot-button issue in the UK since an investigation of Sports Direct last year found that they regularly led to workers at the UK’s largest sportswear retailer earning less than the minimum wage. These contracts have become increasingly popular among UK employers in recent years, with a report last September finding that over 900,000 British workers were employed on zero hours.
Now, the head of a government-sponsored review of current employment practices says one solution to the income security challenge posed by zero-hour contracts is to adopt a higher minimum wage for this category of employees.
“The problem in the labour market is not security of work, it’s security of income,” Matthew Taylor, a former advisor to Tony Blair who was appointed by Prime Minister Theresa May last October to lead the Independent Review of Employment Practices in the Modern Economy, told the Financial Times last week. Taylor, whose panel of experts is scheduled to issue its final report this summer, proposed that by requiring employers to pay a premium on non-guaranteed hours would create an incentive for them to give their workers more predictable hours, leading to less variable incomes and greater economic security.