The UK Working Lives report, billed by the CIPD as its first comprehensive survey of the British workforce based on its new Job Quality Index, was released on Wednesday. Surveying around 6,000 workers throughout the country, the report aims to produce a clearer and more objective picture of the quality of the jobs available to employees in the UK, “using seven critical dimensions which employees, employers and policy makers can measure and focus on to raise job quality and improve working lives”:
The health and value of the modern economy has long been gauged purely on quantitative measures such as gross domestic product, growth rates and productivity. A concerted focus on advancing the qualitative aspects of jobs and working lives will prove to be the next step forward.
Overall, the picture the report paints of the British workplace is positive for a majority of employees: Most said they were satisfied with their jobs, while 80 percent said they had good relationship with their managers and 91 percent said they had good relationships with their colleagues. Nearly 60 percent said they would choose to work even if they didn’t have to. Nonetheless, substantial numbers of respondents identified overwork, stress, and mental health concerns related to their jobs, pointing to shortcomings in the impact work is having on their quality of life.
Three in ten workers told the CIPD they suffered to some extent from “unmanageable” workloads, while 6 percent said they were regularly swamped with “far too much” work each day. While 30 percent reported feeling “full of energy” at work most of the time, 22 percent said they often felt “under excessive pressure,” another 22 percent said they felt “exhausted,” and 11 percent reported feeling “miserable.” And although 44 percent said work had a positive impact on their mental health overall, a full 25 percent said the opposite. In terms of their physical health, only 33 percent said they thought work had a positive impact versus 27 percent who said its effect was negative.
A new study from the University of the West of England examines the impact of commuting on employees’ wellbeing and job satisfaction. Based on an analysis of 26,000 workers in England, the study found that “every extra minute of commute time reduces job satisfaction, reduces leisure time satisfaction, increases strain and reduces mental health.” Commuters who travel by bus are particularly affected by the negative impacts of long commutes, but the effect is reversed among those who travel by train: Longer train commutes tend to be less stressful than short ones as commuters are “better able to use their journey time productively.” Those who commute on foot or by bicycle, in contrast, have higher levels of job satisfaction and perceptions of their own health.
The study also measured just how much long commutes hurt job satisfaction, Olivia Rudgard highlights at the Telegraph, finding that an extra 20 minutes of commute time is as bad as a 19 percent cut in pay for the average worker:
For someone earning the average pre-tax salary of £1,800 per month, equivalent to £21,600 a year, an extra 10 minutes spent travelling each way was equivalent to a £340 fall in monthly income, the study found.
At CEB, now Gartner, our recent research has also found that grueling commutes have a major negative impact on employees’ work.
After six straight years of improving numbers in its annual job satisfaction survey, the Conference Board announced last week that more than 50 percent of US employees are happy with their jobs for the first time since 2005:
The increase in job satisfaction is largely due to the improvement in the labor market in recent years. “Workers are benefiting from historically low layoff rates, which adds to a greater sense of job security,” said Michelle Kan, Associate Director, Knowledge Organization, and a co-author of the report with Rebecca Ray, Executive Vice President, Knowledge Organization and Human Capital Lead, Gad Levanon, Chief Economist, North America, and Allen Li, Associate Economist at The Conference Board. “Employees have more opportunities at other companies and more confidence in pursuing those opportunities. And, as it becomes harder to find qualified workers and retain existing ones, employers are gradually accelerating wage growth and improving other job features.”
“The US labor market will likely remain tight for most of the next fifteen years,” said Levanon. “With the massive retirement of baby boomers continuing through 2030, we expect the US labor market will be quite tight during that period, contributing to higher job satisfaction levels in the coming years.”
Despite the expectation of a continuously tight labor market, Levanon notes that US job satisfaction is unlikely to rebound to the levels seen 20 or 30 years ago, a prediction he attributes to other factors such as “the emphasis on maximizing shareholder value, declining unionization, outsourcing (both domestic and foreign) and market concentration.” While job satisfaction climbed from 49.6 percent last year to 50.8 percent this year, that’s a far cry from the 61.1 percent who said they were happy in their jobs in 1987, Washington Post columnist Jena McGregor points out.
Coming at a time when Silicon Valley is struggling with sexual harassment scandals, allegations of gender pay discrimination, and a spotty track record overall at creating a welcoming work environment for women, a new analysis of US tech companies by Redfin and PayScale points to one obvious step tech companies can take that might go a long way toward solving those problems: namely, promoting more women into leadership positions.
For the study, Redfin examined executive teams at 31 of the largest tech companies in the US and compared those with a high rate of women on their executive teams (over 25 percent) to those with a low rate (under 20 percent), while PayScale looked at the salary profiled of over 6,500 current and former employees of these companies. Their combined analysis found that pay gaps between men and women were significantly lower at companies with high rates of female leadership: 91 cents to the dollar among all employees versus 77 cents on the dollar at companies with low rates. Correcting for job level and experience, the gap narrowed considerably but was still smaller at companies with more women executives (98 cents to the dollar versus 96)
This analysis is not the first to draw a link between women in leadership and narrower gender pay gaps. A study of bank branch employees published in the Academy of Management Journal earlier this year also found that women working as tellers under female managers were paid about the same as their male counterparts, while those managed by men were paid about 7.5 percent less.
In a piece at Fast Company adapted from his forthcoming book The Talent Delusion: Why Data, Not Intuition, Is the Key to Unlocking Human Potential, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzik insists that employers should not be in the business of making employees happy:
For starters, the notion that organizations should be interested in making their employees happy puts the cart before the horse. What employers truly care about (and this includes nonprofits and public agencies) is productivity, performance, and organizational effectiveness—and rightly so. It’s only because employees’ so-called engagement or job satisfaction enhances these outcomes that employers have a stake in boosting them. In fact, “engagement” is shorthand for a set of factors that are often mistaken as synonyms for “happiness. Unlike engagement, however, happiness doesn’t translate into higher levels of performance or productivity, and a relative degree of dissatisfaction will boost productivity and performance more than happiness does.
In fact, nothing of value would ever be created unless people are somewhat unhappy and therefore motivated to change their state of affairs. Long before the first Chief Happiness Officer was appointed, achievements large and small in art, science, and industry have resulted from people who’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to address their dissatisfaction with some aspect of reality. For example, successful innovators and entrepreneurs are energized by their annoyance with the status quo, and they channel their productive dissatisfaction into creating progress and change. Anyone who’s entirely contented is unlikely to innovate. With no imbalance to address, they grow complacent.
Chamorro-Premuzik’s argument here puts a fresh spin on the case against organizations attempting to maximize their employees’ happiness.
Many employers are understandably wary of sites like Glassdoor that allow employees and job candidates to publicly post anonymous reviews of their current or prospective employer, which can create tension between employees’ free speech rights and employers’ rights to be protected against costly defamation. In the age of social media, however, managers who would hope to put a lid on this pot are probably fighting a losing battle, and it is becoming increasingly important for organizations to pay attention to how online reviews affect their employer brand. Last week, CIO’s Sharon Florentine highlighted a recent survey from Future Workplace and CareerArc exploring the influence of online reviews on job candidates’ perceptions of an employer. Candidates are more likely than ever to research a prospective employer online before applying, the survey found, and are making more decisions based on those reviews:
[J]ob seekers increasingly trust reviews from other candidates and current employees to give them the lay of the land before applying. One in three job seekers has shared at least one negative review of a previous or prospective employer, and 55 percent of job seekers who have read a negative review have decided against applying for a position at that company, according to the survey. The survey also found that those employees and job seekers who do leave online negative reviews are 66 percent more likely to spread those opinions on social media, compared to those who only share their opinions directly with a friend or colleague.
And job seekers give more weight to the opinions of their fellow candidates and employees than a company’s official stance. The survey showed that job seekers rank current employees as the most trusted source for information about a company, followed by online reviews from job applicants and former employees, respectively. The CEO or other company executives were ranked the least trusted source by job seekers.
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Everyone would like to get paid a little more for the work they do, but is compensation the ticket to a happy workforce? Not quite, Glassdoor’s chief economist Andrew Chamberlain writes at the Harvard Business Review. Discussing a recent analysis of Glassdoor data, Chamberlain explains that he and data scientist Patrick Wong found that “the top predictor of workplace satisfaction is not pay: It is the culture and values of the organization, followed closely by the quality of senior leadership and the career opportunities at the company”:
Although money isn’t a major driver of employee satisfaction, a person’s workplace priorities do change as their income rises. For example, the culture and values of the organization explain about 21.6% of worker satisfaction in the lowest income group, but that rises to 23.4% for the highest incomes. This suggests that higher earners want their employers to share their values and create a positive company image.
Other factors whose importance rises as compensation does include the quality of senior leadership (which rises from 20.4% to 22.8% of the predictive pie as income rises) and the importance of career opportunities (rising from 17.5% to 22.8%). At higher pay levels, workers clearly place more emphasis on culture and long-term concerns like leadership and growth opportunities, rather than day-to-day concerns like pay and work-life balance.