The workplace’s new normal

By Nellie Borrero
March 1, 2012

Each year for International Women’s Day, a U.N.-designated holiday celebrated on Mar. 8, Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, conducts external global research that investigates the workplace and careers and what women and men around the world have to say about them. This year, possibly more than in any of the eight years we’ve conducted the research, respondents’ beliefs about careers and work-life balance paint a picture of change and a movement to a new normal in the workplace.

Accenture’s research was conducted via an online survey of 3,900 business executives from midsize to large organizations in 31 countries. Respondents were split evenly by gender and were balanced by age and level in their organizations. The margin of error for the total sample was approximately plus or minus 2 percent. You can see the report here.

Accenture found that more than half of both the women and men surveyed (57 percent and 59 percent, respectively) said they are dissatisfied with their jobs, but more than two-thirds (69 percent) of the same respondents said they plan to stay with their current employers. What that means: The workforce is dissatisfied, yet stable. That presents an opportunity for companies to better support their employees by offering career advancement, more flexible work schedules, and new skill acquisition and training in the workplace. Unhappy employees aren’t looking to leave — that’s a bit of knowledge companies can use.

There are some key findings that companies should consider as they work to retain their employees. For example, 71 percent of people we surveyed said they have work-life balance most or all of the time, while 41 percent said that career demands have a negative impact on their family life. So, people’s work is impinging on their lives, but they don’t think their work is overwhelming their personal life — these seem in opposition. But when you consider that more than half of the respondents have some type of flexible work schedule, and 44 percent of this group has had a flex schedule for more than three years, it begins to make a bit more sense. Also, 64 percent of those surveyed say flexible work arrangements are a reason they are staying in their jobs.

When asked about the greatest barrier to career advancement, almost half said it was a lack of opportunity or a clear career path. On the other hand, a third said there are no barriers to their advancement, and only 20 percent said family responsibilities are a barrier.

The word “opportunity” continues to stand out for me in these findings. People want opportunity. They want opportunity for growth, opportunity for flexibility and the opportunity to integrate a career and a family life. And they are dissatisfied without it.

The best talent will always be hard to attract and hard to keep. But companies can gain on their competition by taking employee feedback to heart and equipping their people with clearly defined career paths that include innovative training, leadership development and opportunities for advancement. Smart employers will capitalize on this moment to create solutions, listen to new ideas and be open to change. Learning from their own employees and being attuned to what professionals in this survey said about career barriers can add value to employers by guiding them to facilitate changes that are good for their own employees and the future of the company.

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And what about all those companies that don’t have many ‘employees’, preferring instead to hire ‘consultants’ and ‘independent contractors’? Those who have permanent ‘temporary’ positions that appeal to corporate bean counters since there is no commitment to keeping that worker and no benefits need be offered. Even the ‘contract’ they offer has less guarantee than what any cell phone company requires and enforces! I have to pay off my cell phone provider (and not even at a pro-rated rate!) if I change providers or cancel my service, yet my employer does not have to give me even an hours notice to break my so-called ‘contract’ and pays nothing to break it. So, not only do I not have benefits (other than what I buy in the private market at higher prices for less benefits and with after tax dollars!), I don’t even have the protection of an actual ‘contract’ even though they tell the IRS that I am a ‘contract worker’.

So no, I don’t find it likely that companies in the US are going to be concerned about improving conditions for their employees (or independent contractors); the main point they will take from this survey is that employees are not looking to leave (there are few places to go!) and so are more likely reduce pay, benefits, and opportunities than to increase them.

Posted by MidwestVoice | Report as abusive

And what about all those companies that don’t have many ‘employees’, preferring instead to hire ‘consultants’ and ‘independent contractors’? Those who have permanent ‘temporary’ positions that appeal to corporate bean counters since there is no commitment to keeping that worker and no benefits need be offered. Even the ‘contract’ they offer has less guarantee than what any cell phone company requires and enforces! I have to pay off my cell phone provider (and not even at a pro-rated rate!) if I change providers or cancel my service, yet my employer does not have to give me even an hours notice to break my so-called ‘contract’ and pays nothing to break it. So, not only do I not have benefits (other than what I buy in the private market at higher prices for less benefits and with after tax dollars!), I don’t even have the protection of an actual ‘contract’ even though they tell the IRS that I am a ‘contract worker’.

So no, I don’t find it likely that companies in the US are going to be concerned about improving conditions for their employees (or independent contractors); the main point they will take from this survey is that employees are not looking to leave (there are few places to go!) and so are more likely reduce pay, benefits, and opportunities than to increase them.

Posted by MidwestVoice | Report as abusive

The best employees to have are those that can work anywhere, but choose to work at your company. That should be the goal of all leaders. Times might be tough now, but when things change – and they will- you hardly want all your IP walking out the door!

Posted by moirad | Report as abusive

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