Gail Auerbach

Wednesday, 30 June 2004 05:52

Improving morale

An unusual thing happened in large companies across the nation as they attempted to downsize into profitability -- the workers and bosses remaining after the layoffs bonded.

According to findings in Randstad North America's Employee Review, while overall employee morale has remained stagnant, employees and employers in large companies report improved morale. In September 2002 and March 2003, 57 percent and 58 percent respectively of employees in all size companies said morale where they work was excellent or good.

But in large companies, while only 43 percent of workers said morale was high in September 2002, that number jumped to 53 percent in 2003. Similarly, the number of large company employers who say morale at their companies is good has jumped to 78 percent, a 10-point increase from 2002.

After all the downsizing and turmoil large companies have undergone, they seemed to have weathered the storm fairly well, with more employees believing their bosses are loyal to them. While only 25 percent of large company employees said the boss was loyal to them in September 2002, that number jumped to 36 percent last year.

So what's going on?

The research seems to show that, in large companies, at least, a pessimistic outlook about the economy has started to wane. Employers said that now is a good time for their employees to make certain changes and requests.

Big company execs are more likely than their counterparts at small or medium-sized companies to say now is a good time for workers to:

 

* Look for a new job with more interesting or fulfilling work

 

* Look for new job opportunities in their current area

 

* Ask for additional help to lighten their workload

 

* Ask for better benefits

 

* Ask for a raise

 

What a difference a year of struggle and turmoil can make. Large company bosses now express greater empathy for their workers.

All workers today say it's important to feel like they are part of a family at work. Surprisingly, the number of managers at large companies who agree with the importance of making employees feel like part of the family has taken a big jump, up to 82 percent in 2003 from 49 percent in January 2002.

When the boss recognizes the need of employees to feel valued, important and part of the team, they show workers greater respect. They realize that when the team is smaller, each member has to pull his or her own weight and then some.

And so savvy managers communicate regularly and often about the state of the company and the outlook for the future. They keep their people in the loop, and their people reward them with higher levels of productivity and enhanced loyalty to the company.

Business psychologists recognize the impact corporate upheaval and layoffs can have on a work force. Those employees spared the axe often bounce among feelings of elation that they still have a job, sadness for colleagues who didn't fare as well and fear that they, too, could end up in the unemployment line.

By now, many companies have weathered the storm and improved by design or necessity operational efficiencies. Cuts have been made and new work teams formed.

There's a renewed recognition that workers and managers must work together and rely on each other in order to reach key business goals.

As Randstad North America's managing director of human resources, Gail Auerbach is responsible for recruitment and retention of the company's more than 2,000 employees in more than 500 locations in the U.S. and Canada. For more information about Randstad's 2003 Employee Review, visit www.us.randstad.com. Contact Auerbach at gail.auerbach@us.randstad.com.

Friday, 29 October 2004 05:09

Better or worse off?

Despite continued layoffs, a sluggish economy and corporate scandals, employee morale hasn't eroded over the last four years, and workers remain loyal to their employers.

In 2000, 69 percent of employees said they were loyal to their employer. This year, 70 percent say they're loyal. When asked to rate company morale in 2002, 62 percent of employees said it was excellent or good. This year, 57 percent of workers gave morale similarly high ratings.

From optimism about the "new" economy in 2000 to this year's early warning bell about employee retention, Randstad North America's five years of comprehensive workplace research has monitored workplace attitudes in a constantly changing environment. Randstad's annual Employee Review findings are gathered by RoperASW from in-depth telephone interviews conducted with employees and employers throughout North America, making it one of the nation's most extensive workplace attitude surveys.

In many respects, employees and their bosses feel like they've been on a roller coaster the last four years. And as with any amusement park ride, there have been thrills and chills before ending back pretty much where we started as far as workplace attitude goes.

For example, long hours at work are nothing new. In 2000, 47 percent of employees said there's no such thing as a 9 to 5 job anymore, and the same percentage today agree that's the case. Working overtime wasn't a problem four years ago, and it still isn't today; 58 percent of workers in 2000 said they were satisfied with the hours they worked; 60 percent said so this year.

The annual surveys have found that employees continue to be committed to maintaining high levels of productivity and to learning and growing on the job. Today's workers are pretty realistic in their expectations, and hold few misconceptions regarding the workplace or job opportunities.

While employees who survived layoffs and downsizings feel that their employers need them, workers are no more confident about keeping their jobs than they were four years ago. In both 2000 and 2004, only 27 percent of employees said they weren't afraid of losing their jobs because the company needed them too much.

In 2004, as at the turn of the century, fat paychecks aren't among the top five reasons workers give for deciding to stick with a job. Both years, the top reasons given for staying put were insurance/health benefits, job security, liking co-workers, an easy commute and a pleasant work environment. Competitive wages ranked 11th on the list of reasons employees say they'd stay with their present employer.

In large part, competitive pay has become a given. Today, employees also want to feel that their jobs have meaning. They want to feel comfortable with the people they work with and they want the boss to be open and honest with them.

Employers who want to retain top performers must be sensitive about both the workload and the hours asked of employees. Most important, employers need to recognize when employees contribute extra time and effort, and allow flexibility and balance when the workload is less demanding.

The U.S. work force has pushed productivity to historically high levels, but the productivity ceiling is fast approaching. To maintain productivity and remain competitive, companies need to get back to basics and look more closely at the organization to identify issues or conditions that may be blocking your work force's positive feelings about the company.

To remain competitive, companies must invest in employees in ways they have never had to do before. Employers must provide tangible, valuable reasons for employees to remain with the company and create more attractive jobs to compete for skilled workers.

The key to successful management during tight economic times is to be able to attract and retain the best talent and then channel their motivation and productivity toward achieving solid business goals. Recognizing and meeting employee needs is a constant process. As Randstad North America's managing director of human resources, GAIL AUERBACH is responsible for recruitment and retention of the company's more than 2,000 employees in more than 500 locations in the United States and Canada. Reach her at gail.auerbach@us.randstad.com. For more information about Randstad's Employee Review, visit the company's Web site at www.us.randstad.com.

Friday, 20 August 2004 09:55

Waiting to exhale

Despite recent news reports that the economy is springing back to life, four years of economic downturn have left American workers and their bosses wary and cautious.

Findings from Randstad North America's annual workplace survey, the 2004 Employee Review, indicate that both employers and employees seem to be "making do" at work. Employees have adopted a survivor attitude -- they're resigned to the status quo and are willing to do whatever it takes to hang on to their jobs. But when job openings become more plentiful, things could change.

Eighty-eight percent of employees say people are staying in jobs they hate just to have work. Compensation is a concern for many employees. Slightly less than half of workers ages 59 and older are satisfied with their pay, and that feeling decreases with an employee's age. Forty-four percent of baby boomers ages 40 to 58 are satisfied with their salaries; that falls to 37 percent of Gen X workers ages 25 to 39 and 24 percent of Gen Y workers ages 18 to 24.

Nevertheless, most employees have no immediate plans to switch jobs. Fifty-six percent of workers say now isn't a good time to look for a new job that pays more, and 53 percent don't think it's time to look for more interesting or fulfilling work.

Employees are willing to hang tough right now, waiting for their company's business to improve or the economy to pick up to the point that there are more and better jobs available. When that happens, the status quo may be turned upside down.

Until then, American workers have rolled up their sleeves and kept their shoulders to the grindstone. Forty-seven percent of employees now say there's no such thing as a 9-to-5 job anymore, and seven in 10 say you have to work late or put in overtime to get ahead. Nevertheless, six in 10 say they're satisfied with the hours they work.

While the boss still seems to have the upper hand, power in the workplace isn't totally one-sided. Workers know they're producing at historically high levels and are needed by their employers, and they're content to wait for an uptick in hiring and then see what their employers offer to encourage them to stay put.

Employees' unsatisfied needs and desires may become bigger issues for companies to rectify as jobs become more plentiful. Managers are well-advised to take the time now to institute programs and policies that show how much the company values its employees.

Over the past five years, Employee Review research has shown that employees want more information about the company's progress. They expect to be involved in decisions that impact the company and want management to be more responsive to issues that have real value in their day-to-day lives.

Other factors important to employees when they're considering whether to stay or jump ship include the way people treat each other at work, the opportunities available for career growth and how the company addresses work/life balance and family issues.

It's a given that you have to offer attractive benefits and competitive salaries. But to retain top talent that can help drive company growth, employers must do more.

Employees want flexible work policies that allow them to take care of family issues. They want a work environment that's conducive to not just teamwork but camaraderie. And perhaps most of all, they want to be truly appreciated.

The boss needs to constantly communicate to workers the importance of the work they're doing and the company's appreciation for their talent and dedication.

The improving economy will reward workers and managers who are able to create an energized, dedicated team that continues to spur productivity gains. Companies able to take maximum advantage of a rising economy will be those able to retain top talent. The most successful employers will be those sensitive about employee needs and willing to make changes to keep their employees happy, engaged and productive.

Randstad North America's managing director of human resources, Gail Auerbach is responsible for recruitment and retention of the company's more than 2,000 employees in more than 500 locations in the U.S. and Canada. Reach her at gail.auerbach@us.randstad.com or www.us.randstad.com.

Tuesday, 25 May 2004 07:41

Listen up

Strategic and comprehensive employee communication is linked with improvements in employee morale, loyalty, faith in management and productivity. In other words, communication can help boost a company's bottom line.

Research conducted for Randstad North America found that 83 percent of employees who give top ratings to their company's employee communications programs say morale is excellent or good where they work. And three-quarters of employees in growing companies say the boss wants to hear their opinions and feedback.

Unfortunately, that presents a challenge for most managers, because only 35 percent of workers rank their employer's communications skills as excellent.

Randstad North America's fourth annual national survey, the 2003 Employee Review, identifies issues critical to employees and provides a roadmap for communicating with them. Results of the 2,826 telephone interviews with employees and employers provide these 10 tips for improving employee communications.

 

1. Be fast or be last. Don't for a minute think you can sit on information, good or bad. Seven out of 10 employees say they want to receive partial information as decisions are being made, even if things might change. Be quick to let employees know about changes at work.

 

2. Cultivate the grapevine. Don't let rumors about workplace issues get out of control. And don't think the grapevine isn't flourishing. While 83 percent of employers think workers first hear about major changes from them, 46 percent of employees say they hear it through the grapevine.

 

3. KISS. (Keep it simple, stupid.) Employees want clear, easy-to-understand information about what's happening. Clarity is critical. During periods of change, half of employees (51 percent) say things at work seem unorganized. Don't try to spin bad news into innocuous twaddle.

 

4. Tell the truth. These days, instead of wondering if the boss is capable, workers wonder if the boss is honest. And while 71 percent say most people in business are honest, only half of employees (53 percent) agree with that assessment. Expect employees to ask the tough questions. Be prepared to tell them the truth.

 

5. Tell the whole truth. You can't hold back pieces of information that might not be well-accepted at the time in the hopes that later on employees will be in a better mood. They'll resent not hearing the whole story at one time.

 

6. Provide a roadmap. Give them an idea of where the company is headed. While 83 percent of employers say they give workers that kind of information, only 68 percent of employees report receiving it.

 

7. Say something good once in awhile. Sixty-seven percent of employees say management communicates the good news as well as the bad. Workers need to hear the good news from the boss as much as they need to take the bad.

 

8. Get personal. Whatever the news is that you're providing, employees want to know what it means to them personally.

 

9. Give details. If the company is facing really hard times, be clear about how layoffs will be handled and the exact criteria employed. Fear is not a motivator. Only 32 percent of employees and 26 percent of employers say people work harder when they are worried about their jobs. Open and honest communication in times of crisis or uncertainty is crucial.

 

10. Listen. Last but by no means least, take the time to gather input from your people. Employees want to be heard. Sometimes they actually have good ideas. In companies that take action on employee feedback resulting in positive change, 78 percent of employees say morale is excellent or good.

 

The key to improving employee morale and loyalty - two things crucial to productivity and business success -- is communication. As Randstad North America's Managing Director of Human Resources, Gail Auerbach is responsible for recruitment and retention of the company's more than 2,000 employees in more than 500 locations in the United States and Canada. Reach her at gail.auerbach@us.randstad.com. For more information about Randstad's 2003 Employee Review, visit www.us.randstad.com.

Tuesday, 27 April 2004 14:49

Employees want 'family feeling' at work

A growing number of employees and employers want to be part of a family at work, but levels of trust between the two groups continue to erode.

A national survey conducted for Randstad North America by RoperASW indicates that more employees say it's important to feel like they are part of a family, up from 67 percent in January 2002 to 73 percent in March of this year. Employers posted an even steeper rise in the number who believe a family feeling is important -- 84 percent agree this year compared to 74 percent last year.

Yet despite a desire by both employees and employers to feel connected to one another, neither group perceives the other as particularly loyal. Randstad North America's 2003 Employee Review also found that there's clear disagreement about employee morale. The findings are the result of 2,826 telephone interviews conducted by RoperASW, making it one of the nation's most extensive workplace attitude surveys.

With all the turmoil workers and managers have experienced over the last year, it's not surprising to see everyone wanting to feel a stronger connection to their places of employment. Yet perhaps exactly because of such turmoil, neither workers nor their bosses place complete trust in each other.

While 70 percent of employees say they're loyal to the boss, only 53 percent of employers think that's the case. And while 77 percent of bosses say they're loyal to their workers, only 41 percent of workers think the boss is loyal to them.

Employers and employees also differ when it comes to evaluating employee morale. In the most recent survey, 80 percent of managers said employee morale was good or excellent at their companies, but only 58 percent of workers gave morale such high rankings. And even though 68 percent of employers say they're taking action to improve employee morale, only 37 percent of employees say their bosses are doing anything in that regard.

Good managers learn early on the importance of making employees feel like important and valued members of the team. But this is another area in which employers seem to think they're doing a much better job than employees give them credit for.

A 20-point difference in responses is evident when comparing both groups' attitudes about whether managers at their companies make employees feel like an important and valued part of the company. Ninety-four percent of employers said they did that, but only 74 percent of employees agreed.

The 2003 Employee Review revealed ways to improve the levels of trust in the workplace. Responses from employees clearly show improved communications can improve employee morale. Eighty-three percent of employees who rank their boss as an excellent communicator say morale is excellent or good where they work. By comparison, a dismal 12 percent of workers who say the boss is a poor communicator evaluate morale at their company as good or excellent.

Solid communication makes workers feel like they're valued members of the team. An amazing 97 percent of employees who ranked their bosses as excellent communicators said they feel important and valued at work. By comparison, only 14 percent of workers under the supervision of a manager ranked as a poor communicator feel that way.

Encouraging news from the survey is the level of optimism felt by employers. A majority of managers (72 percent) say they are optimistic about the future of their company. However, only 51 percent of employees feel the same way.

Because there's a difference in levels of optimism, it tends to make you think that the boss has some good insights he or she could share with employees that would help improve workplace morale and move everyone closer to achieving that family feeling they all want. Communication is clearly important to employees.

If managers have something good to tell, they should do so.

As Randstad North America's Managing Director of Human Resources, Gail Auerbach is responsible for recruitment and retention of the company's more than 2,000 employees in more than 500 locations in the United States and Canada. Reach her at gail.auerbach@us.randstad.com

Monday, 24 January 2005 06:15

Promises to make and keep in 2005

The last few years have been rough for American workers. The result is that a growing number of employees are eager to jump ship once the economy improves. Therefore, it's imperative for employers to focus on ways to keep top talent.

A national survey conducted by RoperASW for Randstad North America revealed several steps bosses can take to improve employee morale, loyalty and productivity.

Communication remains an important component of managing workers. The Employee Review survey found that 83 percent of employees who rank their bosses as excellent communicators say morale is excellent or good where they work. But managers need to remember that workers want to be provided honest information.

These days, instead of wondering if the boss is capable, workers wonder if the boss is honest. Nearly nine out of 10 employees (86 percent) say they would prefer to work for a boss who focuses on ethics and values rather than one who focuses on profitability. And while 71 percent of supervisors say most people in business are honest, only 53 percent of employees agree with that assessment.

Expect employees to ask tough questions. Be prepared to tell them the truth. Don't try to spin bad news into innocuous twaddle.

When communicating, deliver the news clearly and simply. Employees want clear and easy-to-understand information about what's happening. Clarity is critical. During periods of change, 51 percent of employees say things at work seem unorganized.

The more information you provide workers, the better they're able to understand the key business goals of the organization. Provide your work force with a road map. Give workers an idea of where the company is headed. While 83 percent of employers say they give workers that kind of information, only 68 percent of employees report receiving it.

And even though the business environment is still very competitive, employees need reassurances from time to time. When possible, provide positive information. Sixty-seven percent of employees say management communicates the good news as well as the bad. Workers need to hear the good news from the boss as much as the bad.

Don't forget the "me" element when communicating to employees. Your staff will be more willing to support business goals and objectives when they understand how it will benefit them as well as the company. Get personal. Whatever the news is that you're providing, employees want to know what it means to them personally.

Remember that communication needs to be a two-way street. Listen more than you speak. Take the time to gather input from your people. Employees want to be heard. Sometimes they actually have good ideas. In companies that take action on employee feedback resulting in positive change, 78 percent of the employees say morale is excellent or good.

Take a look at the pension and health benefits you provide. They can make a big difference in keeping talented workers on board. Benefits are the No. 1 reason (70 percent) workers give for sticking with their current employers.

Gone are the big-bonus 1990s. When asked which they would prefer, small but regular contributions to the company's 401(k) or big raises or bonuses when business is good, 64 percent of employees said they want to see their 401(k) funded.

As much as possible, try to create a flexible work environment that allows staff to manage life off the job. Employees are willing to work hard and get the job done, but they want the time to take care of personal affairs. Forty-four percent would like to be allowed to work from home if they need to, and 52 percent want a job that will not interfere with family/personal life.

And finally, show your workers loyalty. Seven out of 10 employees say they are loyal to their companies. And 69 percent say job security will keep them working for their present employer throughout 2005.

As Randstad North America's managing director of human resources, Gail Auerbach is responsible for recruitment and retention of the company's more than 2,000 employees in more than 500 locations in the U.S. and Canada. Reach her at gail.auerbach@us.randstad.com or at www.us.randstad.com.

Wednesday, 01 December 2004 05:28

Workplace generation gap growing

In businesses today, it's not uncommon to see a 63-year-old, gray-haired employee with a pencil and calculator next to a 22-year-old, spiked-hair new hire who is text-messaging friends while surfing the Net. The differences between these two underscore the challenges and opportunities in today's workplace.

With more generations now represented in the workplace than ever before, it's important that managers recognize that each generation has unique needs and desires. And according to research from Randstad North America's 2004 Employee Review, the difference between the oldest and youngest among us can be wide indeed.

While baby boomers and mature workers might have thought Generation X caused enough ruckus when its members entered the work force, its 40 million membership is paltry compared to Gen Y's 68 million. Because of their numbers, education and abilities, members of Gen Y will influence the workplace for years to come.

For starters, when the economy improves enough to see job growth, expect them to be the first out the door. Fully half of them say they're always looking for a better job. Although only 36 percent of Gen Yers say they want to still be working at the same company two years from now, 65 percent rate job security as important in their decision to stay with their current employer.

Members of Gen Y saw their parents laid off after years of service, and they learned to look out for No. 1. But they come into the job market with a high level of computer skills and an eagerness to learn and grow. They bring a lot to the table but expect a lot in return -- perhaps more so than any other age group.

This group has never lived in a world without personal computers. They surf the Web more than they read newspapers or watch TV. Tell them a story about being stranded with no phone, and they'll assume your cell battery died.

Their very different life experiences make them adept at multitasking, and they tend to be very team-oriented. In fact, nearly six out of 10 Gen Yers say liking the team of people they work with is an important reason for staying with their current employer.

Gen Y is the most educated generation ever, but as is common with young, new hires, this group generally has limited practical experience. They are, however, willing to learn. Randstad's Employee Review found six out of 10 Gen Y workers say their workplace's on-site/internal training is important in their decision to stay, yet only 43 percent say they're satisfied with the opportunities they have to learn new things in their current job.

That compares with 55 percent of Generation X, 53 percent of baby boomers and 56 percent of mature workers who say they're satisfied with learning opportunities at work.

Gen Y's dissatisfaction with training opportunities spills over into their overall satisfaction with their jobs. Only 43 percent of Gen Y workers say they get a lot of personal satisfaction from the work they do, compared to 65 percent of Gen Xers, 68 percent of boomers and 77 percent of matures.

Since Generation Y is the future of the workplace, employers need to know how to attract them and keep them productive. Allowing Gen Y employees to participate in decision-making, challenging them, training them and allowing them to "party" from time to time and enjoy some flexibility will enable companies to reap big dividends from America's newest workers.

Randstad's 2004 Employee Review findings are based on 2,639 telephone interviews conducted by RoperASW with employees and employers throughout North America, making it one of the nation's most extensive workplace attitude surveys. For more information, visit www.us.randstad.com.

As Randstad North America's managing director of human resources, GAIL AUERBACH is responsible for recruitment and retention of the company's more than 2,000 employees in more than 500 locations in the U.S. and Canada. Reach her at gail.auerbach@us.randstad.com.

Tuesday, 19 October 2004 20:00

You can't e-mail face time

Face time. Those two words best describe the most preferred way for employers to communicate with employees, according to Randstad North America's Employee Review, an annual workplace survey based on findings from in-depth telephone interviews conducted by RoperASW.

Newsletters, voice mail and e-mail rank far behind face-to-face meetings as the means of communication most preferred by both employers and employees. In short, everyone wants face time.

For routine communications, group meetings were preferred by 41 percent of employees and 49 percent of employers; meetings with individual employees were preferred by 40 percent of employees and 39 percent of employers. Thirteen percent of employees preferred e-mail, and 5 percent, a newsletter; for employers, the figures were 7 percent and 3 percent respectively.

When communicating about important changes, 46 percent of employees prefer group meetings, a setting favored by 58 percent of employers. Forty-four percent of employees and 37 percent of employers want individual meetings. Five percent or less in both groups favored e-mail, newsletters and voice mail.

Employees who rate their employers as excellent communicators have higher morale, are more loyal and have more faith in their supervisors and top management than employees with lower opinions of their employers' communications skills. Employees who rate their employers as excellent communicators are also more likely to say they are more productive than usual.

Although the survey found effective employee communications have potentially big payoffs for employers, it also found employers are not realizing all the benefits they might. That shortfall is due to the gap between how employers evaluate their own performances as communicators and how employees perceive those efforts. In looking at nine specific ways employers can provide information to their employees, we find areas of strength and areas of weakness.

While 55 percent of employers rate themselves as excellent communicators, only 35 percent of their employees agree. In fact, 31 percent of employees rate their employers as only poor to fair communicators, ratings that only 8 percent of employers gave themselves.

The survey found that 83 percent of employees who rated their companies' employee communications programs highly say morale is excellent or good.

The survey also underscored the importance of not just talking to employees but also of listening to them: in companies where employers solicit and implement workers' ideas resulting in positive change, 78 percent of employees say morale is excellent or good. At companies that ask but do not take action on employee feedback, only 25 percent of employees say morale is excellent or good.

The importance of two-way communication is apparent in the finding that employees at companies that at least ask for feedback and take action -- even if no positive change comes about -- report good or excellent morale (51 percent), which is higher than companies that ask for feedback and don't act (25 percent).

As Randstad North America's managing director of human resources, GAIL AUERBACH is responsible for recruitment and retention of the company's more than 2,000 employees in more than 500 locations in the United States and Canada. Reach her at gail.auerbach@us.randstad.com. For more information about Randstad's Employee Review, visit www.us.randstad.com.

 

Wednesday, 17 March 2004 11:40

Workplace grapevine is like kudzu

Cell phones with text messaging, wired laptops, PDAs and other high-tech communications gear can't beat the speed of the water cooler when it comes to spreading rumors. Unfortunately, most of the information heard on the workplace grapevine is negative, inaccurate and ultimately leads to low employee morale.

Allowing the grapevine to strangle the flow of information from management to employees is detrimental to morale. However, a properly cultivated grapevine can actually enhance a company's employee communications.

Many bosses underestimate the power of the grapevine, according to Randstad's 2003 Employee Review, a national survey of employees and employers conducted by RoperASW. While nearly half of all employees surveyed (46 percent) say they first hear about major changes at work through the grapevine, only 17 percent of employers think that's where their workers get information.

Both employees and management agree on the detrimental impact of the grapevine.

Seventy-five percent of employees and 66 percent of employers say the grapevine spreads negative information. Forty-six percent of employees and 59 percent of employers say it is mostly inaccurate, and a majority agree that it's a distraction (64 percent of employees, 71 percent of employers).

Additionally, when employees have to rely on the grapevine for information, it makes them feel unimportant and undermines morale. The survey found that 75 percent of employees who say morale at their company is excellent or good hear about changes at work from the boss first; only 38 percent of employees who hear things first from the grapevine say employee morale is high.

While the grapevine can be destructive, a well-nourished network of information can enhance employee communications. Identifying workplace opinion leaders and keeping them in the loop can help improve the accuracy and tenor of water cooler discussions.

Workplace opinion leaders tend to be more visible and vocal than most employees. Ninety-seven percent speak up at meetings; of those not deemed opinion leaders, only 70 percent are likely to offer opinions. They regularly talk to people throughout the company about what's going on (95 percent compared to 74 percent), and mentor other employees (91 percent to only 57 percent).

Those in the prime of their careers are more likely to be considered opinion leaders. Thirty-three percent of Gen X employees (ages 24 to 38) and 35 percent of baby boomers (ages 39 to 58) exhibit traits of an opinion leader, compared to 17 percent of Gen Yers (ages 18 to 24) and 22 percent of mature employees (ages 58 and older).

Winning workplace opinion leaders to management's side doesn't have to be difficult, since 55 percent say they have a lot of confidence in the information they receive from management, and 77 percent say they're loyal to their employers.

Find workplace opinion leaders and give them straight, honest information. Make this a part of your overall employee communications plan; it will help improve morale and can lead to a more effective, focused work force.

Gail Auerbach (gail.auerbach@us.randstad.com) is Randstad North America's managing director of human resources. She is responsible for recruitment and retention of the company's more than 2,000 employees in more than 500 locations in the United States and Canada. The fourth annual Randstad Employee Review is based on findings from 2,826 in-depth telephone interviews, making it the nation's most extensive employee attitude survey. For more information, visit www.us.randstad.com.

Tuesday, 21 December 2004 09:40

New Year's resolutions

With a growing number of employees eager to jump ship once the economy improves, now is a good time for employers to make New Year's resolutions to keep top talent happy.

Employees are your most valuable assets, and the cost of replacing a worker can sometimes exceed the employee's salary by one-and-a-half times. Therefore, fostering a workplace environment that's conducive to employee loyalty can only help your business.

A national survey conducted by RoperASW for Randstad North America uncovered the following seven steps that bosses can take to improve employee morale, loyalty and productivity in the coming year.

1. Communicate with workers. The survey found that 83 percent of employees who rank their bosses as excellent communicators say morale is excellent or good where they work.

2. Tell the truth. Instead of wondering if the boss is capable, workers today wonder if the boss is honest. And while 71 percent of supervisors say most people in business are honest, only 53 percent of employees agree with that assessment. Expect employees to ask the tough questions. Be prepared to tell them the truth.

3. Deliver the news clearly and simply. Employees want clear and easy-to-understand information about what's happening. Clarity is critical. During periods of change, half of employees say things at work seem unorganized. Don't try to spin bad news into innocuous twaddle.

4. Provide a road map. Give workers an idea of where the company is headed. While 83 percent of employers say they give workers that kind of information, only 68 percent of employees report receiving it.

5. Say something good once in awhile. Sixty-seven percent of employees say management communicates the good news as well as the bad. Workers need to hear the good news from the boss as much as they need to take the bad.

6. Get personal. Whatever the news is that you're providing, employees want to know what it means to them personally. That means you'll have to tailor the information in such a way that it is in context to their jobs and roles within the company.

7. Listen. Last but by no means least, take the time to gather input from your people. Employees want to be heard. Sometimes they actually have good ideas. In companies that take action on employee feedback resulting in positive change, 78 percent of employees say morale is excellent or good.

As Randstad North America's managing director of human resources, Gail Auerbach is responsible for recruitment and retention of the company's more than 2,000 employees in more than 500 locations in the U.S. and Canada. Reach her at gail.auerbach@us.randstad.com. For more information about Randstad's Employee Review, visit the company's Web site at www.us.randstad.com.