Work life

Employee satisfaction down, and execs don’t get why, survey says

New report finds companies and employees have misaligned priorities, and that poses a risk to their workforce.
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· 3 min read

Businesses around the world aren’t doing enough to engage and develop their workforce, and, as a result, some employees are feeling “unloved, overworked, and overlooked,” according to a new report from staffing services firm Kelly.

Kelly analyzed survey data of two groups—executives and employees—and found what its authors call a mismatch in terms of priorities and expectations. The firm surveyed 1,500 execs and senior leaders across 11 different countries in nine different sectors. It also questioned 4,200 employees of all levels in those same countries and sectors.

The employee survey found 28% of those asked were very likely to leave their employer in the next 12 months, citing as possible reasons a poor work-life balance, a lack of career progression opportunities, and a dearth of development opportunities to increase skills. Thirty-eight percent of execs surveyed said an “uncompetitive pay and benefits package” is the main reason cited by employees who leave, followed by 36% who said a lack of opportunity to advance is the main reason cited.

“Compensation is table stakes, that should be a given,” said Dani McDonald, VP at Kelly. “What [employees are] really looking for, and what’s driving their search in the marketplace, is work-life balance and talent development. They want to grow and reach their full potential.”

While execs understand the value of “workforce resilience,” the quality needed to achieve their business goals long-term, 42% say they are failing to unlock the potential of their employees.

“Workforce resilience just means that these organizations and leaders are able to secure and mobilize talent they need in order to rapidly adapt to new opportunities and business objectives,” McDonald said.

Adequate coverage for time off. Companies that Kelly named “leaders” in resilience are able to adapt their workforce needs to meet the business needs.

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McDonald pointed to a large appliance manufacturer she’s working with to address absenteeism while meeting flexibility needs of its primary employees. The manufacturer trained a group of employees to work every machine, and those employees remain unassigned in order to cover a primary worker’s duties in the event of an absence, McDonald said.

“They know they have a certain absence rate every day, and those employees are kept at a level whereby they compensate for that absent rate. It’s allowing their primary workforce to have…that work-life balance. ‘You need to be off? No problem. We’ve got somebody who’s gonna cover for you.’”

DE&I and culture. Companies that are prioritizing DE&I efforts report higher employee satisfaction and well-being, as well as productivity, the report found. Despite widespread public commitment since 2020, there’s more to do: 38% of employees surveyed say their employer only pays lip service to DE&I.

In terms of the workforce, McDonald said efforts to address diversity through hiring non-traditionally skilled workers, those with criminal backgrounds, and contingent workers can contribute to improving business outcomes.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Development and training are linked to retention, the survey found, and the most successful companies talked with employees and worked out development plans for their future within the organization, McDonald said.

“I think it’s sad that the questions haven’t been asked,” she said. “Pay attention to your employees, ask them what they want to do five years from now or 10 years from now…If you don’t ask them, somebody else will, and they will leave.”—AD

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