Tuesday, May 18, 2010

“Employers” Need To Apply

Starting Salary: $0
Benefits: To Be Determined

What would happen if a person was hired with the understanding that the employer had to pay the person something other than money?

Life as we know it today revolves around the use of a commonly accepted universal standard of exchange, that being money.

How much money one earns or has given to them through entitlements determines what is deemed the “standard of living.” Our standards have evolved as technology changes and for most individuals in the United States the term “poverty” means something totally different that in the rest of the world.

If I may, let’s step back to the original question and ponder for a moment as an employer. What do you offer other than money? One instant answer that might pop into mind is that of providing a place where job satisfaction occurs.

Unfortunately according to a recent study from The Conference Board in the U.S. job satisfaction is at the lowest level in two decades. “The report, based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. households conducted for The Conference Board by TNS, finds only 45 percent of those surveyed say they are satisfied with their jobs, down from 61.1 percent in 1987, the first year in which the survey was conducted. "While one in 10 Americans is now unemployed, their working compatriots of all ages and incomes continue to grow increasingly unhappy," says Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center of The Conference Board. "Through both economic boom and bust during the past two decades, our job satisfaction numbers have shown a consistent downward trend." Fewer Americans are satisfied with all aspects of their employment, and no age or income group is immune. In fact, the youngest cohort of employees (those currently under age 25) expresses the highest level of dissatisfaction ever recorded by the survey for that age group.” (1)

One additional study I would like to share was done back in 2007 by Nathan Bowling, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Wright State which I think added another twist to this equation:

“Job satisfaction has traditionally been thought of by most business managers to be key in determining job performance. The prevailing thought is if you are satisfied and happy in your work, you will perform better than someone who isn’t happy at work.”

However, according to Bowling “My study shows that a cause and effect relationship does not exist between job satisfaction and performance. Instead, the two are related because both satisfaction and performance are the result of employee personality characteristics, such as self-esteem, emotional stability, extroversion and conscientiousness,” he explained.

Bowling, who specializes in industrial and organizational psychology, said his findings are based on reviewing data from several thousand employees compiled over several decades. His subjects, mostly in the United States, involved several hundred different organizations. Bowling said the public, and even researchers, can get confused over the relationship between job satisfaction and job performance. “Just because two things are related doesn’t mean that one causes the other. For example, there is a relationship between the amount of ice cream sold on a given day and the crime rate for that day. On days when ice cream sales are high, the number of crimes committed will also tend to be high. But this doesn’t mean that ice cream sales cause crime. Rather, ice cream sales and crime are related because each is the result of the outdoor temperature. Similarly, satisfaction and performance are related because each is the result of employee personality.”

Bowling said he was surprised that researchers have devoted little effort to the illusion of job satisfaction and performance, and he hopes his work will lead to further research in this field. (2)

Ok, so we have a work force where a large percentage of the people are not satisfied and even if they are satisfied that may or may not directly pay off to the employer causing there to be a greater level of performance. Things are not that simple.

So, if you are employer that might take the time to try to figure this puzzle out, what do you think the answer could be? Is this a problem that really does not have an answer because of the individual nature of each employee and their own personality?

Jim Heskett posted on April 2, 2010 in the online working knowledge section at Harvard Business School the following question: Why Are Fewer and Fewer U.S. Employees Satisfied With Their Jobs? (3)

“Charles Wegrzyn cited ‘incredible pressure from the economic side,’ ‘incredible instability,’ and a resulting ‘dog-eat-dog attitude.’”

Dennis Hopwood said, "In the end, it's all about making the numbers."

Akhil Aggarwal mentioned "Lack of personalized focus on employees and more on business and profitability."

Phil Clark posited that knowledge work that deals with intangible results and hard-to-pinpoint accomplishments "just isn't as satisfying" as work used to be.

John Alexander said, "When workers see senior management face no responsibility for poor performance and continue to get highly paid, it's no wonder there is widespread dissatisfaction."

E. Shields stated that it may be the result of disappointed expectations: "People believe that their work should allow them to use their special talents in the way that they most want to. This is a beautiful dream, but I believe it sets people up to be unhappy."

In closing with all the options on the table employers need to continue to struggle daily to better understand their most important asset, their employees. Until they are ready and willing to do this, they are destined to spend more money, time and energy hiring and training individuals that ultimately will leave their employment because there are tried of feeling like they are a part of the rat race.

(1) http://www.conference-board.org/utilities/pressdetail.cfm?press_id=3820

(2) http://www.wright.edu/cgi-bin/cm/news.cgi?action=news_item&id=1366

(3) http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6404.html

The Silent Scream Inside

The older you get the more you realize life is passing by. If you are like many you might begin to wonder how much time you have left. Some people look at this in a realistic way while others tend to do everything they can to ignore facts. Middle aged is not fifty because no matter how much we would like to believe few people live to be one hundred and those that do have such minimal existence because they are worn out. You have to ask do you really want to last that long?

As you get older you begin to understand that you have either learned from your past or are continuing to make the same mistakes that you are so accustom to making.

Likewise, you quickly find that you are either bogged down with the “have to” or “should” lists in life or somehow you have realized the pointlessness of it all and have drifted to doing more of the things you really want to do, if you can figure out what that might be. While the movie is an older one, how many of us have our “Bucket List” and how many things have we really marked off that list? As easy as this might sound, figuring out what you might enjoy doing with your time and energy often can be a foreign concept in many respects.

A reality we all have to face is that the longer you live life the more you have numbed yourself as a natural means of protection. Broken hopes, dreams, missed opportunities and failures cause some of us to never wake up fully from the anesthetic because we ultimately fear the pain we might feel would destroy us.

Everyone I am sure at some point in their life takes an introspective look. However, after that first glance do we as individuals chart a new course? For many our imagined level of comfort that is derived from operating within our known boundaries keeps us firmly affixed, as if we were a train, that only had one set of tracks to run on.

Life, however, involves more than one direction and is made up of multiple layers of experiences and feelings. Unlike that of an onion you can never peel it all away but many times you find yourself realizing honestly how meaningless so much of what we spend our time doing actually can become.

After all we had no say in our conception. Likewise, for the vast majority of us we will have no say in our time of death. Most of us would like to believe that all that happens in between has some overall purpose. As individuals finding out that purpose can take a lifetime and for some the answer is never revealed.