Fighting for a Pessimistic Workforce

data point tuesday_500

OK.  So there’s an awful lot to be pessimistic about these days.  That goes for Baby Boomers, Millennials and Xers.  That goes for your workforce.

There’s the economy, the unemployment rate, cost of benefits, the fiscal cliff, taxes, the soaring price of college educations, the high school dropout rate…  There’s a lot. And Mercer has captured some critical information about how this pessimism – that isn’t going away – is coloring the views of the future held by many of your employees.

The questions we need to ask ourselves are:  how do I engage and motivate a workforce mired in pessimism, and, how do I (we) counteract a perceived environment of scarcity?

The recently published 12th annual 2012 Mercer Workplace Survey provides results that should give any HR professional more than a momentary woah! as we think about these questions. The survey has a cross-section of active 401(k) participants who were also enrolled in their employer’s health plan.  1,656 participants were interviewed online in June of this year.

The high points include:

  • US employees are still concerned about saving enough for retirement
  • Workers over 50 are more concerned than their younger counterparts about their job security and have much lower retirement expectations
  • Workers perceive that the value of their benefits has dropped

If you haven’t surveyed your workforce lately, this report’s results might just motivate you to start asking some questions.  Questions beyond, would you recommend our organization as a good place to work?

Other nuggets from the survey:

  • 36% of the respondents over 50 are still concerned about losing their jobs, its highest level since 2007 (25%)
  • a survey record 44% of all respondents have considered delaying their retirement – with 59% of those aged 50+ considering delaying their retirement, up four points from last year
  • 62% of those over 50 believe they will have to work at least part time when they do retire vs. 48% of younger workers

Mercer Putting Off Retirement

Data like this can be helpful in knowing what questions to ask yourselves and your workforce as you deal with the talent challenges that face most organizations.

  1. If Baby Boomers are putting off retirement indefinitely, how do we keep the Millennials who want those jobs engaged and continuing to develop their skills?
  2. If all workers – and Baby Boomers in particular – are concerned about job security how do collaboration and innovation fare in a culture of perceived scarcity?
  3. If Baby Boomers believe that they’ll have to work part time once they do retire, how can we harness that experience in a win-win solution?

Pessimism is insidious.  It worms its way into your workforce and destroys your employees’ visions (and expectations) of a bright future for your organization and for them.  While it’s true that many of the concerns that are driving employee pessimism are out of your control (the fiscal cliff, taxes, politics, healthcare costs, etc.), you need to find powerful, positive evidence in the organization that will counteract the pessimism attacking from the outside:  a strong, ethical culture; authentic and transparent leadership; a focus on employee and customer engagement; commitment to learning and development – all of these can convince a workforce that, although the outside world may not be as friendly as it could be or once was, the inside world of your organization is a place worthy of the investment of time, commitment and heart.

Of course, you have to believe that first.

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Filed under Baby Boomers, China Gorman, Connecting Dots, Engagement, GenX, HR Data, Mercer, Millennials, Retirement Planning, Talent Management

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