Disconnect on the Job

Employers and employees are not in sync over the effect that changes to pay, healthcare, and retirement plans are having on recruiting, motivating, and keeping key talent.

These are the latest findings from a recent survey of 262 large U.S. companies across all industries and a complementary survey of 1,100 workers.

Both Watson Wyatt Worldwide and WorldatWork conducted the newly released study, which notes that high-performing employees are placing a stronger emphasis on pay in light of revamped healthcare and retirement policies. However, the report casts doubt on whether employers are paying attention.

Employees Want More Money, Less Stress

The report suggests that although 71% of top-performing employees rank pay as one of the top three reasons they would leave an organization, only 45% of employers believe pay is a top retention issue.

Instead, 68% of employers rated promotion opportunities as one of the top three reasons employees leave, closely followed at 66% by career development.

Potentially alarming is the fact that when employees voted on the same issues, 33% ranked promotion opportunities as a reason to leave and 23% voted for career development.

Another 22% of employees cited lack of healthcare as one of the key reasons to leave a company, with zero percent of employers thinking the same way. (These figures echo an earlier study on the relationship between healthcare benefits and retention.)

Besides the pay and healthcare issues, other top issues for employees include work/life balance at 26% and stress at 24%.

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Employers Face More Retention Battles

For the third consecutive year, the report shows that employers are having trouble attracting and retaining critical-skill or top-performing employees. Sixty-three percent of employers report a moderate or high level of difficulty in attracting critical-skill staff, and 39% report moderate or high difficulty in retaining them.

Another 19% of employees cite difficulty in finding another job as a key reason they remain with an organization, and 15% of top performers say they are not sure that they will remain with their present employer.

“The employer-employee deal is changing, and so are employees’ priorities,” Laura Sejen, director of strategic rewards consulting at Watson Wyatt, said in the report.

Indeed, with 86% of companies thinking they do a good job of treating employees well, only 55% of employees agree. Another 54% of employers say they will do a better job of treating employees well over the next three years, but only 24% of employees make the same prediction.

“Regardless of whether companies are retaining the older ‘lifetime career’ deal or a newer, less paternalistic deal, it is important to balance business goals with the rewards that employees value. Firms that do not get the pay-benefits mix right risk losing some of their best talent,” Sejen added.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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