Workforce.com

Employee Morale Is Up, but That’s Not Saying Much

May 13, 2005
While U.S. employees have grown more confident in prospects for their companies’ success, the American workforce is still unenthused, creating challenges for employers.

Seventy-three percent of employees are confident their organization “will be successful in the future,” compared with 63 percent in 2002, according to a Mercer Human Resource Consulting survey of working adults at more than 800 organizations. Also, 49 percent of employees feel that their organizations are well-managed, up from 40 percent in 2002.

Despite the rise in employee confidence, the data can still be seen as an ominous sign for companies. The majority of employees—51 percent--do not feel their organizations are well-managed. A recent Harris poll also painted a relatively negative picture of employee satisfaction.

Rod Fralicx, Mercer’s global employee research director, notes that although Mercer’s findings do show an improvement in employees’ feelings toward their companies, it’s fairly faint praise. Morale in the U.S. was so low in 2002 that the comparison offers “a very low bar to cross.”

“You still have less than half the people feeling that management is doing a good job,” Fralicx says. “And 40 percent of the U.S. population is vulnerable to leaving their jobs. I don’t think that’s good news.”

Fralicx says that with the upcoming retirement of the baby boom generation, “there’s going to be a big, big talent war going on.” He recommends that companies immediately start working to plan for this war, such as trying to improve the commitment levels of employees.

Mercer researchers pinpointed the eight biggest drivers of an employee’s commitment to an organization: 

  • Employees’ confidence in their future with the organization
  • Employees’ confidence in achieving career objectives
  • Employees’ confidence in the future success of their organization
  • Degree of teamwork and cooperation
  • Employees’ satisfaction with the type of work they do
  • The chance to do challenging and interesting work
  • The company’s commitment to quality
  • Opportunities for continuous learning to improve skills

Fralicx says that some of the eight have greater importance than others, depending on the company. Also, within a company the biggest drivers vary. What motivates the marketing staff in a hospital is different than what motivates a nurse.

At one large financial services organization, he says, employees had lost confidence in the ability of management to communicate a clear vision for the company. The firm was an almagamation of 50 different companies brought together through acquisitions. The executives worked on a major initiative to explain the company’s mission, and Fralicx says of the communication problems, “Those things went away.”