27 September 2023

Bad bosses storing up future trouble

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Dan Schawbel* highlights research which indicates that a disengaged workforce is likely to pass on its attitudes to future generations.

The holidays are here and many people will be spending more time than usual with their family and friends.

One topic that’s sure to come up is work — relatives will want to know how you feel about your job and whether you see yourself staying with your current organisation or moving on.

This is also the time when people reflect on the year just gone and contemplate what they’d like to achieve in the year ahead.

While everyone’s personal goals will vary, we know from statistics that a significant number of employees may decide to quit or switch jobs in 2023.

One topic I’ll be talking about with my family is the findings from my company’s new study with UKG.

In September, we surveyed 2,200 employees in 10 countries.

The goal of our research was to explore how people are feeling about their jobs right now, whether their expectations around work have evolved, and how these perceptions might affect tomorrow’s workforce.

Unfortunately — but perhaps not surprisingly — the findings paint a grim picture of the current state of the workplace.

Nearly half (46 per cent) of employees say they wouldn’t recommend their organisation to their children.

An alarming 38 per cent of global workers say they wouldn’t wish their job on their worst enemy.

Nearly two out of three workers would switch jobs right now if they could.

However, there is hope if employers take action.

One of the more interesting findings of our study was that most employees (84 per cent) say they would still work even if they won the lottery.

This suggests that while people do inherently want to work, their current roles aren’t meeting their expectations and needs.

For employers, it’s important to understand the underlying reasons behind this widespread dissatisfaction with work and then take steps to address these issues.

Workers are rethinking their priorities, in part because of the pandemic.

Many now believe it’s important to find purpose in their professional lives as well as in their personal lives, and they’re passing on this wisdom to those nearest them.

For example, while most people today describe themselves as ‘money-driven’, 74 per cent hope future generations do things differently.

When we asked people whether they’re in a job, a career, or a calling, the results point to the fact that most workers feel stuck in their current roles and unable to progress.

In fact, just 28 per cent of employees said they have a career with specific goals and ambitions that they wish to grow in time.

Most workers (61 per cent) are in a job where they just collect their pay and go home each day.

While not every job can become someone’s calling, employers could be doing much more to help their team members advance their careers internally.

This includes offering better on-the-job training programs, more networking and mentoring opportunities, and a clear career pathway.

Organisations could also consider covering university tuition fees or offering a stipend for their education.

Nearly nine out of 10 workers we surveyed say the pandemic made them realise there are more important things in life than work, and 77 per cent wanted to spend less time working and more time doing things that matter to them.

Employers could be doing a much better job of prioritising work-life balance for their staff, for example by keeping work schedules reasonable and offering more flexibility.

It’s also critical that leaders foster a culture where people feel they can use their vacation time without falling behind at work or being seen as less dedicated.

This is especially necessary because right now, a whopping 85 per cent of global employees say they don’t use all their allotted time off each year.

For companies that are successful in their efforts to promote work-life balance, the payoff could be significant, especially from a long-term talent pipeline standpoint.

In fact, we found that employees who work excessive overtime or report poor work-life balance were far less likely to recommend their organisation and their line of work to the next generation.

There’s no better time than the start of a New Year for businesses to prioritise creating a better work experience for their staff.

More than three out of four employees say they expect their employer to do more to support them, and if they continue to feel unsupported it’s all but guaranteed that they’ll seek out a better opportunity elsewhere.

It’s also likely that they’ll pass on their negative feedback to those around them, including the young people who will soon become tomorrow’s workforce.

*Dan Schawbel is a bestselling author and Managing Partner of Workplace Intelligence, a research and advisory firm helping HR adapt to trends, drive performance and prepare for the future.

This article is part of his Workplace Intelligence Weekly series.

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