Earlier this month, Answers Corporation released the results of the first ever Answers American Employee Study, which surveyed 4,000 full-time American employees to find out what really drives satisfaction in the workplace.
By and large, the results suggest that general employee satisfaction is lower than employers would like to see it. On a scale of 1-100, American employees rate their overall satisfaction at 65; a score of 80+ is “considered the threshold for excellence at which a company meets and exceeds employee expectations,” according to the survey.
But this news need not be terribly grim: Eric Feinberg, senior director of product strategy for Answers Cloud Services, says employers and recruiters can take this general dissatisfaction as an opportunity.
“What we actually found here was that it wasn’t that [American employees] skewed impressively to the dissatisfied or disengaged side,” Feinberg says. “It’s that there was a great distribution.”
About a quarter (27 percent) of employees reported being engaged in their work; another 28 percent say they are completely disengaged. The resulting majority — 45 percent of employees — say they are neither engaged nor disengaged.
“There’s a lot of apathy right now,” Feinberg says. “People are just looking for motivation, and that’s what we really discovered here. There’s a great group of people – nearly half – which is looking for inspiration. That’s great for recruiters, but also an opportunity for existing employers.”
But First: Why Are American Employees So Apathetic?
Before employers and recruiters can leverage the Answers American Employee Study’s results to build a more satisfied and engaged workforce, they’ll need to understand why the vast majority of employees are either disengaged or totally listless.
“Engagement is about emotion,” Feinberg says. “When we talk about engagement, we talk about it as an emotional construct: how emotionally connected are people to the company that they’re working for?”
According to the Answers study, leadership is the main reason why employees are emotionally disconnected from their companies — specifically, a lack of relevant, accessible leadership.
“Employees feel disconnected from the vision of the company,” Feinberg says. “Leadership hasn’t brought them into the discussion, brought them into the vision of where the company is headed, and that’s really the key here.”
Often, employers think of compensation and employee/supervisor relationships as the keys to employee satisfaction. These things are important, but according to the Answers study, leadership is equally crucial.
“When we talk about leadership, we mean the executives, the CEO, the CMO, the internal corporate communications groups,” Feinberg explains. “They aren’t giving these employees enough to sink their teeth into about where the company is headed, that there is in fact a vision that everybody is marching toward the same beat on.”
Dubbed the “Hat Trick to Happiness,” leadership, compensation, and employee/supervisor relationships “are the top three priority areas for improvement,” according to the survey.
Leveraging the ‘Silent Majority’
Armed with the knowledge of what drives employee satisfaction, recruiters and employers can attempt to shift the balance, bringing the middle category of apathetic employees over to the engaged side.
“Existing employers will see their retention rates decrease in the next few years if they don’t address this silent majority of their employees,” Feinberg says. “They really need to focus in on one thing that they haven’t focused on yet. They’ve focused so far on supervisor relationships and they’ve focused on compensation and making sure people are paid a decent wage, but what they haven’t focused on yet is that leadership aspect.”
Recruiters, Feinberg says, are in a unique position to court the silent majority. “If recruiters just knew this on the front end, they would have more placements,” he says.
Engagement is all about emotion, and “Recruiters are talking to people that are often in an emotional state,” Feinberg explains. “They want to leave, or they’re looking for something better, or they’re interested in something new, and this isn’t something that people can take their emotion and just throw it out the door. It’s a very emotional thing.”
Feinberg also notes that recruiters are “at the beginning of the roadmap for long-term employee success.”
“They play critical role in the future success of the company,” Feinberg says. “Recruiters set that stage, and then it’s up to the company to deliver on that promise after the 90 days or whatever the placement window is.”
Often, however, employers don’t deliver. In order to meet this need, in-house recruiters may have to change how they operate. They’ll need to “not only sell the dream before the hire, but check in after 30, 60, 90, 120 days to make sure the company is delivering on its promise,” Feinberg says. “Because recruiters often live in HR, and HR is responsible for the employee experience, there could be no better bridge to the long-term success of an employee then to keep the relationship with their recruiter going just a little bit after the normal time when that relationship breaks.”
In-house recruiters are not the only ones who can benefit from the survey, Feinberg says: “All recruiters, even recruiters for hire, can use the findings from this Answers American Employee Study as a way to prioritize how to sell a company to a prospect. Of the three key areas that are important, only two of them are talked about right now. They talk about compensation a lot, they talk about the relationship that they will have with their group or supervisor. The third area – this leadership idea – needs to be addressed.”
Feinberg says the recruiters should talk about the big picture when trying to attract candidates. They should let prospective employees know that the leadership of the company will be held accountable for making good long-term decisions, as well as keep employees in the know about what the company is doing.
“The phrase that I would use as a recruiter: ‘this company has a culture of inclusion,’” Feinberg says. “[Recruiters] are going to have more placements if they do this.”