1993-2006 by Ethan A. Winning
In January, 1990, The Wall Street Journal reported that a survey had found, "Trust and loyalty run low at American companies." Then, in June, 1992, a SHRM news release reported that their survey(conducted by Roper Organization) found that "Loyalty between employee and employer remains fairly stable. Contrary top conventional wisdom, a majority of employees say that the level of loyalty between employees and employers has not changed over the past two years..."
Of course, "the level" could have been low for the past five years. And, I've always looked at "conventional wisdom"as the mother of all oxymorons.
That aside, I'm going to preface this article by telling you that I was lucky to get a "C" in each of the six statistics courses I took in undergraduate and graduate school, and today I wouldn't know a Chi Square from an entrenching tool. That said, I just finished (keep in mind that this article was originally published in 1993) conducting an unscientific survey of employee satisfaction with their companies. Of the 160 questionnaires given to employees in six industries (insurance, finance, computers [hardware and software], entertainment, and law, and medicine),121 were returned.
Only three questions were asked:
- Are you as satisfied with your company or organization today as you were five years ago
- Of the following, if your level of satisfaction has decreased, which reason(s) led to this feeling:
(e) growth possibilities
(f) overall stability of the company
(g) likelihood of a layoff
- Would you say that your loyalty to the company has
(c) remained the same
The responses were as follows:
- More Satisfied than in 1991 = 14 (12%)
No difference = 18 (22%)
Not as satisfied = 89 (74%)
Reasons for satisfaction or dissatisfaction (note that the reasons were not mutually exclusive):
a. Economics = 18 (15%)
b. Pay = 19 (16%)
c. Benefits = 26 (21%)
d. Communications = 39 (32%)
e. Growth possibilities = 12 (10%)
f. Stability = 54 (45%)
g. Layoff likelihood = 14 (12%)
h. Other = 26 (21%)
a. Increased = 11 (9%)
b. The same = 29 (24%)
c. Decreased = 89 (67%)
On the surface, I would imagine that, at the very least, one could say that employees are more "skittish" than ever before, and rightfully so. One of the written responses stated, "Although this company is 'stable,' how can anyone feel comfortable when you read about 15,000 layoffs a day in other industries?"
The most common written responses were along the same lines: "The company made promises five years ago that haven't been met."Note the subtle difference between that statement and, "The company made promises which, because of the economy, it hasn't been able to keep." And, "I realize that this is a small company, and times are hard, but the least the president could do was to tell us how bad things were."
So, what's it all mean? Perhaps it is simply that many are becoming skeptical, which is not the same as jaded or cynical. Skepticism's a little more rational, based upon real perceptions of both the organizational and "outside" worlds.
If I were asked (and I'm usually not), I would give the following advice to all those in a position to affect others (i.e., personnel, senior managers, owners, etc.):
- Tell it like it is, not as we hope it will be.
- Candor may make employees nervous but, as we reported in "The Personnel News" a few months ago, uncertainty can lead to sabotage and "outrageous employee behavior."
- Do not make promises you cannot keep or, better, do not make promises, period.
- If layoffs are a possibility, give those employees most likely affected sufficient notice so that they can at least attempt to make other plans.
[The Plant Closure Act is not such a bad law.]
It's now almost 1997. Though the economy is better, layoffs continue, often in the most egregious fashion. Loyalty has hit an all time low, and the cost of recruiting, an all time high. (There is security in being overpaid.) At the same time, a December 15, 1996 article in the San Jose Mercury News stated that the high-tech companies find a dearth of middle managers, but not one company has said, "Let's go out and get some of those managers who were laid off from other companies." Or, "Let's get some of the 'grey hairs' out there who have the managerial experience we need." It is easier to train someone in the "high-tech" end than in the managerial processes.
[Times and economies change. See latest (2005) article on loyalty in the subscriber's section at http://www.ewin.com/subart/loyal.htm]