Zaleznick and Moment wrote in 1961 that satisfaction is a function of rewards over expectations, written S = f R/E. It is a paradigm, not a formula, but it is so true. If you ever want to determine who is satisfied with his or her job, ask about the rewards received and the perception of performance. If I see my performance as "excellent," and I receive a 2% increase in salary, I will be dissatisfied.
If I expect that my benefits will go on or that I will be able to work for one company for many years and then retire, I am going to be dissatisfied when none of that comes to fruition.
Most of you reading this have few or lessened expectations than those of us who started in HR when it was "personnel." That is just not right, and I'm indignant for you. You might well expect government to fail you, but you should be able to trust business. Old folk like me don't trust anybody. We're beyond paranoid: we're multinoid. But you should have to be or become that way.
Reality, 1960s Style:
The reality in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and part of the 80s was that one would work for perhaps three companies over a career, receive certain benefits, and retire on a pension that would, with Social Security, leave one with a modicum of comfort. The reality was consistency. The reality was that there was a career path and a corporate ladder that could be climbed, and the reality was that there was training, apprenticeships, and even management trainee programs.
This is not a "Now, when I was a boy" or "house with a white picket fence" story. You should know what we had and how we've changed the norm.
I worked for three states and two companies after graduate school and before starting this consulting firm. The states and companies all had the same benefits:
- Two weeks vacation in the first year of employment.
- Six to 12 days sick leave, but strictly controlled and only for the employee's own illness.
- Health insurance.
- Major medical insurance.
- AD&D (Accidental Death and Dismemberment insurance, never referred to by its name)
- Life insurance.
- Dental insurance.
- Vision care insurance.
- A 5-10% deductible for family coverage.
We also had management trainee programs, management training programs for all levels of management, career path planning, counseling, and a highly structured performance evaluation system which included published criteria for promotions and salary or wage increases. It was my responsibility to be certain that these systems were in place and were working. A good part of my job was bringing outlying offices into the philosophical fold. (Of course, another part of my job was to ensure outlying offices that they were part of the fold.)
Not only was there internal consistency through policies and procedures, but if you had to go with another company to adhere to a career path, you could be fairly certain that the same benefits and policies would be at the new company. I am not saying that this was Nirvana, but at least you knew what to expect. Generally, you could depend on certain things and you could even teach your children how the system worked (or didn't work). Even failures in the system were consistent. Without such stability, there could never have been books like Up the Organization, Management by Objectives, or Megatrends.
Forty Years Later:
On September 15, 2005 the San Francisco Chronicle reported, "Employer-sponsored health insurance is becoming scarcer and more expensive. Premiums for job-based health insurance rose 9.2 percent on average nationwide in 2005, about three times the general rate of inflation, according to the annual health coverage survey of the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust. Nonetheless, that increase marked the first year since 2000 in which the increase was less than 10 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of businesses offering health benefits to employees dropped to 60 percent in 2005, down from 69 percent in 2000."
As I said in my survey question (see bulletin board survey forum), as far as I can tell from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is the lowest percentage of businesses offering health benefits since 1971. More disturbing is that, unlike us maxinoids (extreme multinoid), an alarming number of younger employees are concerned about not having health insurance. Example: When my youngest was born last century, the total doctor and hospital bill was around $4,000, 80% of which was paid for by the least insurance ever offered to me as an employee. So, she cost us $800 (to start), a third of her orthodontist, less than her wedding dress, hell, less than the cake.
When she became pregnant, she didn't realize that there were medical costs involved in having our first grandchild! She isn't as naive as most, but she certainly didn't think it through. Luckily, both she and her husband have insurance, she because we made her, and he, because he's working for a great company in Minneapolis.
What I'm getting at is that if the list were to be published today, it would look more like this:
Two weeks vacation in the first year of employment.
Six to 12 days sick leave, but strictly controlled and only for the employee's own illness.
- Health insurance.
Major medical insurance.
AD&D (Accidental Death and Dismemberment insurance, never referred to by its name)
Vision care insurance.
A 5-10% deductible for family coverage.
Okay, maybe that's going to far, but for many of you - whether in management ranks or not - it is certainly true that you don't have half the benefits that were once enjoyed by all employees.
One of the differences especially for blue collar workers (we used to be able to tell who they were) is the demise of the union. Union membership is down to 9.3 percent from a high of 35 percent. While it is true that there was widespread corruption in unions, particularly in the use of retirement funds, unions did extract benefits - fringe and otherwise - from many huge companies. Now, unions are about to disappear because, first they asked for too much when companies were in no condition to pay, and today because they have given in to all company demands including wage and benefit cuts, not just freezes, but cuts. Witness the airline mechanics and pilots.
Expectations... You see, the powers that be have forced us into a mentality that accepts the new regime. Union members still pay dues even though they get nothing for them, while union management makes rather large salaries. Union management has become a smaller clone of business management.
Charge $3.00 for a gallon of gas? Sure, and the way you do it is to charge $3.50 for a gallon of gas, and when the price comes down to $2.97 people will be happy. Am I wrong? No way because that's exactly what happened when gas went to $2.00 a gallon.
Pay a 25% deductible on insurance? Yeah. We have to. Otherwise, there will be no insurance at all. And some day, we'll be paying 50 percent.
Donate your vacation time to someone who really needs it? Now there's a bright idea. Why doesn't the company donate the extra vacation if there's a serious illness? Because you're willing to, and HR talked you into it. We (HR had the authority) used to give extra vacation or sick leave to any employee who really needed it so long as their performance was above "satisfactory" and they had worked for the company more than a year.
Most of you have never worked for a company that not only helped you with career path planning, but provided in-house training. And because you've never seen it, you have no expectation of it. Perhaps that's why the average layoff period is now 11 months! In the old days, we were told to have six month's pay in the bank just to be safe. Could you put away a year's pay today? I can't. I need to fill up the car which means taking out a second on the house.
I was going to go into a diatribe about the expectation of customer service in the 60s+ versus the expectation of voice mail harassment today, of employees working toward an understandable goal in the old days versus employees being told about some amorphous corporate value system today. I was going to tell you that, after 13 phone calls and 21 email, Expedia not only screwed up a trip over a five-month period, but offered us two free drinks on our next flight as recompense. We've become so used to being disappointed that we continue to be exploited.
I often think that disaster preparedness should not only refer to hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural catastrophic events, but to losing ones job. Several months ago, a (33 year old) neighbor and I were discussing his job as a programmer, and I asked how stable that was. He replied, "Stable enough to buy this house." Yesterday, he was laid off. He's not worried. That's okay, I'll worry for him.
The government has become an uncontrollable bureaucracy that grows and grows and grows. And grows. Its oversight committees overlook more than they oversee. Corporations have succeeded in supervising their own henhouses. Employees are at the mercy of the discretion, good will, intelligence, and skill of corporate management.
In 1943, Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM said, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." In 1981, Bill Gates said, "640K ought to be enough for anybody." And in 1977, Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation said, "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
I am not as smart as these guys. I'm not as prescient either. In the old days, perhaps from the very start of the New Deal, we expected that the government would help us. In the mid-century, we expected that the company would help us. My first article on the subject, Pitfalls in Paternalism, shows the extent to which companies used to go to satisfy employee needs. Now I'm very much afraid that the only ones to help us is us.
In the old days, if someone had said that the sky was falling, I would have told them to sell Sky. Today, I'm not as positive, and I have no solutions for perceived problems.
I don't what you should expect next, but a reality check is in order. It may be the only check you can count on.