Using vacation days is good for everyone

Over the past few months, we have talked a lot about what benefits and incentives matter most to employees. Perhaps unsurprisingly, employees are focused on competitive compensation and other cash-based rewards. But what about the benefits that employees need, but don’t rank as highly?

While vacation days are ranked lower on the list of benefits most important to employee satisfaction, we hear in the news over and over how important it is for employees to recharge out of the office—and how difficult it is to actually take that time. In fact, a recent Oxford Economics study finds that American workers lose 169 million days of paid time off each year. Yet our analysis reveals no clear payoff for employees for sacrificing their time off, as workers who do so are not more likely to get pay raises.

Using paid vacation days is good for everyone. Not only is it beneficial to employees’ health and productivity, it also allow the company to learn to function in their absence, says Megan McArdle in this article from Bloomberg. This raises some questions for management: How can companies ensure that employees are getting away from the office? What can employers do to create a culture that encourages taking well-earned time off?

Workforce 2020 news roundup

Our Workforce 2020 surveys show that companies are not offering the benefits that are most important to employees—particularly compensation and other financial incentives, which are ranked highest among employees across the globe. Management may argue that companies cannot afford to pay more, but in at least some cases there is evidence that higher pay brings substantial benefits to employers as well as workers.

Why The Container Store Pays Its Retail Employees $50,000 A Year (Business Insider): The Container Store pays its employees nearly twice the national average. CEO Kip Tindell says that, for just two times the cost, he ends up with employees who are three times as productive.

Meanwhile, as executives focus on retaining top talent, companies offering unique benefits are grabbing headlines. And while these incentives may be good for employees, there’s usually something in it for the company, too.

Freezing Eggs as Part of Employee Benefits: Some Women See Darker Message (The New York Times): Some tech companies are now paying for female employees to freeze their eggs—and while some consider this a huge step forward for women struggling to balance childcare with career-building, others think the companies are avoiding putting policies in place for paid family leave, child care, and flexible work.

A Benefits Balancing Act (CFO): A recent study from CFO Research found that three-quarters of finance executives say it is important for companies to offer the right mix of benefits, and many are expanding the range of voluntary benefits they offer. Executive are hoping that more attention to offering the benefits that matter most to employees will help in long-term retention.

The gender pay gap

Over the past few months, we have been talking about the national and company approaches to parental leave policies—in particular, how these policies affect women’s wages and participation in the workforce.

In an article from The New York Times, Claire Cain Miller explores new research on the gender divide for parents in the workforce. She cites University of Massachusetts sociology professor Michelle Budig, whose research finds that high-earing men receive large pay bumps after having children (likely because employers consider them less likely to leave a stable job), while low-earning women are most likely to suffer. In fact, Budig’s research, based on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, finds that “on average, men’s earnings increased more than 6 percent when they had children (if they lived with them), while women’s decreased 4 percent for each child they had.”

Most companies have not yet figured out how to develop the right policies for employees with children—the same is true for determining paid maternity and paternity leave. Combating the gender pay gap will require not just an overhaul of policies, but a change in mindset. 

2020 Workforce news roundup

One in Three U.S. Workers Is a Freelancer (Wall Street Journal): A new report from the Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk reports that 34% of US workers qualify as freelancers. Our own 2020 Workforce survey shows that well over three-quarters of executives are increasingly using non-payroll workers, including freelancers. The labor market is changing significantly in the US and across the globe.

Apple supplier based in China accused of labour violations by US watchdogs (South China Morning Post): After scrutiny for past labor violations, Apple is again under fire for a recent report published by China Labor Watch and Green America claiming an electronics firm that supplies parts to Apple has employees—including some as young as 16—working 100 hours of overtime a month.

What employers really want? Workers they don’t have to train. (Washington Post): In this blog on executive expectations, Peter Cappelli argues that the problem with finding skilled labor is not a skills gap—it’s that employers’ expectations “have grown increasingly out of step with reality.”

How People Feel About Their Employer-Sponsored Health Plans (The New York Times): When the Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring survey asked people how they feel about their company’s health plans, they found that, while a majority of respondents are satisfied with the range of services they can get on their plan, fewer are satisfied with premiums, deductibles, and protection.

Richard Branson on leadership

Our huge global survey shows that leadership is lackluster at most companies—not only are employee satisfaction rates low, but executives are not offering the feedback and development opportunities that their employees want and need.

Richard Branson, famed British entrepreneur and investor, has recently released a book on management. In The Virgin Way: How to Listen, Learn, Laugh and Lead, Branson shares what he has learned about being a leader from over 40 years in business.

 In an interview with The New York Times, Branson expands on a few of his approaches to management, including his companies’ occasional hiring of ex-convicts and his opinion on how unhappiness at work begins. While Branson may not have every answer, his success in business—and his likeliness to be named an ideal boss by British respondents to a Reed poll—suggest he may have some pointers.

2020 Workforce news roundup

When using personality tests to hire does not work (Business Review Weekly): Use of personality tests to evaluate job candidates is on the rise—but these tests may not be so effective, as some of the most popular ones are more likely to reflect how the candidate thinks at a certain time, rather than revealing enduring character traits. And the tests may be too transparent, allowing candidates to choose the answers they think will be well-received by the company.

Social conscience to take priority in future workplaces (Economic Times): According to a new study from PwC, strong corporate values will be hugely important in the future workplace. However, our survey suggests that social conscience does not stack up against compensation and bonuses.

Bonuses are making up a bigger and bigger percentage of companies’ payrolls (Washington Post): Aon Hewitt’s annual US Salary Increase survey shows that companies are devoting more of their budget to bonuses than ever before, and they expect the trend to continue.

Longer work-week looms for French workers (CNN Money): A stagnant economy may be the reason economics minister Emmanuel Macron said he is open to expanding the 35-hour work week. If the number of working hours increased, it might boost the country’s competitiveness—but the change would likely not be taken lightly by the public.


2020 Workforce news roundup

The Shifting American Workforce: Growing Legions of Freelancers and Independent Contractors (Inquisitr): Dependence on non-payroll workers is growing quickly. Though labor statistics can’t tell us exactly how many freelancers are in the workforce, we’ll need to have a better sense of these figures soon—especially as increasing reliance on these workers changes HR strategy.

Women should ‘man up’ for male-dominated fields (Economic Times): According to researchers from Michigan State University, women who described themselves with masculine traits in an experiment were more likely to be considered fit for a job than those who used traditionally feminine descriptors.

New graduates still prefer to work for state-owned firms (South China Morning Post): An annual survey of about 48,000 people conducted by shows substantial changes from last year’s results. Among them? This year, many more say they would rather start their own business than be employed by someone else, and salary expectations are rising. Despite changes, new graduates are still quite likely to say state-owned firms are their first choices for employment.

Finding—and keeping—top talent

According to our survey, the need for employees with technology skills in areas like analytics, cloud, and programming will increase over the next three years. What does it take to attract top talent that meets companies’ increasingly tech-based needs?

A recent article from CIO magazine talks about some of the ways tech firms are trying to recruit elite developers. The top tactic? Money—and at many companies (mostly those based in New York and Silicon Valley), a lot of it.

What will happen if compensation turns out to be only a temporary fix for retaining talent? How important is personal satisfaction with work when the excitement over creative perks and compensation wanes?

Our survey looks at these issues and more—we’ll have answers about the benefits that matter most to employees, along with data on what companies are actually offering, in the next few weeks.

Millennials: Hard to define, like any other generation

When we set out to survey employees across 27 countries, we wanted to learn what sets Millennials apart from older employees at work. What we found is that Millennials are not so different from non-Millennials, especially when it comes to job satisfaction.

But that’s not how Millennials are typically perceived in the media—this past weekend, The New York Times published a story on the vast store of articles on Millennials, many of which portray the generation as self-entitled and narcissistic in life and at work. However, the article also calls on the Pew Research Center’s 2010 reports on Millennials, which point to a generation far more complex than most think.

Millennials may be complex and difficult to define, like any other generation—but our research points to commonalities in the way Millennials and older workers perceive work and job satisfaction. More of our results to come when our research program launches next month.