Building a happier workforce

Our Workforce 2020 data shows that employees across industries and regions are largely unsatisfied with their jobs, in terms of everything from compensation to leadership and development opportunities.

While satisfaction levels do vary country to country, fewer than half of employees surveyed in every region say they are happy with their job.

SAP Workforce satisfaction around the world

What is at stake for businesses that don’t do what it takes to keep their employees satisfied?

SAP Worforce high-performing

Companies are at risk of losing their best employees. And those who do stay in their current job despite their dissatisfaction are will likely not be the best workers—many workers we surveyed say higher compensation, better benefits, and more development opportunities would increase their loyalty and engagement with their current job.

To keep the top employees around and inspire other workers to be their best, executives need to make a point of listening to their wants and needs. Figuring out what matters most to workers will go a long way in building a strong culture, ramping up recruitment, and keeping everyone at the company loyal and engaged.

For more on what makes employees happy, check out our webinar on “What Matters Most at Work” on-demand.

Building a stronger learning culture

Our Workforce 2020 surveys show that, around the world, employees are unsatisfied with the learning culture at their companies. Fewer than half say their company retains, updates, and shares knowledge, and even fewer say their company offers incentives for pursuing further education.

Learning culture

Executives may not think their employees value learning and development opportunities, but our data shows otherwise. In fact, employees rank supplemental training programs as the top benefit after cash-based incentives like compensation, bonuses, and retirement plans. What’s more, companies’ youngest workers are concerned about their futures—36% of global Millennials say a lack of opportunities for advancement is a top job concern, and just 39% say their company has outlined a clear career path.

What is the way forward for businesses looking to build strong learning cultures? To start, companies can provide more opportunities (even informal ones) for training and skills development, offer incentives to employees for pursuing relevant educational opportunities outside the office, and create an environment in which information-sharing is encouraged and rewarded. The companies that get this right will have better-trained, more engaged employees—and a better shot at success.

How important is a holiday party?

A recent article on San Francisco Gate gets down to details about tech firms’ holiday spending—reporting that some companies spend over six figures on these seasonal events in the hopes of attracting talented, younger workers with elaborate menus, custom props, and novelty event spaces.

And while an over-the-top holiday party may not be in the cards for most firms, these events—even simple lunches in the conference room—do build camaraderie among co-workers and offer networking opportunities for those looking to get ahead. In the long run, throwing a lavish event is not as important to employees as the basics (like competitive compensation and merit-based bonuses), but might offer a good opportunity for executives and employees to get on the same page

What benefits increase employee loyalty and engagement?

Offering the right benefits and incentives is critical for companies looking to attract and retain the best employees.

Our Workforce 2020 surveys show that competitive compensation is the most important benefit for employees, followed closely by bonuses and merit-based rewards. Not only do employees say competitive pay is important–they also say more money would increase their loyalty and engagement with their current company.

Benefits 12 8 2014

But cash isn’t the only benefit that’s important to employees. Respondents also likely say career development, training opportunities, and a good work environment play a part in their loyalty to the company.

Héctor Cerviño of Banco Compartamos in Mexico (one of the HR executives we interviewed as part of our research) puts it well: “First of all, you have to pay well.  It sounds very simple, but you have to pay well. If you pay well, then you can talk a lot about, you know, flex time, home offices…That’s all the cream in the coffee. But you have to have the coffee.”

Join Wednesday’s webinar on What Matters Most at Work

On this blog, we have started several discussions around the misunderstandings between employees and their bosses. What matters most at work? Our surveys show that, in most cases, companies do not understand what their employees want from them—including the importance of competitive compensation as a benefit. At the same time, employees have a lot to learn in terms of what their bosses need and expect from them.

In our webinar on Wednesday, December 3—What Matters Most at Work—we’ll be taking a deeper dive into this topic. Ed Cone, Oxford Economics’ Technology Practice Lead, will be discussing these issues with SAP’s David Swanson and IBM’s Sheila McGovern. Be sure to tune in—you can register here.

Do men and women value the same benefits and incentives at work?

We’ve talked at length about the differences between employees from different generations and parts of the world—but we haven’t yet revealed many of the differences between men and women in the workplace.

Our surveys show that men and women are aligned on many workplace issues, including leadership and learning. However, they do have slightly different priorities when it comes to job satisfaction and benefits.

Men and women at work November 24

A few of the key differences our surveys revealed:

  • Men tend to care more about company reputation. 32% of male respondents said a stronger company reputation/brand would increase loyalty and engagement at their current job (vs. 23% of women).
  • Women are more likely to prioritize education. Education benefits ranked as more important for women (44%) than men (40%).
  • Women are more interested in non-traditional benefits and incentives. Workplace amenities like fitness centers, daycares, and recreational facilities also ranked more important for women (41%) than men (36%).
  • Men rate the importance of quality of life slightly higher than women—but it’s important to both, with 47% of women agreeing compared to 51% of men. Women rate using more current technology higher than men do, with 53% of women agreeing compared to 47% of men.

While it is important for companies to address the varying wants and needs of diverse groups, it is also important to recognize commonalities. Men and women, for example, are equally likely to say competitive compensation and flexible work locations are important. Companies will need to understand these differences and similarities as they work to set policies that attract the best workers from all demographic groups.

Our Millennial Misunderstanding webinar is now available on-demand

You can now listen to last week’s webinar on The Millennial Misunderstanding, featuring data presentation from Oxford Economics’ technology practice lead Ed Cone as well as real-world insights from Deloitte’s Deborah Cole and SAP’s David Swanson. During the presentation, panelists discussed some of the common misconceptions about Millennials in the workplace and what companies can do to better meet the needs of their younger workers.

Want to participate in one of our live webinars and have a chance to ask questions in real time? Be sure to register for our next one on What Matters Most at Work. We’ll be talking about the benefits and incentives that are most important to employees–and what most companies actually offer.

Do high performers have different wants and needs?

With our survey data, we broke out data for high performers—employees who were ranked highly in their last performance review—from average and low performers. Karie Willyerd, the co-author of The 2020 Workplace:How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today and a valuable partner in this research project, recently published an article on what these high performers want at work.

How prepared are companies to meet the needs of their best workers? How satisfied are these employees today? According to Karie:

As you would expect, high performers as compared to low performers are more satisfied with their jobs and less likely to leave their jobs in the next six months. But in looking deeply into high performers specifically, you’ll see that the numbers aren’t as comforting as we’d hoped…one in five high performers are likely to leave in the next six months (versus one in four of employees overall who are likely to leave in the near term), and less than half are satisfied with their jobs.

You can read the full article at HBR—read it and join the discussion here.

The Millennial career path

People are afraid that their jobs are going to leave them behind. Obsolescence is a serious concern for employees everywhere—even for Millennials just starting out in their careers. 40% of Millennials say this is a top job concern, and fewer than half say the skills they have today will be what’s needed in their jobs in three years.

Millennials are no more likely than non-Millennials to say they will have advanced skills in key technical areas like cloud, analytics, and programming and development—but they are looking to improve their performance through feedback and other development opportunities. In fact, Millennials expect feedback 50% more often than other workers, and many say development-related benefits would increase their loyalty.

Millennial development

Skills development for Millennials is a key part of planning for the workforce of tomorrow, closely tied to leadership and succession planning. For more on the wants and need of Millennials—and how companies are preparing to meet them—register for Wednesday’s webinar on the Millennial Misunderstanding.

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?