Web Exclusive - March/April 2017

The Changing American Workplace

By Deborah L. Vence

New research from Gallup indicates that changes affecting organizations today are “coming fast and furious,” and “forcing organizations to reconsider how they manage and optimize performance in a time when the very essence of how, when and where people work and the value they place on work are shifting.”

Research from the 2017 State of the American Workplace report by Gallup, a management consulting company in Washington, D.C., was based on data from more than 195,600 U.S. employees through the Gallup Panel and Gallup Daily tracking in 2015 and 2016, and more than 31 million respondents through Gallup’s Q12 Client Database. The report was first launched in 2010. The most recent report is the third iteration.

In the most current report, worker optimism is on the rise. “Typically, a relatively high number of employees who voluntarily leave their job signals greater confidence among workers who believe they have more and better options. The number of Americans voluntarily leaving their job in August 2012 was 2.1 million.”

In December 2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data showed that the number of Americans who voluntarily left their job reached a post-recession high of nearly 3.1 million workers. And, in August 2016, the number still stood at 3 million workers. Americans have increasingly positive perceptions of the job market and what it offers.

In 2012, an average of 19 percent of people said it was a good time to find a quality job. For the first three quarters of 2016, however, an average of 42 percent said the same thing. Among those in the labor force (employed, unemployed, or looking for work), the number was even higher, at 47 percent.

To boot, Americans’ confidence in finding a job as good as their current one if they happen to be laid off also has been restored. Currently, “63 percent believes it is ‘very likely’ or ‘somewhat likely’ that they would find a job as good as the one they have, up from 42 percent who said the same in 2010. The current figure is similar to what Gallup measured in early 2007 before the recession.”

If that’s not enough, “New and emerging technologies are transforming the way work gets done.” That is, more people are doing their job virtually or remotely, and at various times of the day, rather than between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., and teams have fewer face-to-face interactions, communicating increasingly through e-mail, instant messaging and conference calls.

From “2012 to 2016, the number of employees working remotely rose by four percentage points, from 39 percent to 43 percent, and employees working remotely spent more time doing so.”

When it comes to employee engagement, the numbers are concerning, with only one-third of U.S. employees engaged in their work and workplace. Only about one in five indicated that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. Employees feel rather indifferent about their job and the work they are being asked to do. Organizations are not giving them compelling reasons to stay, so it should come as no surprise that most employees (91 percent) say the last time they changed jobs, they left their company to do so.

What’s more, a sense of urgency exists for company leaders to define and convey their vision more clearly, and rally employees around it.

Gallup data also revealed that employees have little belief in their companies’ leadership, with data showing that 22 percent of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization has a clear direction for the organization; 15 percent of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization makes them enthusiastic about the future; and 13 percent of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization communicates effectively with the rest of the organization.