Workers feeling overworked, underpaid

Increasing numbers quit for better conditions

July 28, 2004|By CBS MARKETWATCH

SAN FRANCISCO - Workers cite long hours and unfair pay as top complaints, and some are starting to make the move to new positions, according to three new surveys.

Six percent of workers said they quit their job voluntarily for a new job in the second quarter, up from 5.3 percent in the first quarter of this year and 3.8 percent a year ago, according to a survey of 1,019 adults conducted for Lee Hecht Harrison, the human-resources consulting firm.

Those leaving their jobs might have been seeking an alternative to long workdays and unfair pay, top complaints by workers in two separate surveys.

Fifty-two percent of African-Americans and 57 percent of Hispanics said their pay is not equal to what others in similar positions are paid, while 34 percent of white workers said so, according to a telephone survey of 3,712 workers in a range of industries and job levels conducted for Hudson, a provider of staffing services.

About the same percentage of male workers, 38 percent, and female workers, 36 percent, said their pay does not equal others'.

Businesses that don't address workers' perceptions of disparate pay face higher turnover rates, said Jeff Anderson, senior vice president at Hudson.

"Companies that are truly embracing diversity and making sure it's a business imperative are better equipped to serve their customers and they will experience higher retention rates," he said.

Workers' perceptions mirror reality, he said, noting U.S. Labor Department statistics that white workers earn a median income of $636 a week, while African-Americans earn about $100 less and Hispanics about $200 less.

"We have found that workers' perceptions are directly linked to reality," Anderson said, adding that hiring managers should take notice of "the low percentage of African-Americans and Hispanics who report that they're being compensated equally."

Only 36 percent of workers overall said better performance leads to higher pay, while about 60 percent said tenure leads to better pay, according to the Hudson survey.

And, in a new twist, 58 percent of workers gave better pay and benefits as the top reason they would consider a new job offer.

Generally, surveys find pay is about fourth on the list of workers' top desires, after fair treatment or respect, opportunity for advancement and a friendly work environment.

"Historically, what we've seen as top drivers prior to the depressed market has been `my manager respects me, I have a clear advancement track,'" Anderson said.

"But as the labor market has begun to improve and those individuals have been sitting in their current workplaces dealing with lowered bonuses and in some cases stagnant compensation programs, they're now saying, we are going to move based on compelling compensation packages."

Companies that don't address their diversity strategies and their compensation packages "will pay in terms of increased turnover," Anderson said.

They also might want to look at the hours their employees are working. Workdays stretching too long is the top complaint of 1,400 senior financial executives surveyed by Robert Half Management Resources, a staffing firm focused on financial and accounting executives.

When asked what one thing they would change about their current position, 36 percent of the chief financial officers and accounting executives said they'd like to work fewer hours.

Their second and third choices were reducing the number of meetings per day (17 percent) and extending tight deadlines (12 percent), both time-related desires. Just 3 percent mentioned better pay as their top choice.

They feel there's "not enough time in the day," said Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources.

With companies just emerging into the economic recovery, low staffing levels might be taxing employees, and Sarbanes-Oxley accountability requirements and deadlines are also taxing many financial workers, McDonald said.

"Finance people historically have worked long hours. For them to respond back with an overwhelming majority of them saying `work fewer hours,' that means they're working a heck of a lot of hours at this point."

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