Bosses, workers far apart on jobs' lures

On the Job

Working

November 22, 2006|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,Sun Columnist

When it comes to benefits that attract and retain workers, bosses and their employees are wide apart on what matters.

Two surveys released last week found that workers put more emphasis on pay, while employers believe promotion opportunities and career development are top reasons employees join or leave the organization.

A survey of 1,100 workers by Watson Wyatt Worldwide and WorldatWork found that 71 percent of top-performing employees rank pay as the primary reason they would leave a company. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.

A separate survey of 262 U.S. companies by the two groups found only 45 percent put pay at the top of the list. Instead, employers cited promotion opportunities at 68 percent and career development at 66 percent. The margin of error was 6 percentage points.

Why is there such a disconnect?

It's partly because employers have "lost sight" of the cumulative effects of benefits cuts on workers, says Laura Sejen, director of strategic rewards consulting at Watson Wyatt.

More and more, companies are asking workers to pay a larger share of their health care costs, Sejen says. And many employers have shifted employee retirement plans from traditional pension funds to defined contributions, she says.

The bottom line: Workers want better pay.

Sejen says companies need to act if they don't want to lose workers or experience difficulty in attracting qualified ones. They can respond to employees' needs by offering individualized compensation packages or more flexible benefits, including job-sharing and part-time work.

Employers are already having a harder time recruiting. The employer survey showed that 63 percent of bosses report a moderate or high level of difficulty in attracting skilled employees.

From the mailbag: I received a few holiday-party horror stories last week, and here's the best one.

Al, a reader from Felton, Pa., tells a cautionary tale.

He says his boss allowed employees to charge drinks to his corporate card for the first 90 minutes of the party. The boss extended the time limit by another 30 minutes. That's when things started to get a little tipsy, Al says.

At one point, a female employee - who was wildly gesticulating with her hands while telling a story - hit a waiter holding a tray full of drinks.

"Everyone seated at the table ended up wearing a drink or two after that little maneuver," Al writes.

In a second embarrassing moment, another professional who Al says had been openly campaigning for a promotion drank a few too many. The boss noticed that she was absent from the party, so colleagues went looking for her. They found her passed out in the ladies room.

The next morning, most workers were recovering from a hangover. As for the drunken worker, she was never promoted and left the company a year or two later, Al says.

"I think it proves the point that, as young [or older] professionals, we may develop friendly relationships as we did in college, but we should not expect to be able to go out and drink like we might have been in college - at least not if we can't pay the `price' for our actions when we do so," he says.

What's important to you when you look for a job, or what benefits help you stick around? And what else is on your mind about life at work? Send your stories, tips and questions to working@baltsun.com. Please include your first name and your city. On the job is published Monday at www.baltimoresun.com. Hanah Cho's podcast can be found at www.baltimoresun.com/onthejob.

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