Survey says: Disconnect between employee and employer sentiment

Remember when people used to grab you at the local mall to ask you to participate in a survey? Well, vacation season is upon us, and apparently, it's a hot topic for a survey. Luckily, the means in which the data is gathered is not at the local mall. (We're in a recession, people! No one has money or time to waste!)

John Hollon posted an article on last week that detailed the results of two separate surveys about how employees (and their managers) are feeling right now. The first survey referenced in the post asked employees about their vacation plans for this year. Did they feel as though their job was at risk if they took a vacation?

I am not surprised by the actual survey results. Seventy-eight percent of those questioned are not concerned. I am a bit surprised by the assumption in this article that the results are a potentially positive sign that employees are feeling confident in the security of their job.

I've talked previously about doing more with less. Over the course of the Great Recession, employees have been asked to do more for less. Some have taken pay cuts and many found increased costs for benefits. Perhaps they are the employees surveyed?

If I were a betting man (I'd have some issues, and gambling would only be one of them), I would put my money on the fact that people are tired. People are taking advantage of the one benefit still afforded to them. They are taking a paid vacation.

One aspect of the study supports my theory. While employees are feeling compelled to have fun in the sun, the perception they have is that their respective employers are not feeling compelled to make a big summer splash.

According to those surveyed, long gone are days of ice cream socials in the courtyard of your home away from home (or, as some call it, work). Forget about summer flex time. Employees are feeling the heat so much that they even think a dress down day is not likely.

I am an optimist. I hold out hope that employers everywhere are ready to help their employees enjoy some hot fun in the summertime, in addition to allowing them the benefit of a well-deserved vacation.

I'm taking my well-deserved week this year. To the beach. With laptop and BlackBerry in hand (and until now, the thought of attempting use while windsurfing hadn't entered my mind). Point is, I hope to electronically disconnect as much as possible. Translation: hardly at all.

However, those surveyed are smarter. As a matter of fact, only 37 percent have a plan to connect to work while away this year. I applaud you all. You deserve that much, and your family does, too. This survey also suggests several ways to maintain a better morale with your employees, a much sounder takeaway from the results, if you're asking a betting man -- er, woman.

The next survey, conducted by CareerBuilder, was more focused on employee morale. The results haven't been formally released yet, so a big thank you to John for sharing the information with us.

In my humble opinion, the assumptions you can draw from the overall results of the first survey tie nicely with the content of the second. With an unsteady market and retention strategies more prevalent, morale is (or should be) a key driver. So what are HR managers, hiring managers, and employees saying about morale?

Like John, I find the results troubling on many levels. There is a clear disparity between what hiring managers and employees are saying, or feeling. When asked about morale, managers leaned toward it being high to very high.

When asked about retention, 42 percent feel their employees are going to make a mad dash when the economy recovers. Are we feeling conflicted? Are we missing something that can be easily attained to help retain talent?

The fact is that HR is in tune with employees and not at all missing the message: An alarming 56 percent feel their best talent is not theirs for long. While the split of employee responses is fairly even with regards to high/very high morale and low/very low morale, it appears that 40 percent have fallen somewhere in the middle. It's that population that I want to target for more. Again, if I were a betting man, I'd say the number of employees feeling morale is low/very low might actually be high/very high.

We see some light at the end of the tunnel with recession woes (of course, in a desert, some people think they see water, too). Companies are taking a hard look at their talent. Perhaps, like with any relationship, hindsight is 20/20.

Companies might be taking note that morale and employee welfare hasn't been a top priority in recession survival. So a question remains: Will our talent stay true when the drought is over and the grass might actually be greener on the other side?

Have fun in the sun. Maybe those not taking vacation includes key managers, HR, and leaders. I recommend a get-together, perhaps a barbecue, so everyone can figure out a way to beat the heat and retain top talent.


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