Wednesday 16 July 2014

Glassdoor UK Employment Confidence Survey Q2 2014

Along with all of the data on Glassdoor's own jobs and careers community, the firm runs a quarterly survey of employee confidence, conducted by Harris Interactive.  The second quarter UK results are out today and contain some important messages for all businesses employing people here.

In particular, a lot of the general commentary about the UK’s economy and the high cost of living at the moment suggests that many people are not yet seeing the benefits of an improving economy.  The findings from this research supports those general conclusions:

  • One in three (32%) employees believe their company’s business outlook will improve in the next six months, although this has dropped two percentage points
  • 37% of employees expect to receive a pay rise in the next 12 months, up from 34% in Q1
  • More than a quarter of employees (29%) are concerned that they may be made redundant, up significantly from 21% in Q1 this year
  • People looking for a job are more confident – almost one in three (30%) of those unemployed but looking for work report optimism that they could find a job matched to their experience and current compensation levels in the next six months. This is an increase of five percentage points.

It is certainly good news that more employed people are finally expecting pay increases however it’s a big worry that so many employees feel so uncertain about keeping their existing jobs, particularly as most also still feel uncertain about their ability to find another position if they do get laid off.

This is particularly important since if people are worrying about their jobs it’s going to make it harder for them to do their best work.  Indeed it may move them into a ‘threat state’ in which peoples’ concern about their jobs can close down their ability to think clearly and behave optimally, particularly in displaying the sort of discretionary behaviours which are so critical in many jobs today, for example in providing great customer service and developing new ideas to improve work activities.  This may be one reason why UK productivity is remaining so low as well.

The findings also reinforce what we already know about the impact of pay being quite limited.  So although employees are seeing positive developments in their salaries, incentives and monetary benefits and their confidence about future pay rises is increasing too, at the same time they are feeling less secure about retaining their current employment.  Future salary increases are unlikely to have much impact on job security either and so in addition to whatever they can do to increase pay levels, employers need to confront job insecurity head on.

The main reason that people are worrying about their jobs may well be the increasing amount of restructuring that employees are seeing together with a continuing high level of redundancies taking place.  Employers may therefore want to look at ways in which restructuring can be conducted without large scale redundancies - perhaps trading off a certain amount of potential efficiency savings later on in order to provide greater effectiveness and higher productivity today.

In addition, I suspect the general tone of the debate about the UK’s economy is leading employees to feel less secure, and employers will benefit from communicating openly about the specific circumstances of their own businesses, involving employees where there are issues and problems, and communicating confidently where there are already positive changes underway or there are signs of new opportunities for the future.

Finally, it’s also good news that we’re starting to see the confidence of those who are currently unemployed increase.  This might suggest that the job market is actually improving and it is just the commentary about employment and the economy which has not yet caught up.  As the commentary becomes more positive, this could help to reduce employees’ current uncertainty as well.

By the way, I'm acting as Glassdoor UK's HR expert, helping to promote the findings of this research so look out for more comments from me in the press!

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