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How many employees would like to leave your organization?

Nov 14, 2011 Business Daily, Management

“Employee loyalty is dropping around the world, according to new global analysis of Mercer’s What’s Working™ survey. The research, conducted among nearly 30,000 employees in 17 geographic markets between the fourth quarter of 2010 and the second quarter of 2011, shows that the percentage of workers seriously considering leaving their organization has risen since the last time the survey was conducted in each market (between 2003 and 2006 prior to the economic downturn).
In many markets, the increase is 10 percentage points or more. In the US, the increase was 9 points, from 23% in 2005 to 32% in 2010.”


A question: is it possible to proclaim “people are our greatest asset” (as so many leaders do) when up to half your employees want to leave your organization at any given moment?

Mercer runs a regular survey on workplace attitudes, and the results are becoming more and more depressing. Rather than getting better at motivating employees and retaining them, we are mostly getting worse. The most recent “What’s Working” survey is damning: the percentage of employees seriously considering the exit door is increasing significantly. In many markets like America and Europe, one in three employees are thinking hard about leaving. In some countries, that proportion rises to half.

What gives, leaders and managers? Why are you creating organizations that so fail to inspire people to give their best and be part of something big? Why can we not make people believe their own futures, and the best work of their lives, lies within our organizations?

I have beaten this drum on this page before, and will no doubt beat it again. What is the point of all those supposedly-inspiring CEO speeches, all those mission statements and slogans about values – when as many as half the people in the audience are brushing up their CVs?

Now here’s the thing: talk to senior executives and they invariably tell you that their employees have become mercenaries who jump for a bigger paycheck at a moment’s notice. That is an easy, and lazy, answer. The Mercer survey reveals deeper insights: “The global analysis also reveals that non-financial factors play a prominent role in influencing employee motivation and engagement – a finding that could prove useful to employers facing budget constraints. Workers worldwide say that being treated with respect is the most important factor, followed by work/life balance, type of work, quality of co-workers and quality of leadership.”

In other words, monetary reward is of course important to all employees – how could it not be? But we kid ourselves when we assert that it is THE most important motivator. Study after study suggests that people yearn for something deeper than money – and that they rarely get it. They want respect for their person and work; they want appreciation and recognition of their contribution; they want to remain human beings who are allowed to have a meaningful life away from work, not “human resources” who are exploited for someone else’s gain; and they want to work alongside and under people of substance, not bullies and sociopaths.

That is the huge failure of modern management – the inability to make work a part of the essential purpose of the human being. Instead, we have reduced work to a transaction, a drudgery that you undertake in exchange for “compensation,” a labour of hate that you do because you have to do it; an act that enriches others, not yourself.

Well, the result is before us. Everyone is a mercenary now. After all, if companies provide no reward other than money, why not just work for the money? Think about that one as you stand before your people and give a speech. In up to half the faces before you, the lights may seem on, but there’s no-one at home.

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