It just so happens that very talented people could be right under your nose, slaving away. Their talent may also be slipping away. High turnover rates aren’t just a sign of the times, they are also a clear indicator that something is wrong within a company.
As an executive leader who manages these people, part of your success meter is determined by how much your team likes their jobs. Attrition is a costly and unhealthy for any organization. Let’s take a look at 5 reasons good talent leaves bad companies:
The number one reason people leave a job is because they don’t like their boss. As an executive leader or manager, you are the number one reason many people like or dislike their jobs. When was the last time you asked yourself, ‘Are you a bad boss?’
Nasty, aggressive, miserable executive leaders who don’t communicate with their staff lose more people than anyone else. You don’t have to come to work singing everyday, but you do need to treat everyone fairly, with respect and be approachable for questions.
We are going to rank this as number 2. It’s important for your employees to see a clear career path. This doesn’t mean they need fancy titles, but on-the-job-training is a huge reason many folks are more satisfied with their work.
Lack of empowerment
Basically, if you have to ask permission, you start to feel like a grade schooler again. No one wants to be micromanaged. Executive leaders need to empower their people to make their own decisions.
There’s backlash to this, of course: Executive coaching helps leaders empower their people. In return, executive leaders know their departments are being run like clockwork even when they’re away on vacation or out of the office for business. It’s actually a little recognized win-win situation.
While bosses can’t necessarily do anything about cliques, executive leaders can try to foster team communications. Executive coaching intervention may promote communication and keep opposing forces growing strong, as well. If you have issues internally, try to find common ground everyone can agree on. When forces unite, politics lessen.
All you need to do is tell someone they did a good job. That’s it. You need to say to the person who worked late, ‘Thank you.’ In fact, just swing by their desk or shoot an employee an email. Executive leaders can’t just get wrapped up in running a company, they must be thankful to the people who do the work that makes it run.
Ultimately, a job has to be a good fit for a person just as much as a person has to be a good fit for a company. However, even fashion lines need accountants and creative businesses need technical folks. To keep everyone happy, pay attention to your management style. If you still can’t get it right, executive coaching will fill in the gaps and find solutions about why your top employees are leaving.
But we wanted to go a little deeper into the issue, so we asked our clients the primary reason behind their company’s retention issues. Internal issues, such as poor leadership and inadequate compensation, proved to be the number one reason employees are leaving with 67% of the vote. The overall talent shortage is also leading to employees switching to more desirable jobs at other companies, reported 11% of respondents. Another 6% of business leaders said they’re losing top talent due to competitors actively recruiting their employees. Only 15% of respondents said they were not experiencing any retention issues.
There is good news for employers in these survey results, though. If internal issues are the main reason employees are leaving, then employers have the ability to fix the problems and stem the tide of their exiting talent. As a business leader, now is the time to make changes. Moving too slowly to correct these problems can have a massive impact on your business’s ability to grow. Simply put, your company cannot afford to lose your top performers.
What specific actions are you taking to retain your top performers? What have your employees told you they need in order to stay engaged?
Collaboration vs. Collision: When do you think the last time you heard comments like these….. You’re right, but I’m the boss! Just do your job! I remember when … The kid wants a promotion after six months on the job! No! How did you react? Were you offended? Were you okay with the comment? Did you understand, or not understand, why someone would say these words?
The words and your reaction, as well as the reactions of others, reflect generational differences in the workplace. If you don’t think generation makes a difference, think of this example. When asked to recall how and where Kennedy died, the Veterans and Baby Boomers would say gunshots in Dallas, Texas; Generation X remembers a plane crash near Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.; and a Millennial might say, “Kennedy who?”
How can you effectively collaborate? • Understand the differences and learn to communicate in their language. • Develop training programs to educate your staff on the four generations. • Identify your knowledge workers and help them share their knowledge with the next generation.
Nearly 60 percent of all companies are taking measures to understand employees’ different generational needs when it comes to benefits, up five percent from last year alone. That’s according to MetLife’s 10th Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends, released on March 19. It’s no wonder more employers are thinking generationally about employee benefits: Research by LifeCourse Associates has long shown that Millennials think very differently from older generations about planning for the long term and protecting themselves from risks—and about the role their employers should play in helping them do that. The MetLife survey reveals in new detail how recession-strapped young workers are approaching financial risks, and how they want workplace benefits to help them to navigate those risks.
One might assume older workers would be the most risk-averse when it comes to their finances. After all, they generally have more income and assets to protect than do young adults—and are more likely to have larger families (or any family at all). Turns out, it is Millennial workers who are the most risk-averse on every measure. According to MetLife, Millennials are the most worried about every kind of unforeseen financial risk, from sudden income loss (72 percent “very worried”) to uncovered medical costs (63 percent) to illness and disability (65 percent)—in each case, a remarkable 14-15 percent higher than Boomers. Millennials are even the most likely to be very worried about the financial consequences of their own premature death (54 percent vs. 39 percent of Boomers).
Millennials are also the most risk-averse when it comes to investing, once again the precise opposite of what one would expect based on age, and contrary to what investment advisors recommend for young adults. Eighty-one percent of today’s young workers prefer “guarantees that offer stable but somewhat lower returns” over “a higher degree of risk because the returns could be greater.” That’s 6 percent higher than for Gen Xers, 7 percent higher than for younger Boomers—and even 3 points higher than older Boomers, who are just a few years from retirement. Recent surveys have shown that Millennials indeed invest more conservatively than older workers.
And, as they have since childhood, Millennials are planning ahead for the long term and aiming to meet their life milestones “on time.” Young workers are by far the most worried about having enough money to buy a home and to pay off debts. This is expected, given their life stage, their high levels of student debt, and their consequent struggle to buy homes (see SI: “Why Young Adults Aren’t Buying Homes”). Yet this generation’s long-term planning goes even further. A remarkable 56 percent are “very concerned” about having enough money for their children’s college education. That’s higher than any other age bracket, including Gen Xers (52 percent) and younger Boomers (44 percent), who are far more likely actually to have children to save for.
Burdened with such strong financial concerns, seeking guidance and long-term security, to whom do Millennials turn? Enter the new “in loco parentis” employer. Young Boomers regarded long-term benefits as a relic of the old regime and seldom paid much attention to them. Young Gen Xers never met a long-term benefit they didn’t want to cash out—which, with the introduction of “total rewards” packages, they often did. Millennials are reversing this trend. They are accustomed to trusting institutions. They want employers to provide comprehensive benefits that support them, guide them, and protect them from life risks. Nearly half (49 percent) of Millennials strongly agree that they worry less about unexpected health and financial issues because of workplace benefits, compared to just 36 percent of Gen Xers, 35 percent of younger Boomers and 32 percent of older Boomers.
It should therefore be no surprise that benefits are a powerful tool for recruiting and retaining young employees. Millennials are the most likely to sign onto a company because of the benefits. Fifty-six percent agree that the benefits offered were an important reason why they came to work for their employer, a remarkable 25 points higher than older Boomers. And the benefits keep them there: 63 percent of Millennials say that benefits are an important reason why they have stayed with their employer, more than any other generation.
Millennials’ conception of benefits goes far beyond the usual insurance offerings. LifeCourse’s Why Generations Matter report found that it was Millennials who most valued employee support services like financial planning, tax prep assistance, and hands-on relocation assistance (61 percent of Millennials wanted this, compared to 44 percent of older Boomers). The MetLife survey similarly found that more Millennials “strongly value” education programs on individual finances and retirement planning (51 percent vs. 39 percent of Boomers). Paradoxically, all of these benefits would seem to be more attractive to older workers who have more complex taxes, broader investment portfolios, and larger families. Yet it is once more the young who most value their employers’ guidance and support.
In addition, both Millennials and Xers are more interested than Boomers in voluntary benefits that they can purchase and pay for on their own—though for very different reasons. Xers love choice, and prefer to opt in or out of benefits to fit their individual needs, rather than receiving a predetermined corporate package. Millennials highly value the corporate package, and want to add voluntary benefits on top of it. When asked about individual voluntary benefits, Millennials were the most likely to say they would be interested in actually purchasing them, from auto and home insurance to life insurance, disability insurance, and critical illness insurance.
Coming of age during the Great Recession has undoubtedly strengthened Millennials’ appetite for a benefits safety net. Two-thirds say that because of current economic conditions, they are counting more on employee benefits for help in achieving financial security (older generations agree, though by increasingly smaller shares). Yet the basic attitudinal drivers behind this appetite—risk aversion, long-term planning, and high institutional trust—have been with this generation for years. In a 2005 survey by Diversified Investment Advisors, 49 percent of Millennials said retirement benefits were a very important factor in their job choices, and 70 percent of those who were eligible were contributing to their 401(k) plan. A 2006 survey by the National Association of Collegiate Employers found that one of Millennials’ top criteria when choosing an employer was “good benefits package / stability (provides secure future).”
Since Millennials began entering the workforce, employers have routinely missed their focus on benefits, assuming that, like young Xers and Boomers, Millennials prefer high pay, flexibility, or prestige. On a 2007 Michigan State University survey, young adults ranked “job security” and “good benefits” as two of the most important characteristics they look for in a job. Yet when corporate recruiters were given the same survey, they mistakenly supposed that young adults would rate job security and benefits far lower, while overestimating characteristics like pay and prestige.
Today, as the MetLife survey shows, employers are increasingly taking note of the generational differences that shape employees’ approach to benefits. An overall rise in Millennial-friendly benefits is likely not far behind.
An immense challenge lies before the nation’s health care sector: diversifying its workforce. A 2012 study by executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, “Diversity as a Business Builder in Healthcare,” found that diversity is lacking in health care leadership. This is unfortunate because industry leaders surveyed in the study believe diversity in the workplace improves patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes. This impact on the customer likely has similar effects in other industries.
A key tenet of excellent health care — like any service-oriented industry that meets a customer’s needs — is the caregiver’s ability to understand patients’ needs. This includes their diverse cultural needs — since, as the study noted, minorities account for 98 percent of the population growth in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas during the last decade.
It’s all part of knowing who you serve. Where does a patient, or customer, come from? How about their culture, values and sensitivities? Are these just as important to how we meet their needs?
Knowing all this begins with hiring — and promoting — employees whose cultural backgrounds represent the patients the organization serves. This takes a commitment both internally with employees and externally in the communities served. Companies seeking to do this should take the following 10 steps:
1. Embrace diversity: This seems basic, but it’s critical and worth noting first. A diverse workforce is a true competitive advantage. Promoting a culture that values employees for unique skills, experiences and perspectives distinguishes an organization as all-inclusive, relevant and truly understanding of what customers want and need. In essence, it is a treasure trove of customer and business intelligence.
Internally, the more leaders understand and respect their employees’ differences, the easier it will be to make seemingly difficult conversations more comfortable. This is critical when serving a religiously, culturally or otherwise diverse customer base.
2. Create a visual of your team: Keep ethnicity and gender data on hand so that hiring managers can create a visual picture of the individuals on each team. When numbers and percentages fail, this mental image of who is on the team can help senior leadership see where diverse populations are underrepresented or underutilized and especially compare them to the customer population. Of course, this comes with the need to reassure the team that only the most qualified candidates should be hired.
3. Build a hit list of superstars: Ask existing staff to refer potential recruits, since great employees usually associate with one another or can easily spot a top performer. Not hiring immediately? Collect and build a list of superstars to hire in the future. Keep in touch with them in the meantime.
4. Network with diverse organizations: Develop relationships with ethnically diverse professional associations and organizations, as well as local community boards and civic associations. Attend their conferences, speak at their functions and reciprocate by inviting them to company open houses and job fairs. Also, connect with vendors and suppliers who share a value for diversity and alert them to job openings for which they may have a candidate.
5. Set diversity expectations with recruiters: When using outside recruiters, ask for a diverse set of candidates and examples of high-caliber recruits they have recently placed. If they cannot easily rattle off a litany of names, then find another recruiter.
6. Invite staff into the inner circle: Create an environment of inclusion where all staff members feel valued, embrace the company’s mission, feel part of its vision and are fully tuned in with the organization’s business strategy. Help them understand just how important diversity is to serving customers best and that every individual is a big part of that. It’s easy to lose top performers because they feel detached, especially in large organizations.
7. Let your employees shine: Acknowledge — and celebrate — your staff’s accomplishments and set them up for success. This small step goes a long way in engaging employees and encouraging them to go the extra mile. Give opportunities for employees to demonstrate excellence. Assign them projects that suit their skills, recognize their achievement and celebrate it in a public way — either inside or outside your organization. In this recognition, make a point to celebrate them as a diverse individual, not just their work.
8. Mentor and shadow: The best learning happens in the field, so develop a mentoring and shadowing program that pairs hiring managers with employees of different cultural or ethnic backgrounds or genders. This creates a trusted, educational environment where employees can feel safe about asking questions regarding different backgrounds, and also lets them see different cultural styles at work.
9. Achieve employees’ dreams: Encourage leaders to know the career desires of the staff who report to them. This puts them in the position to always know when a promotional opportunity might be the best fit and help further their career goals. It also gives the opportunity to challenge employees with new assignments that broaden their skills and expose them to different chances for success.
10. Over-communicate: Relationships matter, and they are only built with repeated communication. This could mean deliberately initiating a conversation with an employee, listening to what they say, providing feedback and calling their attention to your follow through. Or, it can mean brief acknowledgements of their work, which add up and make a difference over time. On the other end of the spectrum, it should take the form of an internal communications plan that, from an HR perspective, tells employees what positions are open, how to apply, updates from HR, etc.
A key to all these steps is relationships — inside and out — with those already hired and targeted to join your team. No matter the industry — be it health care or another — businesses can use focused attention on recruitment of minorities as a way to build culture, morale and the strength of the entire business.
All Rights Reserved 2012 – Sherri Elliott-Yeary
Here comes another collision in the generation wars, the fight about whether post-boomers are selfish, moneygrubbing fame seekers – the “Me” Generation – or confident, group-oriented volunteers – the “We” Generation.
In research published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, I found that, over the last 40 years, young people have become increasingly focused on money and fame while caring less about politics, their communities or the environment. My research based its conclusions on analyses of surveys taken by 9 million high school seniors and college freshmen.
At Clark University, Jeffrey Jensen Arnett studies “emerging adults,” those aged about 18 to 25. He doesn’t think change comes neatly packaged in generations, but said youth trends over the last 20 years have mainly been positive. Volunteerism and graduation rates are up, he said, while crime, drug use, and teen pregnancy are down. Today’s young people are tolerant of differences in ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religion, he said. If anything, he said, this is a “generous generation.”
My survey questions were about what students did, rather than what they thought, and it supported my view of how each generation chooses what is important to them.
According to the surveys I received, the proportion of students who said it was very important to be wealthy increased from 45 percent for baby boomers to 70 percent for Gen Xers and 75 percent for Millennials. The percentage who thought it was important to keep up with politics fell from 50 percent for boomers to 39 percent for Gen Xers and 35 percent for Millennials.
The biggest drop was in whether youths felt the need to develop a meaningful philosophy of life. Seventy-three percent of boomers thought that was important, compared with 45 percent of Millennials, but Millennials still thought it more important than money.
It’s not a news flash to those who’ve had to unexpectedly look for a new position, but for younger generations, that’s how they view work. A job is the place to learn, gather experience, make connections, build skills or a portfolio, but it’s not the last stop on the career train.
At the same time, they’re creating options for themselves, keeping an eye out for what’s next, and trading information with their vast online networks. Mobility is not limited to Millennials, however, my research found that the younger the executive, the more apt to voluntarily change jobs. Executives Who Considered Leaving their Job for Another Opportunity in 2011
Generation X (31-45) 58%
Early Boomers (46-55) 55%
Baby Boomers (56-65) 45%
Traditionalists (65+) 22%
Respondents to our recent annual executive market intelligence survey were, on average, employed 6.6 years at their current organization, and the time at the job lengthened according to their age. Average Number of Years at Most Recent Organization
Generation X (31-45) 5.8
Early Boomers (46-55) 6.4
Baby Boomers (56-65) 7.0
Traditionalists (65+) 9.9
The last few years have especially signified that no job should be considered permanent and that complacency is the partner of long-term job search. Career management is a perpetual state where you are always setting the foundation for the next opportunity — no matter how old you are.
As women, it can be hard to “toot our own horns” and own up to our strengths. But it’s so important to know your worth and to be able to speak to it! We’re reading the following four tips on self-promotion, from forbeswoman.com.
Want to make a woman feel uncomfortable? Just ask about her strengths. It’s no stereotype: Studies show that women are notoriously bad at promoting themselves.
One study, from employee search firm ISR, attributes this trait to the high value women place on relationships and communities. Women don’t speak about their strengths; the reasoning goes, because they don’t want to alienate people who are less successful.
Whatever its cause, this hesitance to self-promote hurts women’s careers. In today’s competitive world the people most vocal about their accomplishments are the ones most likely to get ahead. And by downplaying their accomplishments and deflecting praise onto others, women act like their own worst enemies.
As a marketing consultant for women business owners, I see this behavior all the time. I’ve also heard countless excuses for why women avoid self-promotion. These excuses tend to fall into one of four categories, which I’ve dubbed the four myths of self-promotion:
The Assertive Woman Myth-”Self-promotion will make me look arrogant.”
Not all self-promotion is shameless. Sometimes it’s essential to a successful career, whether that means reminding a boss of your achievements or publicizing the 10th anniversary of your business. But many women have trouble making the distinction between shameless bragging and smart marketing.
The Queen Myth-”If I’m good enough, people will hear about it.”
This myth originates from fairy tales where the princess waits for her knight to arrive and sweep her off her feet. Generations of girls have heard this story. Many grow up believing it’s true. If you work hard and wait patiently enough, someone will eventually notice.
Unfortunately, this only applies to fairy tales. In the corporate world most people are juggling too many responsibilities to notice what others are doing well. This goes double for people with the authority to give promotions and pay raises. For business owners, simply waiting for the right customers to appear is a recipe for failure.
The world is too full of competition for businesses to stay solvent without good promotion.
The Friends and Family Myth-”Others should talk about my accomplishments, not me.”
Some women assume that their friends, family and other customers will do their marketing for them by spreading positive word of mouth. While word of mouth is a great form of promotion, relying on word of mouth alone can hurt your chances of success.
Let’s face it–no one is more passionate about your work than you. No one else knows the depth of your experience and expertise. And no one can elaborate on your unique skills as convincingly as you can. By delegating promotion to others, you’re taking away your best opportunity to demonstrate your value.
The Martyr Myth-”You can’t control what people think anyway.”
When self-promotion makes you feel uncomfortable, it can be tempting to take a “why bother?” attitude. After all, people form their first impressions before you even say a word, so there’s no sense trying to change their minds … right? Wrong!
The Bottom Line
The myths you believe often mask a deeper insecurity about the value you place on what you have to offer. If you don’t fully believe in yourself, you’ll naturally resist stepping into the spotlight. This resistance, plus generations of conditioning to be humble and stand on the sidelines, has left many women unprepared for today’s ultra-competitive business world.
That doesn’t mean you have to play the role of a pushy saleswoman to get ahead. But it does require taking small steps outside your comfort zone. Get familiar with your strong points. Write them down if necessary and put them somewhere you’ll see them often. (Practice talking yourself up in front of friends: They’ll give you honest feedback about what works and what doesn’t.)
Most importantly, tap into your passion for what you do. By denying your passion a voice, you keep the world from benefiting from what you have to offer. And that’s the most shameful thing of all. Reprinted from ForbesWoman.com
While the recession flooded the market with available talent, the talent pool is once again starting to gain the upper hand in the job market. As the recession subsides, businesses that want to remain competitive will shift their focus from cost-cutting to employee retention. The trick is knowing exactly the right time to shift: companies that shift too soon will lose money, while companies that shift too late will lose talent.
Organizations that have cut staff and asked their remaining employees to pick up the slack may find themselves eventually losing good employees to burnout and the lure of greener pastures. Although it’s tempting to think the Great Recession unveiled some new economic model in which one person can effectively do the job of two, the reality is this model is not sustainable in a positive economy. Just as a runner can only sprint for so long, an employee can only burn the candle at both ends for so many months before he starts thinking about moving on.
Even despite tough economic times, the younger generations in particular still expect to achieve a balance between their LIFE and WORK, and organizations who rely on Generation X-ers and Millennials must meet these expectations in order to retain them. Beginning this year, there are more Millennials (born 1981-2000) alive than Baby Boomers (born 1944-1960). Over the next two decades, U.S. companies will lose 76 million Boomers to retirement, leaving 30 million jobs unfilled. The good news is, structuring programs that create the work-life balance so craved by Xers and Millennials does not necessarily mean businesses must put up with employees who are willing to work less. It simply means making a few minor adjustments to the traditional 9-5 paradigm, or maybe even implementing innovative mentoring and training programs, many of which are free.
Providing flexible work hours and accommodating people’s need to be in certain other places at certain other times is one of the most powerful ways to Attract and Retain top talent. A 2008 poll of 1500 technology workers conducted by Dice Holdings, Inc. revealed that 37 percent of workers would accept a salary cut if allowed to work from home. Accordingly, organizations may find they can save money and attract top talent for less by simply offering the ability to telecommute. This is a model that works even on a large scale—no less than 70 percent of Cisco Systems’ workforce currently telecommutes. Recent technological advances make remote management easier than ever before. It’s not difficult to monitor employees’ online presence, and VoIP phone systems will re-route calls to a direct office line through to any cell or home telephone. In this way, workers can be anywhere and still be available in the office.
Telecommuting programs are not the only way to motivate and retain talent. In addition to their desire for LIFE-WORK balance, Millennials tend to be highly motivated and ambitious. They want to work in positions where they have the opportunity to do meaningful work, to make a difference, to learn, and to advance their careers. Assigning projects that give Millennials the chance to work with senior management and share the spotlight keeps them excited about their job, which in turn motivates them to stay longer.
Adding this type of mentoring program is a cost effective solution to motivate and retain the best millennial talent, and it also has the added bonus of facilitating knowledge-transfer from soon-to-be-retiring workers to the up and coming leaders of the organization.
The workplace dynamic is changing. Businesses who successfully ride the crest of change will recruit and keep the best employees and maintain a competitive advantage in the market.
Susan was doing well in her job. She had an eight-hour workday, great friends, a supportive family, good health, and she was paid well. Everyone around her thought she was happy and lived an ideal life.
Susan was well-compensated and appeared to have time to balance her career and personal life. But she was struggling.
But Susan’s life was actually a mess. Her overly aggressive boss thought nothing of shouting at her in front of her colleagues. Though Susan was a good performer, she was constantly anxious about the next time her supervisor would berate her. Though she was expected to work eight-hour days, her boss would call her at any time of the day or night.
Susan began to dread hearing her cellphone ring and was so worried all the time that she couldn’t even sleep. She fretted that her colleagues and friends would lose respect for her, and she lost so much confidence that she couldn’t handle even the simplest of social interactions. Susana began to spend less time with her friends and family, where she would have to put up a brave face, and instead devoted more hours to work, where she could worry freely, obsessing over every detail of her job to the point of compulsiveness.
By most traditional measures of work-life balance, Susan was doing quite well. She was well compensated for an eight-hour workday, and she appeared to have enough free time to balance her career and personal life. But in reality, Susana was struggling. What’s more, her frustrations would not be picked up by conventional measures of wellbeing, because those measures don’t take into account the quality of people’s experiences, nor do they incorporate people’s own evaluations of their lives. Instead, those measures rely on factors like income and number of hours worked, under the assumption that these factors determine the quality of people’s lives.
Beyond work-life balance
When the idea of work-life balance was first introduced, it was a revolutionary concept. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Industrial Revolution and its resulting shift to manufacturing work made it possible for employers to require workers to labor longer hours than ever before in human history. In some industries, people toiled 14 to 16 hours a day, six to seven days a week.
As researchers began to study the impact that these long hours had on stress levels, health, and family life, the idea of work-life balance gained currency, and many countries began to legislate limits to the workweek. Most developed nations now mandate 40-46 working hours per week, with a minimum of two weeks per year of holiday/vacation.
The concept of work-life balance has been instrumental in influencing these changes and bringing about an improvement in the quality of life that is assumed to accompany shorter working hours. But the concept is useful only up to a point. Globalization has undermined the relevance of reducing worker hours to achieve work-life balance and has revealed limitations; the most significant is that at some point, limiting hours further is just not sustainable.
France has mandated a 35-hour workweek, for example. But what can the country do next? The workweek can’t be reduced indefinitely, as this has implications for a country’s economic viability and competitiveness. In a globalized world, if workers in one country are unwilling to work for economically viable hours, then businesses will migrate to a country where they are willing to do so. In countries such as India and Pakistan, workers are motivated to work 10- to 12-hour workdays — and this is unlikely to change soon due to the large number of workers willing to do so to move up the economic ladder.
Another problem with the concept of work-life balance is that it takes the number of working hours into account but not the quality of the working experience. A person may spend 35 hours a week at work, but if that worker, like Susan, has an abrasive manager or is in a highly stressful job or one that is not suited to her natural talents, then those manageable work hours are unlikely to enhance her quality of life. Conversely, a person may choose to work long hours because it allows her to progress in her career or to build a social system at work.
Thus, the assumption that reduced hours at work lead to an improvement in personal life is too narrow, and probably faulty. Other factors, such as social support, health, safety, and job fit, contribute greatly to the quality of a person’s life. Since the concept of work-life balance doesn’t take into account these significant factors, it does not provide direction as to how people can actually improve the quality of their lives, except for reducing the hours spent at work. As such, it is not actionable.
The assumption that reduced hours at work lead to an improvement in personal life is too narrow, and probably faulty
How we think about and experience our lives
A more comprehensive concept-one that’s more appropriate for the 21st-century economy-is that of wellbeing, which includes factors that contribute to our experiences and our perception of our lives. Until recently, wellbeing has been seen as an esoteric concept that is difficult to define and quantify. It is most commonly understood as relating to wealth or health, perhaps because of the ease with which these things can be measured.
One reason that wellbeing has been difficult to define is that it means different things to different people depending on what they consider important. To one person, it may mean prosperity or wealth; to another, it may mean values or community involvement or the realization of one’s potential. This is why wellbeing should be measured at the individual level, though it may be aggregated for organizations, communities, and nations. And any measure of wellbeing must be broad enough to incorporate an individual’s own choices and purpose in life while being specific enough to be compared and aggregated to facilitate action that can improve it.
Gallup has developed a wellbeing metric that includes the five key elements of wellbeing: Career, Social, Financial, Physical, and Community. These five distinct factors emerged from research that Gallup conducted across countries, languages, and vastly different life situations. Because these elements of wellbeing are universal, they can be measured and reported on for individuals, organizations, cities, countries, and regions around the world.
Because Gallup’s wellbeing assessment measures these elements individually in addition to yielding an overall score, it is actionable: The assessment gives individuals, organizations, cities, and countries the ability to manage wellbeing by undertaking actions to improve it. If an individual has relatively low Social Wellbeing, for example, she would do well to focus her efforts on improving interpersonal relationships with friends and family.
This can be managed over time. As her Social Wellbeing increases, she may choose to concentrate on Career Wellbeing, for instance, or choose to address both elements by spending time socializing with colleagues and making friends at work. In this way, wellbeing can be measured and managed comprehensively at the individual, as well as government, state, city, or corporate levels, by taking its various components and their interactions into account.
Conventional metrics such as employment status, income, educational level, hours worked, and women’s participation in the workforce are necessary to understand an economy, but they are insufficient when it comes to understanding and evaluating overall life satisfaction. Unless we begin to use a metric of a life well-lived — as measured by one’s own experiences and evaluation — people like Susan will continue to be under the radar, aware that something is amiss, but without an idea why or what to do about it.
The Five Essentials of Wellbeing
For many years studies have been done exploring the demands of a life well-lived. More recently, due to the evolving workforce and generational issues there has been an increasing need to understand how to help our employers achieve a well-balanced life. The elements of wellbeing that transcend the global work environment that differentiate a thriving life not a surviving life are as follows:
- Career Wellbeing: how you occupy your time — or simply liking what you do every day
- Social Wellbeing: having strong relationships and love in your life
- Financial Wellbeing: effectively managing your economic life
- Physical Wellbeing: having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis
- Community Wellbeing: the sense of engagement you have with the area where you live
Take a moment and enjoy all the gifts you have and it will reduce your stress and only say “YES” to the activities and life experiences that you know you want to do!