Half Your Employees Aren't Happy: So, How Competitive Are You?

Imagine playing a game when a third of your team is looking to join another one and another portion is just going through the motions. Guess what? You’re in that game.


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“Diminished loyalty and widespread apathy can undermine business performance, particularly as companies increasingly look to their workforces to drive productivity gains and spur innovation.”  That’s Mindy Fox, a senior partner at Mercer (mercer.com), a global provider of consulting and other activities particularly as it pertains to human capital.

Mercer has recently conducted a global “What’s Working” survey among some 30,000 workers in 17 countries, and the results from the U.S., for which Ms. Fox is the region leader, are particularly disturbing.  The sample size for the U.S. was 2,400 workers.


  • 32% of U.S. workers are “seriously considering” leaving their jobs.

Think about that for a moment.  Even though the economy is still limping and the unemployment rate is soaring, about one in three is ready to go do something else.

What’s more, of those who are seriously considering quitting, the largest majority is among the younger cohort of workers, those under 45 years old.  While there is something to be said for experience, there is a lot to be said for fresh ideas and energy, especially as the auto industry is undergoing a considerable transition.

And there is another metric that ought to give executives and managers pause:

  • 21% indicate that they’re not seriously considering leaving or staying.

This means about a fifth of the employees are just there, in effect.  And of this group, the numbers aren’t all good vis-à-vis how they feel about the organizations where they work.  As in:

  • 48% are proud to work for the organization
  • 34% feel a strong sense of commitment to the organization
  • 40% see a long-term future with the organization
  • 29% believe the organization as a whole is well managed

When you have a fifth of your staff having that sense of things, it is not good.

There is probably not a single OEM or supplier company today that doesn’t have higher expectations for the amount of work that each of its employees is expected to perform.  Who isn’t doing the tasks that used to be done by two or more people?

And yet, look at those numbers: 32% seriously considering leaving and 21% who are not feeling all that engaged by the organization: Fully half the team not really on the team.

So how can you get world-class products out of that situation?  Not easily, I think.

Ms. Fox does have a recommendation regarding what management should do to make a greater percentage of their employees interested in staying or in having a greater sense of commitment to the organization: “Employees see a ‘disconnect’ between what employers are promising and what they are delivering.  Organizations should re-examine their deals—both the traditional and the non-traditional elements—then support them with effective administration and consistent, authentic communication that fosters a sense of belonging and helps employees make better rewards choices and career decisions.”

One of the things that gets lost in much of the political rhetoric about the unemployment rate in this country is the fact that there are plenty of jobs—whether it is for skilled machinists or talented designers and engineers—that can’t be filled because there aren’t the people who can fulfill the requirements.  (Which is why education and training are so vital.)

Chances are, of that 53% of fully or somewhat disaffected employees, a good percentage of these people have the abilities and capabilities that are useful in getting done whatever it is that your company does.  Replacing these people is probably not as easy as doing the simple things—living up to promises, communicating, making people feel valued—that Ms. Fox enumerates.

There hasn’t been a more demanding time in this industry since the early days, when there was a proliferation of OEMs that, due to competition, were winnowed down to a comparative handful.  Anyone at any company that thinks that their company will invariably survive is sorely mistaken.  Every day is a new challenge, and every day, it seems, there are new challengers.

Without the full complement of employees supporting competitiveness—well, that’s a recipe for failure.  It may be fast.  It may be slow.  But it is inevitable.