What Do Your Employees Really Want?


Link to Full HRS Survey Findings

Advancement potential is now more important to employees than job security, according to a recent employee survey by Waukesha-based Human Resource Services (HRS) Inc.

The new survey results also indicate that employees want flexible work schedules and more vacation time.

For the survey, HRS recently polled more than 2,800 employees, mostly in the metropolitan Milwaukee area, to find out what they are looking for from their employers. This is the fourth year that HRS has conducted the survey.

Since the first survey in 2004, the level of employee demand for advancement potential has more than doubled, and this year it has surpassed the demand for job security to become the top employee motivator.

The strength of the economy is responsible for the increase in demand for advancement opportunities, according to Jessica Ollenburg, president and chief executive officer of HRS.

"Once the economy rebounded to a point where downsizing was no longer expected and job security became trusted, people started looking towards other things that are important," she said.

For similar reasons, employee demand for a flexible work schedule also is on the rise. Flexible scheduling is now a more powerful magnet for employees than retirement plans or tuition reimbursement, according to the HRS survey.

A flexible schedule is especially attractive to employees making more than $50,000 per year, as they are more willing to trade pay for flexibility more than any other benefit, according to the survey results. Those making less than $50,000, on the other hand, were mostly unwilling to trade pay for a flexible work schedule, ranking it last among five choices.

Many employees making more than $50,000 have gotten to a point in their lives where they are supporting a family and have other household obligations, so structuring a work schedule around those obligations can be more practical and save parents money in child care, Ollenburg said.

The survey results indicate that many employees are willing to travel for work. Almost 60 percent of the employees surveyed said they are willing to travel up to 25 percent of their work time, while 24 percent of those surveyed were willing to travel even more. That part of the survey was a little surprising, Ollenburg said.

"In practice, we find it harder to find people to travel," she said.

Those making more than $50,000 were less willing to travel than those making less. Again, Ollenburg said, as household obligations grow, it becomes less practical for many employees to travel.

The survey results also indicate that extra vacation time has become the most attractive employee recognition award.

"Although they want it, many people don't take it," said Ollenburg.

However, even though many employees do not use all of the vacation time that they are offered, it is still a popular reward that attracts and motivates employees and it might not cost employers as much as they fear it will because a lot of it goes unused, she said.

Since the job market is reactive, rather than proactive, all of the employee attitudes reflected by the survey findings will change if the economy slumps, Ollenburg said. When the economy slips again, demand for job security will rise and demand for benefits such as a flexible work schedule will fall, she said.

By Greg Stanley

Also posted for comment on Biz Times Business Blog