Allen Analytics

Are Your Employees Overworked During This Jobless Recovery? Five Key Questions to Ask.

In early 2009, as the economy was in the depths of the recession, we predicted that the total 2009 net job loss would be even greater than in 2008. But we never imagined that in 2009 there were would be a 57% increase in net job loss. That translates to 1.5 million more jobs lost is 2009 (4.1 million) than in 2008 (2.6 million).

After a net loss of almost 7 million jobs since 2008, the increase in GDP over the past two quarters, by definition, indicates that the recession is over. While the unemployment has always been a lagging indicator in an economic recovery (e.g., decrease in unemployment several months after GDP increases) in this recovery there has been a net job loss since the recession statistically ended, resulting in an increase in unemployment AND an increase in GDP - hence, what is called the job recovery.

What does this mean for employees, many who have contributed to the rise in GDP through the rise in productivity? Surveys conducted by Allen Analytics suggest that many employees are at their "breaking point." Overworked and underpaid for the amount of work they do, a large number of employees are keeping their organizations afloat, but at what price?

The jobless recovery is a "double whammy" for many employees. Caught in the new normal of doing more with less, employees whose workloads have increased due to layoffs are unlikely to see a reprieve any time soon. And to add insult to injury, employee mobility is at an all-time low given few other companies are hiring.

What can you do to determine how your employees are feeling about the economy? Surveying employees is key first step to determine what the impact is now, and what will happen once the labor force begins growing again. We recommend you be sure and include five key questions to get a clear understanding of these issues. These are typical questions asked in a survey and are measure on a 5-point agree scale.

  • 1. The amount of work I am expected to do is reasonable. If less than 60% of your workforce agrees with statement, it is likely that you have a workforce that is overworked. And they also are likely to feel underpaid and underappreciated, a sure sign they will leave at the first opportunity they get.

  • 2. There is good cooperation between departments. Another sign that the workload has negatively impacted employees is understanding the extent different work groups cooperate with each other. If resources are scarce, employees are more likely to focus on their own departments at the expense of others. If less than 40% of your employees agree with this item, there are signs that internal customer service is in trouble.

  • 3. I would recommend my organization to friend and family as a good place to work. This item is a common one used to measure employee engagement. In contrast to other items that typically measure engagement (e.g., commitment, satisfaction, pride) advocacy for the organization as a good place to work is typically more sensitive to declines when workload and job stress are high. If less than 60% of your employees agree with this item, there are likely not only to be workload, issues, but also concerns about quality as well.

  • 4. I feel free to voice my opinions openly in my organization.When this items drops below 50%, it signals a breakdown in two-way communications between employees and management. Employees in organization in which layoffs have occurred have implicitly received the message from organizations to "keep their mouths shut" if they want to keep their jobs. While often unintentional, it creates a culture where employees start to play it safe, which inhibit process improvement and innovation.

  • 5. Senior management show a genuine interest in the well-being of employees.When this items drops below 40%, it is a sign that employees are no longer connected to senior management and do not consider it a place for them to fully put their hearts, minds, and hands at work.
  • While it remains to be seen just how long the jobless recovery will continue, one thing is certain: there will be a job growth recovery, and organizations that address the above issues, during tough times, will reap huge benefits and emerge even stronger once the economy recovers.

    Dave Allen, Ph.D., is the Founder of Allen Analytics, a firm that specializes in employee survey research. click here to contact him.