Recently, Randstad, a global HR and staffing firm with expertise in the U.S. temporary employment market, released the results of the latest Workmonitor survey, a quarterly global survey. The results were kind of grim for both the employer and the worker.
By this point in time, we all know that US productivity has continued to climb throughout the course of the economic downturn. Getting more work done with fewer people. It’s a reality of business. If you’ve been in the workforce for more than a decade, you know what this means for you personally. Recently, it was reported that our overall productivity has pretty much topped out with not much room to squeeze more out of us for productivity and process improvements. Randstad’s survey is now looking at this issue from the individual worker level. And it “looks frightening”, says Eileen Habelow Ph.D., Sr. VP of Organizational Development at Randstad.
According to 59% of US employees, the requirements of their job have increased over the past 12 months, without offering anything in return. I can hear a resounding “duh” from the people reading that statistic, but stay with me while I lay out Eileen’s concerns and suggestions. Add to this finding the fact that 23% of us feel that our job is beyond our abilities. That means we have had a big pile of work given to us and that work isn’t something we think we can do.
If ever there is a train wreck waiting to happen, it’s being assigned work that you can’t do. It’s being set up for failure, perhaps not on purpose, but with the same end result. You can’t feel good about your work situation and any prospects for a good future. In further conversation with Eileen, she went on to say “when people are loaded down with work and they can’t succeed, it will impact the employee at a personal level with stress and potential health issues. In fact, we may look to see if there has been a rise in stress related illnesses in this past 12 months.” This is demoralizing, damaging to the self esteem and can have lasting effects.
While this can be bad news for the individual employee, Eileen went on to say “This is a dangerous problem for businesses. When your workforce is overwhelmed by the amount and type of work assignments, you will be impacted in many areas, such as loss of productivity, poor work relationships and bad customer service. All the things you would hope to gain can quickly erode.” The good news is that some businesses are reinstating programs to help create an environment for better work-life balance, but some companies simply can’t afford to consider them at this point.
The big “pile on” hasn’t taken place because business management is heartless. Most businesses that haven’t closed have had to lay off people and find ways of redistributing the work that remains over fewer people. The assignment of all of this work wasn’t anyone’s idea of a good thing, but rather the only option available.
While this recent survey seemed to suggest that people feel less hesitant to consider a job change to improve their situation, that data was collected before the recent stall out in job growth. Eileen says “People were feeling like they had options earlier this year, but that attitude may have changed.” I asked her what suggestions she could make and here is a summary of her response:
For business leaders:
Employers need to do some real thinking about the solution to this problem. If the economy picks up, they could experience a mass exodus, which can be a huge issue. If no exodus takes place, the problem may be trickier to solve. Businesses will have to get creative about their solutions to keep the other potential side effects abated. They can’t ignore this problem; it is imperative that it be addressed immediately.
In addition to this, consider breaking up work assignments, even projects, into smaller pieces and assign them to more people. This way, the impact of additional work is spread over more workers and may help to keep individuals from feeling so overwhelmed.
Work with your manager or someone who can do something about your work load. Hold a professional conversation free of emotions or blame. Don’t complain, but be open and honest about your work assignments and work load. Be ready to make suggestions for training or items to off load or stop doing all together.
Also, if you’re in this situation, get clear about what is expected of you. If you can see you will not meet those expectations, be ready to quickly flag the issue before you are too far into a situation for any remedy to work.
No one is a target in this situation, we have all fallen victim to the economic realities. We can do things to improve our situation right where we are. You don’t have to think that there are no alternatives. Get creative, make suggestions on things to change and be part of the solution to your own work load crisis.
For more career tips and advice – FREE newsletter and eworkbook: http://CareerMakeoverToolKitShouldIstayorShouldIGo.com/ From Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – Your Career Change Agent from www.nextchapternewlife.com and www.mbahighway.com