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Gartner: Employee effort declines

December 24, 2018

U.S. employees’ effort continues to drop, according to new data from Stamford IT consulting and research firm Gartner.

In the third quarter, 16.3 percent of workers reported they were willing to go above and beyond their job expectations, down 10 points from the same period in 2013. It represents the lowest level, in that category, since 2010.

Gartner officials largely attribute the decline to a gap between workers’ compensation expectations and employers’ pay plans, low unemployment levels that have made hiring replacements more difficult and a desire for greater work-life balance.

“Something that could worsen the downward trend, in terms of employees putting forth the highest levels of effort, is if employers fail to meet employees’ expectations about annual raises,” said Brian Kropp, group vice president of Gartner’s HR practice.

Employees are expecting, on average, an approximately 4 percent raise in 2019, but companies are only planning 2 percent pay increases for the next year, according to Gartner. In the past quarter, U.S. wages and salaries grew about 3 percent year-over-year, the largest such increase in the past 10 years.

Without significant pay hikes, many professionals do not see major incentives to boost their productivity, Kropp said. A large number of them are also willing to trade career advancement for better work-life balance.

“If inflation is 2 percent, give or take, and the raise is 2 percent, many employees will say, ’What’s the point? Why should I put forth additional effort if I’m not going to get ahead?” Kropp said.

Meanwhile, many managers are willing to put up with underperforming workers given the difficulty and expense of finding replacements. Unemployment has dropped to 3.7 percent nationally and 4.2 percent in Connecticut.

If capable successors can be found, a 15 percent increase over their current compensation is often needed to recruit them, according to Kropp.

“A lot of employers are basically saying, ’I can’t fire anybody, because if I do, it will take months to find someone, and whoever I replace the person with, odds are, will be worse,” Kropp said. “So you have to choose between keeping someone in place, or getting rid of them and have it take months to find someone lower performing.”

Significant HR and economic changes could reverse the decreasing employee effort.

“I think we’re going to have to see sustained rewards improvements in companies or the labor market worsening to really change that trend,” Kropp said.

The survey findings draw on Gartner data covering more than 22,000 employees in 40 countries.

pschott@scni.com; 203-964-2236; twitter: @paulschott

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