Towers Perrin's recently released 2007 Global Workforce Study shows fascinating shifts in commonly-held beliefs. However, I must express a level of caution in reading the results.
1.) Towers Perrin states that a "stressed out" workforce appears to be over-stated. Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed report reported being "neutral to energized" by on-the-job stress.
My caution: "Neutral" is not a positive word in my book. What percentage are "neutral"? A car does not move forward in neutral. It only stays put or rolls back. The same thing is true of people.
2.) Technology is not the enemy. The vast majority (86 percent) felt it actually helped them achieve some level of balance between their personal and professional lives and that it signals an awareness that the world operates on a 24/7 basis.
My caution: It comes from the word "some." Technology is a great tool as long as we control it rather than the other way around. It also requires that management is very clear about what really matters, so that "connected time" is not wasted time. If everything is important, nothing is important.
3.) Work is not the center of our lives. More than half of the respondents (59 percent) reported that they work to support their lives and family needs, versus 18 percent who agreed that work was the most important aspect of their lives. Among U.S. respondents, 72 percent agreed that they essentially work to live.
My caution: If one only works to live, a company better pay close attention to programs and trainings that help workers balance personal and life responsibilities. If not, a worker is off to the next organization that enables work/life flexibility.
4.) Senior leadership actions have greater influence than first-line managers on engagement and retention. Although a good relationship with direct reports is critical, senior leaders are scrutinized carefully for their decisions and visibility, along with learning and opportunities for advancement.
My caution: I am concerned that senior leaders will not heed this very important finding. A February 2007 Opinion Research study corroborates that the top workplace frustration is poor communication by senior management about the business. So, on both counts, senior leaders best heed the cry of the workplace. The workers seek ethical decisions, transparency, clarity and visibility.
Bottom line: Data is always worthy of study and of more in-depth analysis. At the end of the day, we want numbers as well as plain talk about what matters.