The State of the American Workforce
The Inc./Gallup Survey
|Take the Inc. Gallup poll yourself and compare your answers to the averages. Also: read " The New-Economy Almanac" for a statistical and informational snapshot of today's businesses.|
This year's skinny: workers in the United States say that times are good (still), that local businesspeople are heroes, and that the global marketplace is very scary (though they think the economy benefits when we do business abroad). The survey also reveals that one out of eight full-time employees moonlights; that youth is still wasted on the young (Generation X-ers claim the most job security but the least satisfaction); and that when it comes to praise in the workplace, women like it in writing, boomers like it more than they get it, and small companies are quickest to hand it out.
Those are among the findings of the second annual Inc./Gallup survey of American workers. You'll read about those and other discoveries in the comments annotating the survey results, below. And you'll see reflected in those notes two unmistakable patterns: when it comes to job satisfaction, Americans in smaller workplaces have it better, but Americans who own their workplaces have it best.
The top 10 findings are numbered. For readers who recall last year's survey, the first finding has a history.
1. Economic Anxiety?
What Economic Anxiety?
What a difference a year makes. No, not in the level of workplace satisfaction. That's the same as last year. (See Inc.'s State of Small Business 1996, " The Happiest Workers in the World.") But, ah, how the press has done a dramatic reversal. Take BusinessWeek, for example. On March 11, 1996, "Economic Anxiety" cried out from its cover. By September 23, that headline had evolved to "Whatever Happened to Economic Anxiety?" Indeed.
2. Small Is Big
The smaller the company, the more "extremely satisfied" are its workers--by a long shot (44%, compared with 31% and 28% for midsize- and large-company workers). And also, the more secure workers feel about their jobs.
And why not? After all, small-business workers are more likely to feel that they had the opportunity every day to do what they do best; had the chance to learn and grow over the past year; were fairly recognized for their contributions; were compensated fairly; had opinions that counted; and had jobs that were important because of the mission of their company. Despite the apparent happiness, however, small-business workers are also the most likely by far to say they'll go into business for themselves within the next two years.
3. How to Kill Loyalty (in Three Easy Steps)
Workers who say they plan to start their own business in the next two years are less likely than the average to say that they've had opportunities to learn and grow, that the mission of their employer makes them feel their jobs are important, and that someone at work encourages their development. Gee, why would they leave?
4. Doesn't Anything Make Them Happy?
Compared with the 35-to-49 and 50-plus age groups, Generation X-ers and other young workers (ages 18 to 34) feel more secure in their jobs, are more likely to say that someone at work encourages their development, and are more likely to have had someone talk to them about their progress. And yet 18- to 34-year-olds are far less likely than older workers to be "extremely satisfied" with their jobs.
5. Women's Work
Women are much more likely than men to say they have a best friend at work (61% versus 53%), have the opportunity every day to do what they do best, have someone at work who encourages their development, and in the past six months have had someone at work talk to them about their progress. And in what may be a sad reflection of our times, more women than men hold down a second job--but only 35% of them own the business at which they have that second job, while 57% of the men own their moonlighting business.
6. Department of Complaint
As they did last year, most workers (61%) say that over the past 12 months they've grown more secure on the job--and only a third as many say they've grown less secure. But 20% of all full-time workers is almost 13 million people. And 13 million people are a market. Consequently, at least two Web sites have cropped up to serve the disgruntled: Working Wounded (workingwounded.com) and the aptly named Disgruntled: The Business Magazine for People Who Work for a Living (www.disgruntled.com), whose mascot, Grunty, reminds us that " work is a four-letter word."
7. Bad for Me, Great for Us
Who said that average employees can't see past their personal self-interest? While almost no one believed that reorganization, reengineering, or the global marketplace was good for workers (15%, 10%, and 8%, respectively), comfortable majorities viewed each as good for the economy (66%, 60%, and 69%, respectively).
8. Moonlighting Becomes You
It turns out that 13% of full-time working Americans (about 8.5 million people) hold at least one extra job. The moonlighters are more likely to be women and to work for a midsize company in the South. They're twice as likely as nonmoonlighters to have owned a business at one time, and most have worked at their moonlighting job for 10 years or more. Also, according to the survey, 64,700 people don't know if they have a second job or not. ("Um, what was the question again?")
9. Owners Are Not like You and Me
Nearly 8.5 million of the 64.7 million full-time adult American workers (13%) say that they own their own business--and they like it that way. They're twice as likely as nonowners to be "extremely satisfied" on the job.
They should be. Owners are more likely than nonowners to say that their opinions seem to count at work, that they had the opportunity to learn and grow in the past year, and that they are compensated fairly. Still, do they get enough nurturing? Only 47% of them say they were spoken to about their progress in the past six months, compared with 64% of nonowners.
10. It's Under Control
A combined 78% of workers expect either to stay with their current employer or to voluntarily change jobs. Only 4% think they'll be forced to change jobs because of termination. The choice, they overwhelmingly believe, is in their own hands.
|On a 5-point scale, where 1 is extremely dissatisfied and 5 is extremely satisfied, how satisfied are you with your place of employment?|
|At work, do you have the opportunity every day to do what you do best?||
|Does your supervisor or someone at work seem to care about you as a person?|
|In the past seven days, have you received recognition or praise for good work?||
|Do you know what is expected of you at work?|
|At work, do your opinions seem to count?|
|Is there someone at work who encourages your development?|
|In the past six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?||
|This past year, have you had opportunities at work to learn and grow?||
|Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?|
|Does the mission of your employer make you feel that your job is important?|
|Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?|
|Do you have a best friend at work?|
|Do you believe you will continue with your current company until you retire?||
|Do you feel that you have been recognized fairly by your employer for your contributions?|
|Are you more secure or less secure in your job than you were a year ago?|
|About the same||19%|
|From your most objective viewpoint, have you been compensated fairly this past year?||
|Which of the following is the most effective way an employer can recognize you as an employee?||
|An annual performance evaluation||6%|
|A cost-of-living raise||11%|
|A raise that is tied to your performance||44%|
|Public recognition in front of all employees||9%|
|A personal note from your manager or supervisor recognizing your achievements||14%|
|A promotion or higher title||10%|
|Thinking just about the United States, do you have a generally positive opinion or a generally negative opinion of the following?||
|Business and industry||71%||8%||20%|
|Which of the following do you feel best benefits our economy?||
|Large multinational corporations||21%|
|Entrepreneurial growth businesses, started by one person or a small group of people||36%|
|Small local businesses||41%|
|Does each of the following workplace terms represent something that is more beneficial for the average worker or more beneficial for the company?||
|Benefits worker||Benefits company||Never heard of it|
|Self-directed work teams||58%||27%||11%|
|Does each of the following workplace terms represent something that is generally positive or generally negative for the economy?|
|Self-directed work teams||84%||6%|
|Do you currently work at a second job?|
|Is this second job a business of your own, or someone else's?|
|Do you expect this second job to be your primary source of income in the future?||
|How long have you been working at your second job?|
|Less than 1 year||21%|
|1 year to less than 3 years||23%|
|3 years to less than 5 years||16%|
|5 years to less than 10 years||12%|
|10 years or more||26%|
|Have you ever owned your own business?||
|Do you still own that business?|
|Would you ever consider starting your own business?||
|Have you taken steps to start your own business?|
|Do you plan to go into business for yourself in the next two years?||
|Thinking about the next 10 years, which one of the following best describes what is most likely to happen with regard to your present job?|
|You will stay with current employer||42%|
|You will be forced to change jobs because of job termination||4%|
|You will voluntarily choose to change jobs||36%|
|You will leave the labor force permanently||12%|
|You will leave the labor force temporarily||4%|
|Don't know/refused to answer||2%|
*Percentages do not add up to 100% for some questions because of rounding and "don't know" responses.
- Read " The New-Economy Almanac" for a statistical and informational snapshot of today's businesses and how they are operating in the new economy.
- Take the Inc. Gallup poll yourself and compare your answers to the averages.
How the Inc./Gallup survey was conducted: In January 1997, the Gallup Organization conducted a nationwide survey for Inc. magazine. All participants were required to be at least 18 years old and employed at least 30 hours a week. With the survey methods used and a sample of 801 respondents, the resulting maximum expected error range, at a 95% confidence level, is plus or minus 3%.