Career Advice

When the Music Starts…

The word has come down from on high that “the recession has ended.”  When this declaration trickles down to the employment market, we will start to see movement from people getting up from their chairs and starting to make moves.  From new survey data that reveals 20% of employees expect to seek a new job when the music starts and current conversations with executives and employees, there are a lot of people watching how companies treat employees from here on out to decide if they want to stay a part of the company — or not.  It would not be unusual to hear these thoughts being passed around the water cooler:

  • I am making less money now than last year…so what happens to my salary in 2010? Companies are talking about recovery revenue and reaping the benefits of reduced costs.  Will these changes translate to restored salary cuts or does the company look at these savings as permanent? According to a recent survey of the Conference Board, companies are predicting 2010 salary budgets at 3% – the lowest in 25 years. 

  • I still expect more and why not since I am doing more? The survey says, 1 in 3 are expecting a pay raise in next 12 months and 62% of those eligible expect a bonus, 11% expect more than last year.   If employees are doing more and their increases (potentially off a smaller base than the year before) are even smaller, then the mismatch of expectations will be hard to reconcile intellectually and emotionally.
  • What is the new normal?…I need to know. Will employers restore lost wages and compensation or should I expect to remain where I am? The new survey reveals that two out of three employees who had their personal pay reduced in 2009 are expecting a pay raise, bonus or promotion with economic recovery.  Absent of clear definition around the new normal, employees are going to hope for the best which can lead to disappointment and resentment.  Companies that work now to clearly define the new baseline and what to expect going forward, can win back hearts and minds. Those who leave people in the dark should expect more people leaving because no one likes to be in the dark for long, especially if they feel misled.  Plus, with sites out there like Glassdoor.com that increase transparency and make it easier to see compensation and employee opinions about companies, it won’t take long for your employees to become their employees.

No one knows for sure when  — or if — a full recovery will occur, but now is the time for employers to rethink how they communicate, what they do now and later and how to reset the new baseline.  Those that are open in their communication, transparent in their decisions and fair in their approach, stand a better chance of retaining talent when the music starts up again. The ones that are the worst off will be the ones who leave any smallest impression that around the Board room table, someone says, “let’s do what we want to do, because where are they going to go anyway?” “Beware, the employees know better.”