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HR professionals share their advice for minimizing worker stress and boosting retention.
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Only about half of U.S. workers say they believe that their employers are open and upfront with them, according to the results of a recent survey.
While 64 percent of employed adults feel that their organization treats them fairly, 1 in 3 say their employer is not always honest and truthful with them—and one-quarter say they don’t trust their employer at all, according to the results of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2014 Work and Well-Being Survey.
“This is a big deal for employers because when employees perceive that things aren’t fair … it affects not only their attitudes about work but their performance on the job as well,” says David W. Ballard, head of the APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence.
The layoffs, benefits cuts and job insecurity that accompanied the recession put a strain on the employee-employer relationship. “Employees don’t soon forget,” Ballard added.
Workers reported having more trust in their company when the organization recognizes employees for their contributions, provides opportunities for involvement and communicates effectively, according to the survey results, released in April.
The online survey of 1,562 full-time U.S. employees was conducted from Jan. 28 to Feb. 4 by Harris Poll on behalf of the APA.
Although a majority of workers reported being content with their jobs overall, they weren’t so happy with specific areas of their professional lives. Fewer than half said they were satisfied with development opportunities (49 percent) and employee recognition practices (47 percent).
Fifty-two percent of the respondents said their organizations make them feel valued, the survey found. Employees who feel valued were more likely to report that they are motivated to do their very best for their employer and to recommend their workplace to others.
“It’s a lot harder to repair damage that was done than to maintain a good relationship in the first place,” Ballard says.
But it can be done. HR professionals can start by inviting employees to talk about their relationship with the employer and gathering their ideas on how to improve it, he suggests.
A company’s approach to the layoff process can minimize the negative mental health effects of not only those workers whose positions are terminated but also those who aren’t laid off, say researchers led by a team of epidemiologists from the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth.
The team interviewed 758 workers in France, Great Britain, Hungary and Sweden who were affected by layoffs that reduced their company workforces by at least 10 percent.
While most people would expect that employees who lose their jobs will suffer from depression and anxiety from the loss of their livelihood, “it is something of a surprise to researchers ... that a substantial number of people who are just caught in the downsizing process, who are employees who will remain with the firm, also go through periods of depression and anxiety,” says M. Harvey Brenner, a University of North Texas Health Science Center professor and lead author of the study.
When companies used layoff processes that were transparent, understandable, fair and well-planned, workers—those retained and those let go—were less likely to suffer depression and other mental health effects, the researchers found.
For example, if workers believed their employer’s explanation for the downsizing, they were less likely to experience symptoms of depression. However, when employees perceived the layoff process as chaotic or unfair, their odds of having symptoms of depression increased.
HR professionals can help by informing business leaders what the implications of the planned layoffs may be. They can also keep employees informed about the process and “try to deal with them in an open, transparent, morally justified manner,” Brenner says.
The study, published in May 2014 in PLOS One, an online journal, was supported by the European Community Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity and included researchers in France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary and Sweden.
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