Managing people

Towers Watson – Australians More Pessimistic Than Recessionary Countries: Managing People

Australian workers pessimistic as they wait for economic storm to hit: Report

By Michelle Hammond
Thursday, 23 August 2012

Australian employees are more pessimistic about job security and financial wellbeing than those in recession-hit countries because they fear the worst is yet to come, a new report reveals.


The report, by global advisory firm Towers Watson, covers more than 32,000 employees across a range of industries in 29 markets around the world, including 1,000 Australian employees.


According to the report, more than half (56%) of Australian employees are worried about their future financial state, compared to 46% in recessionary countries such as the United Kingdom.


But Lesley Brown, Towers Watson regional practice leader for employee surveys and insights, says it’s not surprising Australian employees are pessimistic.


“There have been layoffs occurring across a range of industries over the past few years as well as a strong focus on the weak global economy in our current affairs,” Brown says.


It should come as no surprise, then, to learn job security is the main attraction for Australian employees, according to the report, ahead of advancement and development opportunities.


Pay and job security are also top of mind for Australian employees when they are thinking of leaving a company.


The report shows Australian employees are critical of their organisation and management, with only 42% agreeing they have trust and confidence in senior leadership.


This rating is largely consistent with other developed countries, regardless of whether or not they are in recession.


About 45% of Australian employees believe the information they receive from their leaders, while the figure is 42% in countries experiencing economic turmoil such as Greece and Spain.


Brown says Australians are hearing a lot of warnings about the future, which could explain their scepticism.


“I think there’s a lot of messages out there about the two or three-speed economy, and conversations about job losses and the future state of our nation,” she says.


“I think people are wondering if the worst is yet to come, whereas the other countries who have been in a recession are really coming out the other side of that tunnel now.”


“We’re sitting on the other side of it wondering if we’re going into it.”


Brown believes companies can boost staff morale – and thus improve productivity – by offering more support and stronger leadership.


“In the current climate, employees are finding it particularly difficult to sustain the kind of [positivity] that yields consistent productivity,” she says.


“When they are not fully engaged, it leads to greater performance risk for employers.”


“Without attention and interventions aimed at improving on-the-job support for employees and creating the right environment... this trend could worsen and directly affect business outcomes.”


Brown says employees aren’t getting the level of support they need in order to continue giving “discretionary effort” on the job, insisting there is a “real imperative for change right now”.


“By taking actions to address identified gaps, organisations will be able to move some of the unsupported and detached to engaged – and likely experience a measurable and positive impact on financial performance.”

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