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Economic downturn raising loyalty among Australian employees, survey reveals

The economic downturn in Australia has generated a powerful sense of engagement between workers and bosses, with more than a quarter of employees surveyed saying they are more loyal to their employer, according to the latest survey from Kelly Services.

The survey, conducted between early October 2009 and the end of January 2010, finds that 29 percent say the economic downturn has made them more loyal, while 7 percent say it has made them less loyal, and 64 percent say it’s made no difference.

Those workers who are more loyal to their employers attribute the shift to positive management, pay levels that have improved or remained steady, and active communication from senior executives.

Those who are less loyal say it’s due to poor management, falling pay, and low company morale.

The findings are part of the Kelly Global Workforce Index, which obtained the views of approximately 134,000 people, including more than 20,000 in Australia.

The impact of the economic slowdown on work attitudes has been greatest among Gen Y (aged 18-29) where 31 percent say the downturn has made them more loyal, compared with 28 percent of Gen X (aged 30-47) and 26 percent of baby boomers (aged 48-65).

Karen Colfer, managing director, Kelly Services Australia says, employers who have communicated openly with their staff about the difficult economic conditions and who have tried their best to look after staff have been able to build strong levels of trust in their organisations.

“This heightened loyalty is likely to become a real advantage, with a more committed and focussed workforce, as the economy recovers.”

Results of the survey in Australia reveal: 44 percent of respondents say they feel ‘totally committed’ to their current employer, ranging from 47 percent among baby boomers, 44 percent for Gen X and 43 percent for Gen Y.

When asked to name the one thing that would make an employee more committed to their job, 40 percent cite ‘more interesting or challenging work’, followed by ‘higher salary or benefits’ (19 percent).

Company reputation is considered ‘very important’ in job selection and retention by 48 percent of baby boomers but only 36 percent of Gen Y. 45 percent of Gen Y are ‘very confident’ in their employers’ ability to be good corporate citizens, higher than for both Gen X (39 percent) and baby boomers (38 percent).

The reputation of an organisation is shown to be a key element in the way that employees and prospective employees weigh their career decisions.

In assessing a firm’s reputation, employees place most weight on the quality of its leadership, products and services, and employees. Least important are features such as global presence, financial performance and initiatives aimed at fostering corporate social responsibility.

“When we look at the things that motivate people in the workplace, it’s clear that opportunities for personal growth and development are critical, as is the chance to perform stimulating and challenging work,” said Colfer.

“Pay is certainly a motivator but it’s not as big as some imagine, which means that employers have to examine a broader range of employee conditions and business features if they want to have the workforce performing at its best,” she concluded.

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