Nice Speech Mr. President, But Here’s What Workers Really Want You to Do

Jan 26, 2011

There are lots of kudos today for the tenor and tone of President Obama’s State of the Union speech, particularly his call for a bipartisan effort to build the economy and grow more jobs so America can can continue to lead the global economy.

That’s what American workers want to hear, of course, but they want the president to do a lot more than that, according to a new workplace survey that zeros in on the specifics people feel are needed to actually drive our economic growth.

According to a survey by Adecco Staffing US, nearly three-quarters of Americans (73 percent) believe that President Obama should change current tax policies to better encourage businesses to hire.

In addition, more than 68 percent of respondents want businesses to be offered more incentives or tax breaks to encourage them to hire. Further, 67 percent would like to see the government eliminate unnecessary regulations that discourage businesses from hiring in the first place.

Not working well enough, or quick enough

These are huge percentages, and they point to one thing: American workers are VERY focused on what is needed to drive business growth and really get the economy rolling again.

“The message is loud and clear: Americans feel changes are needed in government’s approach to jobs and labor in order to get people back to work quicker,” said Tig Gilliam, CEO of Adecco Group North America, in a press release about the survey.

“What we have now isn’t working well enough or quick enough and people feel it, especially the unemployed. That said, Americans aren’t asking for a handout. Rather, they’d like to see some of the barriers to jobs lifted – better alignment of incentives and elimination of barriers – to free up hiring.”

According to the survey that was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation on behalf of Adecco Staffing US, part of the world’s largest recruitment and workforce solutions provider, more Americans are focused on “bulking up” their skills and expertise in 2011; one-third (35 percent) of Americans indicated they plan pursue additional training and education in 2011, up from only 21 percent in 2010.

However, workers may be planning to parlay that increased education and skill into a new job as more than 30 percent indicated they plan to look for a new job in 2011. This is especially true of younger generations; 50 percent of 18-to-34 year olds plan to look for a new job in 2011, while one quarter (26 percent) of 35-54 year olds plan to do the same.

Men more likely to look for a new job

That workers are ready to jump to a new job isn’t a great surprise, of course, because many other surveys have shown the same thing. It’s a referendum on how too many companies treated their employees during the Great Recession, and it speaks to a real problem with employee engagement that will be extremely difficult for many organizations to overcome.

Some additional findings of note from the survey include:

  • Employees plan to ask for more rewards in the workplace in 2011. A renewed sense of confidence in the direction of the economy may be the catalyst that’s inspiring workers to ask for more in the year ahead. While only 9 percent of Americans asked for a raise, bonus or promotion at work in 2010, this year that figure will more than double, with 20 percent of people expecting to ask for these rewards in 2011.
  • Men more likely than women to look for a new job, expect a raise in 2011. Compared to women, in 2011 men are more likely to look for a new job (38 percent compared to 21 percent), start a new job (34 percent compared to 22 percent) and expect a raise, bonus or promotion (41 percent compared to 29 percent).
  • Younger generations want President Obama to create retro “New Deal” and a stimulus to boost jobs. When asked what advice they’d give President Obama to get more Americans back to work, more than half (51 percent) of 18-34 year olds would recommend he create a significant public works plan similar to the New Deal from the 1930s, whereas 41 percent of those aged 35 plus do.
  • More working parents plan to pursue education/training for career advancement in 2011. For Americans with children, 46 percent plan to pursue additional education and training in the year ahead, compared to just over a quarter (29 percent) of those Americans without kids. These career boosting efforts might be paying off, too. In 2010, more than a quarter (27 percent) of parents received a raise or promotion or bonus at work, compared to 17 percent of those without children.

Americans want stronger action

“The results of this survey confirm Americans want to see the government take stronger action to boost jobs creation,” said Gilliam. “When you see results that indicate only 2 percent of Americans think the efforts underway are effective – that’s a call to action for change.”

Yes, President Obama was encouraging in his speech, and yes, his call for change as we face “our generation’s Sputnik moment” resonated with a Boomer like me who well remembers the challenges and great accomplishments that came out of President Kennedy’s call for Americans to come together behind a plan to go to the moon.

But as the Adecco survey shows all too well, American workers have strong, specific, and focused opinions on what their government needs to do to help get jobs and the economy moving again.

Like most Americans, I want President Obama’s words to be the start of something big. I hope that is the case, and that our “Sputnik moment” becomes the beginning of a real focus on jobs and growth rather than just another line from another speech that will soon be forgotten and discarded amidst partisan bickering by all too many of our decision makers inside the Beltway.