When the nation is at nearly full employment, small businesses often face additional challenges when it comes to dealing with employees. Here are some HR trends and best practices small business owners should know.
By Rieva Lesonsky
1—The State of the Digital Workplace
Digital transformation is no longer just a buzzword, but an enterprise priority, according to Igloo Software. By the end of 2019, spending on digital transformation is expected to reach $1.7 trillion worldwide, up 42 percent from 2017. And many business leaders feel they’re in a digital race, with two-thirds saying they believe their companies must pick up the pace to remain competitive. But how does this sense of urgency play out on the ground? Do current tools enhance knowledge sharing? Do employees trust the security of their internal systems? The answers can be found in the infographic below.
2—Dealing with Challenging Hiring Conditions
A survey released last spring from Indeed, the global job site, spotlights the challenging hiring conditions at U.S. SMBs.
Highlights of the study:
- Over half say it’s difficult finding the right employee to hire.
- Nearly a quarter say recruiting today is more challenging than 5 years ago.
- Over half say larger companies have the upper hand when recruiting skilled workers, such as technology and HR professionals.
- Smaller businesses say it’s difficult to find candidates with problem solving skills (37%), leadership skills (38%), and critical thinking skills (36%).
- The challenging job market could delay growth plans: More than a third of smaller businesses plan to hire in the next year.
- To compete, SMBs plan to offer higher wages (37%), advancement opportunities (21%) and more generous vacation policies (18%).
- Smaller businesses may be under-utilizing newer tools to identify talent: Over half still rely on word-of-mouth and personal referrals, while 31% use social media postings and only 26% use on-line job boards.
3—Generational Differences in Workplace Loyalty
Many people think millennials are less loyal employees. But, a study from Bridge, an employee development suite for businesses, showed nearly 90% of millennials want to grow their careers within their current companies
“Millennial employees are looking for something different in their jobs, beyond good compensation,” says Emily Foote, VP of Customer Engagement for Bridge. “They aren’t satisfied with routine promotions or pay bumps; they want opportunities to learn, develop new skill sets, and grow into leaders. Organizations that create learning environments are rewarded with employee engagement and loyalty.”
Check out more insights in the infographic below.
4—The Differences Between Remote and Office-based Employees
Some highlights of the report:
- The biggest working from home perk? 59.4% of remote employees were thankful they didn’t have to commute
- 67% of remote hires say they still had access to growth opportunities. They were also 8% more likely than their office-only counterparts to feel satisfied with their salaries
- What do remote employees miss the most? Being around their co-workers and free coffee!
But there are downsides (from the employers’ point of view), including:
- 75% say they engage in personal tasks while working at home
- 4% leave the house without telling their managers
Check out the full report here.
5—Working from the Office
Despite the finding from the Porch study mentioned above, new data from Randstad US shows the traditional work model—being at an office, during standard business hours—is still unexpectedly popular. The Randstad Workmonitor survey shows:
- 62% prefer to work from the office
- Young workers prefer it more (65% of those aged 18-24 vs. just 57% of those aged 55-67 like the office more)
- However, 66% say they’d like to work from home or another location on occasion
- 35% say their employers don’t provide them with the technical equipment to adequately perform their job from home.
Bottom line: Workers may not want to do it 24/7, but employers today need to give some level of flexibility. 80% of employees say they like working from home on occasion because it increases their productivity, creativity and job satisfaction, and 82% say it allows them to maintain a good work-life balance.
Some additional highlights:
The flexible workplace disconnect. Although flexible and remote work arrangements are a top priority for employees, that’s not necessarily the case for employers, who often don’t offer any or provide enough tools to fully support them:
- 66% of workers say they like the option of occasionally working from home or another location, but aren’t able to do so.
- 36% report their workplaces support working from home anytime and anywhere they want
- 35% of employees disagree that their employers provide the necessary technical equipment to enable them to work from home.
- Thirty percent of workers say they regularly have online or virtual team meetings via video conferencing.
Remote work arrangements drive engagement. Working from home or another location is an attractive option to employees:
- 80% of workers say they like agile work (defined as the ability to work from anywhere, anytime) because it increases productivity, creativity and job satisfaction.
- 61% don’t believe this type of work interferes with their personal lives, or their ability to disconnect from work.
To learn more about flexible work arrangements—and the positive impact they can have on your business—go to 3 reasons to rethink remote work options.
According to FlexJobs’ 7th annual survey, 65% of workers think they would be more productive working from home than working in a traditional office environment. Fewer distractions (75%), fewer interruptions from colleagues (74%), reduced stress from commuting (71%), and minimal office politics (65%) are the top reasons employees prefer their home offices. It is estimated that 60% or less of work time is actually spent productively.
“If they want to maximize their employees’ productivity, smart employers need to seriously consider the feedback from their staff that they’re being more productive outside the traditional office environment,” says Sara Sutton, founder and CEO of FlexJobs.
About today’s flexible job seekers:
- Since 2013, work-life balance (76%), family (44%), time savings (42%), and commute stress (42%) have been the top 4 reasons people seek flexible work.
- 61% have left or considered leaving a job because it did not have work flexibility.
- 100% telecommuting is the most in-demand type of flexible work arrangement (80%), followed by flexible schedules (71%).
- Of those who telecommuted in 2017, 22% telecommuted more this year than last year.
- 97% are interested in being a flexible worker in the long term.
- Only 3% of respondents worry a lot that a flexible work arrangement will hurt their career progression.
- 83% of respondents know someone who telecommutes.
Employers experience bottom-line benefits from telecommuters:
- Work-life balance (73%) was ranked more important than salary (70%) when evaluating a job prospect.
- 76% of respondents also say they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options.
- 28% say they would take a pay cut in exchange for the option to telecommute.
- Only 8% of workers say they prefer going to the office to do important work.
Gender & generation
- Only 16% say the gender pay gap and gender inequality were not problems in the workplace.
- Nearly half say they have felt discrimination in the workplace because of their gender.
- 39% think the various generations work well together in the workplace, 54% say somewhat but there is room for improvement, and 7% said there is definitely tension.
Health and Happiness:
- 45% say a job with flexibility would have a huge improvement on their overall quality of life and 52% say it would have a positive impact.
- 77% say having a flexible job would allow them to be healthier (eat better, exercise more, etc.) and 86% say they’d be less stressed.
For the full list of survey findings, visit here.
7—How Leadership Affects the Employee Experience
Employees want to be engaged and challenged at work but leadership that is inaccessible and noncommunicative is the biggest cause of employees feeling unappreciated and disengaged, according to two surveys recently conducted and released by Rymax Marketing Services.
The surveys were designed to identify the engagement levels of employees and discover the factors that influenced their engagement. Check out the findings in the infographic below.
8—What’s In a Title?
Guest post by Lisa Greenough, Vice President of People and Culture for Nvoicepay.
Over my three decades in human resources, I’ve gathered a pretty good library on the subject. In its titles I can see the evolution of the field during that time, an evolution that I can also see in the titles I and other HR professionals have held over the years.
We used to be Human Resources or Personnel Managers. Then we went through a period where we were Human Capital Managers. I think that was a well-intentioned attempt to position the function as more strategic, but it never felt right to me. It communicates the importance of people as an asset, while simultaneously dehumanizing them.
That’s why I’m delighted with my current title, Vice President of People and Culture. I first remember hearing titles like this about five or six years ago when friends in my professional network started migrating into the tech industry. But, new naming conventions are not just the latest tech trend. I think these titles reflect real changes in the way we think about the profession and do our jobs.
The great differentiator: Titles like mine are solidifying a shift that’s been happening for a long time. For the last ten or 15 years, the topic of company culture has been appearing prominently in HR books—how to help people be more engaged, what role engagement plays in productivity, and the ROI on engagement over time. Well, you have to have a way for engagement to happen, and that is a function of company culture.
During the Great Recession, it was a buyer’s market for companies looking for great talent. Now, the unemployment rate in Oregon where my company is located is ridiculously low, near 3%, and hovering around 4% nationally. As competition for talent has heated up, companies are focusing on culture as a differentiator to attract people. Having a Vice President of People and Culture is a way to announce that difference up front.
While what I do isn’t that different from what I’ve done in previous HR leadership roles, the way I go about it is. Seeing the words “People and Culture” on my nameplate is a daily reminder of what my top priorities are.
It’s a title I’ve had to grow into, and that’s been possible because I’ve had the support of senior management. Our CEO Karla Friede conveyed to me coming in that this title reflected what was important to her. I’ve been empowered from day one to approach every single thing we do through the lens of how it’s going to affect our people and our culture, and I’ve had a lot of backup from her along the way.
Culture club: For example, this is a high-growth company, and all the policies and procedures aren’t yet in place. Based on my previous training, I probably would have put that together from some industry standard templates and said, here’s the policy book; here’s the way we do things.
Instead, I started a communication and culture committee. We call it C3. It’s an employee group focused on creating a good working environment. People are here for a lot of hours of the day, so how do we make that the best possible experience?
It’s not just about employee perks, though we have those. People here really want to learn, not just about the company and the industry and their role, but also about things that are personally interesting to them. We also have a whole calendar built around learning, wellness challenges, and serving our community.
We looked at every policy, discussed our values and the way we wanted to do things, the software we were going to bring in, the kind of events and awards we wanted to have, and even how we were going to run the C3 group, and communicate what was going on. We’re currently drafting a playbook that pulls all of our culture ideas into one document.
Outside the comfort zone: Working this way has pushed me to get outside of my office, and outside my comfort zone. I’m an introvert, but to continually take the pulse of the people and the culture, I’ve gotten to know people in all departments of the company.
The best HR people have always cared about culture, but title sets the tone for where you get to go with the job, and what people expect of you. VPs of People and Culture still have to get all the transactional work done, but in a way that works best for the people who are there. If you have paperwork to do, you think about how to make that easy for the employees, not just what’s efficient for HR. It’s fun for me because I never really have to come up with an original idea. Employees are always willing to contribute. In this role, I get to ask people what they want, and then I figure out how to make it happen.
It’s been interesting holding this title, not just because of the effect it’s had on my perception of my role, but also as a mirror of how others see HR. Most of the time, people introduce me as the VP of People and Culture, but when I sit with a manager in a disciplinary meeting, they always call me the VP of HR. I think it’s because others think it conveys more authority (whether that’s positive or negative, is an entirely different topic up for discussion), but I think, “Oh, I caught onto that.”
I’m guessing it means the perception of HR has not evolved as quickly as the titles have, but it’s a work in process. I recently got to hire my first employee. In years past, we might have given her the title of HR Manager, because she’ll do all the things you’d normally expect in that role. Here, her title is Employee Experience Specialist. I think it’s the next logical step in our evolution.
9—The Impact of Effective Onboarding
Last spring BambooHR released the results of a nationwide study highlighting how effective onboarding helps employees form bonds within the organization at a higher and faster rate—creating a solid foundation for their experience at the company.
Key survey findings include:
- Within the first week, almost 49% of those with effective onboarding reported contributing to their team, compared to 35% of those with ineffective onboarding
- 38% more employees who experienced effective onboarding were confident in their ability to do their jobs, compared to those who had ineffective onboarding
The infographic below has lots more details.
10—Hiring and Social Media
The digital age has transformed the job search and hiring process. If you’re looking for a job, you know HR personnel are checking your social media profiles. And if you own a business, it would be foolish to hire anyone without taking a look at their social profiles. The team at Paychex surveyed job applicants and hiring managers to find out what most applicants are doing to clean up their social media and what hiring managers specifically check for when they’re doing research.
A quick look at the findings:
- 67% of hiring managers say Facebook has the most incriminating information
- 85% of hiring managers check Facebook before a job interview, while only 66% check LinkedIn profiles, followed by 40% who check Instagram and Twitter
- On average, hiring managers check candidates social media profiles 2.2 times each
11—Do Purpose-Driven Employees Work Harder?
Only 2% of employees say they know their company’s top 3 objectives, even though productivity increases by 56% when managers help employees align their goals with the company’s needs.
According to 15Five, a performance management solution that keeps employees aligned and motivated with its “Objectives” product, the most successful and fastest-growing companies foster high-performing employees by setting and implementing their top priorities every quarter.
Here’s why purpose-driven employees work harder:
42% of employees say working at a purpose-driven company makes them happier, more motivated (42%), and more high-achieving (40%).
48% said working at a purpose-driven company is “extremely important”
A well-measured process = a well-managed project. While Objectives—the goals the company wants to accomplish—establish direction, companies also need to set “Key Results.” Knowing a project will be measured in a concrete way increases employee motivation and likelihood to accomplish the goal.
Transparent objectives at the top will trickle down. It’s no surprise productivity increases 56% when managers align employee goals with the company’s needs. When leadership communicates their priorities, they help employees connect their work to the overall vision—creating a purpose-driven culture.
12—5 Ways to Empower Millennial Employees
Guest post from ImpactGroup
Millennials are the largest-growing population in the workforce. As they advance in their careers and step into leadership roles, it’s key to understand how to empower and engage them. Here are five ways to truly empower this younger workforce.
1—Offer flexible work environments: Flexible working is extremely important to millennials’ satisfaction, and it can lead to improved organizational performance and employee loyalty. More flexible work environments lead to a higher sense of employee accountability. Millennials who feel personal responsibility and empowerment tend to stay at their jobs longer, creating a win-win situation.
2—Manage in a direct style: Although they’re often cited as being radical and impulsive, millennials prefer plain, straight-forward language from their managers. Generally, millennials respond better to managers who aim for gradual transformation, instead of sweeping changes.
3—Be inclusive: Employee satisfaction and retention are both higher in organizations that don’t micromanage or dictate to employees. Millennials especially prefer working in “collaborative” environments, as they tend to believe that individuals should take on as much responsibility as possible regardless of seniority or pay. Structuring your organization in such a way will empower millennials to be more engaged at work.
4—Provide stability: Contrary to popular perception, millennials seek secure, stable work environments. Nearly two-thirds of millennials prefer full-time employment to working as a freelancer or consultant. Millennials, on average, actually stay at their jobs longer than Generation X workers when they were the same ages. For example, 12% of millennials stay in their role for three years compared to 10% of Generation Xers when they were ages 18-30
5—Offer an opportunity to give back: Millennials want to know that your company is invested in them, and also in helping the world. Most (76%) of them regard companies as a force for positive social impact. Also, being involved in “good causes” helps millennials feel empowered. Empowered employees are ultimately more engaged, so by giving your employees an opportunity to get involved, you’re encouraging them to be more keyed-in at work.
One in three American workers are millennials. Leveraging their potential at all stages in their career ensures a strong succession pipeline for your organization. Explore how you can intentionally cultivate their leadership abilities.
13—New Tech Causes Career Anxiety in Your Employees
Nearly half (45%) of businesses hired workers in the past year specifically for their technical skills. But in the same time frame, 10% of businesses have laid off employees due to new technology. These divergent trends are creating growing anxiety in the workplace, according to a new survey conducted by Clutch, a leading B2B research and reviews firm.
The data shows that while radical advances in technology may be opening up new opportunities in some businesses, they may also be reducing the need for certain kinds of employees.
Workers’ anxiety about the future of work can undermine morale: Nearly 15% of workers surveyed by Clutch are nervous their current role won’t exist in five years due to technological changes. However, experts say technology is unlikely to replace human workers. Rather, technology can reduce the overall number of job opportunities in some fields by making employees more efficient.
The research suggests that some workers lacking technical skills may struggle to find a suitable position matching their years of experience. As jobs become more competitive, some workers anticipate switching industries or specialties. However, 13% of respondents say they are not confident in their ability to find a new job that matches their current skills and level of employment.
Employees want to master new technology: Despite anxiety about the future, employees are eager to work with new technology. Nearly 90% of survey respondents say they are willing to adapt their skills to changing workplace technologies.
Robotics and other forms of automation are the most commonly adopted type of new technologies, the survey shows. Nearly 1 in 5 businesses (17%) have already implemented some form of automation, such as self-service kiosks, customer relationship management (CRM) software, or tablets used for sales.
Most employees welcome the prospect of disruptive technology, such as smartphone integrations or software that improves efficiency. More than half of those surveyed (51%) say they are excited about the opportunity to master new technology in the workplace.
More than one third (35%) of workers whose companies haven’t yet implemented new technology say they hope their employer will make it available to them.
Overall, workers recognize that developing technical skills will be important for their long–term career prospects and are motivated to learn said skills, suggests the survey.
You can read the full report here.
14—How-To Recruit an All-Star Team for your Small Business
Guess post by Nick Murphy, career expert and founder of The Job Lab Podcast on iTunes
As a small business owner, you’re living proof that the American Dream is still alive and well. You’ve taken the risks, made few enough mistakes to successfully grow your business and now you find yourself fully engaged in a war for the kind of talent that will take your business to the next level.
Small companies face unique challenges that larger organizations simply don’t have. You probably don’t have a large HR team (or even a single HR person), your recruiting “budget” likely comes straight out of your operating revenue and your recruiting process is, let’s say, a work in progress.
While it may seem like an impossible task to lure the kind of talent you’ll need to attract to meet your growth goals, there are ways that you can successfully recruit A-players to your growing company.
The first thing that any hiring manger or business owner needs to understand about attracting talent is what today’s job seekers care about. According to a recent PwC survey, candidates’ career decisions revolve primarily around three things: opportunity for career growth, earning a competitive wage, and the availability of flexible or alternative work arrangements.
Let’s identify the advantages that small companies have in these areas and learn how you can leverage this information to improve your employment brand and make your company’s offer the one your target talent accepts!
Opportunities for career growth: With the job market nearing full employment, today’s job seekers have options. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the thing many potential candidates want to know most is how your opportunity can move their career goals forward. Whether they’re looking to move from a sales rep into management, add new areas of responsibility to their role, or add new skills to their resume, everyone wants to move forward.
Inside large organizations, bureaucracy, seniority and office politics can make this advancement challenging if not impossible. As a small business, you’re almost certainly more nimble than most big companies. If you can learn to focus on your unique advantages, you’ll be able to craft a story and employment brand that highlights the opportunities your roles offer. Effectively communicating the opportunity for upward mobility to potential candidates will help them understand that by joining your company they will more quickly and efficiently expand their skillsets and responsibilities to move their careers forward.
Example: Through this position at ACME Inc., you’ll be exposed to multiple aspects of our business where you’ll actively engage with senior leadership and gain insights into the operations of multiple business units. As a small firm, we empower our employees to learn as much as they can about the areas of our business that interest them so that they’ll be well-positioned to advance their careers and make an impact here very early on.
Competitive wages: Unsurprisingly, all candidates want to be paid what they’re worth. This isn’t greed, it’s common sense. But every dollar counts in a small business, and paying the same or more than your talent competitors isn’t always possible. However, the amount you pay your people should be driven by the market. And today’s market is a seeker’s market, meaning that submitting low-ball offers to great people is a big mistake.
While it can be a painful realization that you may need to dish out more money that you originally planned, the cost of training and developing talent that leaves to earn more elsewhere is far more expensive.
As a small company your time is as precious as your money. If the owner or another senior member of your team is involved in training and mentoring a new hire that leaves, not only did you lose that employee, but you spent a leader’s time, energy and contribution on a person than can no longer impact the business.
If you need to access current compensation information, I encourage you to do a search for the same job online or visit a site like PayScale.com to understand the current market rate for your jobs.
Availability of alternative work arrangements: In today’s connected world, employers are running out of excuses to chain their employees to a desk for 40 hours per week. In most companies, at least some of the jobs could easily accommodate a flex arrangement of some kind.
Alternative work arrangements can take many forms. Some of the most common and attractive flexible work arrangements include ½ day Fridays, working “Four 10’s” (ten hours per day, four days per week) and remote, or work from home, opportunities.
The specific form your flex arrangement takes isn’t important. What is important is that you understand how meaningful a flex work schedule it is to potential employees and include it as a part of your candidate messaging if you decide to offer one.
Putting it all together: There’s no doubt that small businesses have some distinct challenges attracting and retaining top talent. But with a deep understanding of what job seekers value most and an investment of time identifying how to use your size to your advantage, the savvy small business owner can create a highly attractive message that competes with larger brands, engages their ideal hires and grows their business.
15—State of Workplace Automation
According to Nintex’s latest research, The State of Intelligent Process Automation Study, IT decision makers as a group see more digital transformation potential than any other department, with 71% of them currently deploying process automation technologies, followed by customer service and finance departments.
Nintex’s study found 64% have followed a formal digital transformation plan for three years or less, while one-third of companies have followed a plan for one year or less. Though most companies are in the early digital transformation adoption stages, 94% of decision makers say their transformation efforts are successfully delivering valuable returns on their investments.
Though positive progress on digital transformation goals shows promise, the research reveals a distinct barrier to overall digital transformation success: poor top-down communication.
Only 53% of business employees know what digital transformation is, let alone whether their employer has a plan in place. This issue is most concerning for non-management staff, with 67 percent of managers aware of their digital transformation efforts compared to only 27 percent of non-managers. This lack of digital transformation visibility represents a major opportunity for business leaders to better engage and encourage staff.
Company decision makers also see effective communication as an obstacle on their digital transformation journey. Decision makers cite lack of interdepartmental communication strategies (35 percent) and insufficient training for line of business employees on new technology (32 percent) as challenges that slow digital transformation success.
To learn more about this research, download a complimentary copy.
16—Traits of Great Managers (and Bad Bosses)
The Predictive Index, LLC recently released the results of a survey of workers exploring the traits of good, great and bad managers. The Predictive Index 2018 People Management Survey collected responses from 5,104 workers—the largest-ever survey of its kind.
The Predictive Index survey concludes that bad managers tend to lack traits associated with self-awareness or emotional intelligence. For example, they play favorites (57%), badmouth colleagues (54%), and they are keenly interested in proving themselves right (52%). The most frequently cited trait of poor managers is failing to set clear expectations (58%).
At the other end of the continuum, great managers are reported to have a strong work ethic (82%), be honest (80%), and be confident (79%). A sense of humor is important (79%) and a similar percentage of great managers are viewed as having a positive attitude.
Additional survey highlights:
Manager quality directly impacts employee engagement.
- 94% of employees with good or great bosses say they have passion and energy for their jobs.
- 41% of respondents with bad managers report having little passion and energy for their work.
- 77% of people working for bad bosses say they want to look for work at another organization in the next 12 months.
Millennials score slightly better as people managers than other generations
- Managers who are 24-41 years old are often maligned for their management skills, but they earn slightly higher ratings from the people they manage than Generation X and baby boomer bosses.
- There is no clear preference among generations for reporting to other generations. For example, baby boomers reporting to millennials gave them an average rating that is marginally higher than the rating they gave to other boomers.
Women and men match up evenly as managers
- Employees ranked male and female managers virtually equally (average rating of 7.3 for women, as compared to 7.2 for men), although women were more likely than men to receive the top rating, a 10, from employees.
- The top three traits for female bosses are strong work ethic, sense of humor, and knowledge of the area she manages.
- The top three traits for male managers are sense of humor, strong work ethic, and confidence.
Feedback is critically important
- Employees who think their bosses give just the right amount of feedback give those managers high ratings (8.6 on average).
- Workers would rather have too much feedback, rather than too little. People who say they get no feedback rate their managers poorly (4.2 on average).
- Bosses know feedback matters to employees: the thing most often cited as top of mind for them is their ability to provide feedback.
17—Finding the Best Job Candidates
Entelo, a recruiting automation platform modernizing hiring, recently launched Entelo Insights™, which displays all the information available about a candidate in one place, making it simple for recruiters to quickly discover candidates, predict their fit and strategize how to turn them into hires. Entelo has half a dozen patents in recruiting analytics and AI, and a rich dataset of over 450 million candidates.
According to Entelo data, men on average list 16% more skills in their resumes than women with similar experience and roles; meaning recruiters using simple keyword searches may miss eligible hires who are more humble in representing themselves. Entelo Insights is designed to deliver a complete picture of each candidate, boosting opportunities for employers to access full candidate pools and match the right talent with the right role, removing the unconscious bias.
18—Bringing the Mobile Revolution to Employers
Imagine a mobile app that shows you real-time supply and demand trends for talent you need, instantly builds your job descriptions, automatically matches your job openings to candidates who are more likely to respond and runs campaigns to engage them. CareerBuilder is making it a reality. (It’s also helping job seekers instantly build their resumes, apply to jobs, and add skills needed for a better-paying job.)
CareerBuilder recently launched a mobile experience that leverages artificial intelligence, augmented reality, gamification and hyper-localized search among other groundbreaking features.
Both employers and job seekers are struggling to navigate a labor environment plagued by tight labor pools, burgeoning skills gaps and a disparity in access to education and career opportunities. According to nationwide research by CareerBuilder:
- 50% of employers say it is taking them longer to fill open positions than in any other period of time and 54% of employers say it is costing them more money to fill open positions due to low unemployment.
- 54% of workers feel like they just have a job, not a career and 36% of workers feel underemployed.
19—Taking Time Off
American workers took an average of 17.2 days of vacation in 2017, according to new research from Project: Time Off, jumping up nearly a half-day (.4 days) from 2016. This marks the highest level for American vacation usage since 2010 (17.5 days) and a more than full-day increase since bottoming out at 16.0 days in 2014.
While this progress may signal the beginning of a cultural shift, there is still room for improvement as 52% of Americans left vacation time unused in 2017 (down from 54% in 2016) and 24% have not taken a vacation in more than a year.
The findings, from State of American Vacation 2018, also show Americans are not fulfilling their wanderlust. While 84% of Americans say it is important to them to use their time off to travel, workers use less than half of the vacation time they take—just eight days—to travel. It follows that a staggering 86% of Americans say they have not seen enough of their own country.
The 52% of Americans who left vacation time on the table accumulated 705 million unused days last year, up from 662 million days the year before. The increase in unused days, despite Americans taking more vacation, is attributed to employees earning more time off (23.2 days in 2017, compared to 22.6 in 2016). America’s unused vacation time is a $255 billion missed economic opportunity that has the potential to create 1.9 million jobs.
Barriers to Vacation Time
While Americans rank cost (71%), children (45%), and pets (39%) as the top barriers to travel, these barriers have little impact on actual vacation usage. Instead, it is work-related challenges that continue to have the most influence on Americans’ ability to vacation. Employees who were concerned that taking vacation would make them appear less dedicated or replaceable were dramatically less likely to use all their vacation time (61% leave time unused, compared to 52% overall). This held true for those who felt their workload was too heavy (57% to 52%) and no one else could do their job (56% to 52%).
Workcation All I Ever Wanted?
The always-on work environment has created a new trend of workcations: traveling somewhere with the intent to work remotely for all or part of the time you are away. This new trend may be just a fad with only 10% of Americans haven taken a workcation and 70% calling the concept unappealing. Millennials will be the driving force if workcations become more mainstream: 39% say they find the idea of a workcation appealing, compared to 28% of Gen X and 18% of Boomers.
Work Perks That Work
This year’s study also found that some workplaces are starting to understand the benefits of a positive vacation culture. The percentage of workers who say their company’s culture encourages vacation jumped five points from 2016. The research found a major split when it came to the happiness of employees at companies with encouraging cultures versus their peers at firms that are discouraging or ambivalent to vacation (72% to 42%). These employees are also much happier with their job (68% to 42%) and how much vacation time they use (77% to 51%).