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Three Recent Surveys Offer a Snapshot of Today's Workforce

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Three surveys of workers and managers released in late January offer some interesting information about today's workforce. In case you've had trouble making the case lately for work-life initiatives, the first one offers new evidence of its value, and also of the importance of opportunities to learn and grow.

This one was conducted by an independent research firm for OfficeTeam and includes responses from 404 workers and 1,013 senior managers. The question: "Aside from salary, which one of the following aspects of your job is most tied to your satisfaction?" An average 28 percent cited work-life balance, followed closely by opportunities to learn and grow, at 27 percent, and ability to accomplish goals at 20 percent.

Work-life balance was most important for a much larger percentage (46 percent) of those between the ages of 35 and 44. For younger workers, opportunities to learn and grow were most important (37 percent).

Another survey, this one by SHRM, shows the impact that money worries are having on work performance. That poll of 458 randomly-selected HR managers found half saying employees were more likely to dip into their employer-sponsored retirement savings plans recently than in previous years. And one in five said employees' personal financial challenges had a strong impact on their work performance

A closer look at the impact on work performance shows that:

• 47 percent of HR professionals noticed employees' struggle with their ability to focus on work
• 46 percent noticed issues with overall employee stress
• 26 percent observed a negative impact on overall employee productivity
• 24 percent said money woes are leading to employee absenteeism and tardiness
• 20 percent were concerned about overall employee morale
• 12 percent noticed a negative impact on overall employee health

Nearly half (49 percent) of HR professionals said employees were stressed by an "overall lack of monetary funds to cover their personal expenses." Some money woes were more specific. "Medical expenses" and "saving for retirement" were critical, said 35 percent of employees and 26 percent of HR professionals, respectively. Twenty-two percent of HR professionals attribute worker money woes to "credit card debt" and the same number also cited "home mortgage payments."

More than three-fourths (79 percent) offer access to an employee assistance program that includes financial counseling and resources, and 52 percent of organizations represented in the survey currently provide financial education to their employees. Sixty-eight percent provide financial education specific to employer-provided benefits such are retirement, medical insurance and flexible spending accounts. Among the 52 percent of organizations that teach employees about financial planning, 39 percent cover budgeting, paying for education, debt reduction, credit card use, homeownership and taxes.

A third survey showed the value of wellness programs in helping to produce stronger, more productive workers. This one, conducted late last year by Harris Interactive for the Principal Financial Group, found 41 percent of workers agreeing that having a wellness program encouraged them to work harder and perform better at work.

The research found 52 percent of workers (up from 37 percent last year) saying they have more energy to be productive at work by participating in a wellness program. Another 35 percent (up from 28 percent a year ago) said they've missed fewer days of work by participating in a wellness program and 45 percent said overall physical health was the top benefit of participating in a wellness program.

Other top mentions included receiving a meaningful incentive from their employer for participation (30 percent) and reduced personal health-care costs, greater chance of living a longer, healthier life, and reduced stress (29 percent each).

More than half of workers (55 percent) rated wellness activities offered by an employer as very successful or somewhat successful in improving health and reducing health risks.

The top four wellness benefits workers would most like to see their employer offer are fitness center discounts (25 percent), on-site preventive screenings (22 percent), access to wellness experts such as nutritionists (21 percent) and onsite fitness facilities (19 percent).

Employers who really want healthier employees might want to take a second look at that list. On the list of what's actually being offered, fitness center discounts, employees' first choice, came in third, with just 17 percent offering that perk. And surprisingly, access to wellness experts was only being made available by 11 percent of those surveyed.