Aon Study Finds Worker Loyalty at Five-Year High

November 21, 2001 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Americans may be more anxious generally in the post-September 11 era, but they're also more loyal to their employers than any time since 1997.

That’s the conclusion of the latest study of US work force commitment in the United States Back @ Work study by Aon Consultings Loyalty Institute. The commitment measure “climbed sharply and suddenly” after the September terrorist attacks, Aon said.

Most dramatically, the study found that workers are far less likely to change jobs for a higher salary, with 54% saying they would stay put even if they were offered a similar job with slightly higher pay.

This is the highest percentage since Aon began research on worker commitment in 1997 and is up from 45% in March.

The indicators in Aon’s study included:

  • productivity — co-workers’ willingness to improve their skills and make sacrifices to help the team succeed
  • pride — willingness to recommend their organization and its products and services
  • retention — intention to remain with the company.

Institute Director David Stum said the sentiment could be more a quest for stability than a vote of confidence in the company.

“As human beings, when we are in an environment of rapid change and uncertainty, we have a habit of not wanting to introduce any more change into our lives — and switching jobs certainly introduces change,” Stum said. “Overall, the effect is that we are all hunkered down.”

Re-examining Priorities

Another indicator of the post-September 11 reality is that workers have shifted toward personal priorities and managers increasingly are supporting their employees in this area, the study said:

  • More than four in five (82 %) said they have decided they need to spend more time and energy on personal, family or community activities and less time on their jobs. Women were more likely than men to take this approach, with 85% saying they had reorganized their priorities, compared to 78% of men.
  • Before September 11, 27% of respondents said management didn’t recognize the importance of personal and family life. Now only 17% indicate management is falling short in this area.

Workers: Bad Stress Help, Good Competitive Moves

Workers may be loyal, but they’re not high on their employer’s efforts to help them with post-September 11 difficulties.

Nearly one in five (18%) of respondents gave their organizations a D or F in helping employees who may be suffering stress or anxiety due to recent events.

However, nearly four in five (79%) employees graded their organizations with an A or B for doing the right things to stay competitive since September 11. And 74% gave their employers an A or B for their efforts to cut costs before resorting to layoffs.

Keep Retention Programs

The Aon study may be comforting to employers in the short term, but companies would be mistaken if they took current worker sentiment as a sign they should relax their efforts to keep employees in the fold, Stum said.

“Organizations may be experiencing a ‘halo’ effect, with employees giving them the benefit of the doubt on decisions, given the suddenness and sweep of the changes in the world,” he added. “These employees can be easily lured away when the external environment changes.”

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