HR Buzz: Onboarding Can Help With Sleepy, Disengaged Employees

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

What you need to know this week about workplace trends, surveys, and reports.

Sleeping on the Job

It’s a source of countless corny jokes, but also a very real problem in the modern workplace: overtired employees snoozing away the working day.

Of 1,001 people polled by mattress company Amerisleep, about 21 percent admitted to having gotten some shut-eye when they were supposed to be working. The drowsiest three industries were technology, where 70 percent of respondents who worked in that field admitted to sleeping on the job; construction (68.2 percent); and government and public administration (63.5 percent).

Most wakeful were those who worked in arts, entertainment, and recreation, where 34.6 percent copped to having indulged in sleeping on the job. So matters must have worsened since the middle of the 19th century, when the Transcendentalist philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life.”

Disengaged From Work

Even if they aren’t actually unconscious, employees spend a lot of the working day figuratively “out to lunch.”

Just over a quarter of working time is spent disengaged, according to a survey by Menlo Park, Calif.-based office staffing firm Accountemps, which had an independent research firm collect more than 2,800 responses from employees in 28 major U.S. cities.

The route to better engagement could be relatively simple and low-cost for employers, according to some of the responses the employees gave when asked what would help. The most popular answer was better perks (37 percent), with more challenging work and less red tape tied for second place at 31 percent each. One example of a perk mentioned in the Accountemps survey report: “Nap rooms.”

Get It Right at the Start

If employees’ disengagement is so deep that they’re sleeping or playing computer solitaire to while away the workday, there’s a fair chance the problem began when they first started working for their employer.

That’s one inference that can be drawn from a survey of 1,024 full-time U.S. employees, which found them “18 times more likely to feel highly committed to their organization” and 30 times more likely to have high job satisfaction if their onboarding was highly effective. The survey was conducted online in January by Lindon, Utah-based HR software company BambooHR, which made the results public May 3.

When it comes to onboarding activities, survey respondents gave the highest marks to introductions to their work team, in-person training, and tours of the facilities. Least popular were getting-to-know-you icebreakers, “consistent communication,” and overly chipper HR or recruiter personnel.

Avoidable Turnover

If employers fail to onboard new employees properly or keep their interest once they’re on the job, there’s an excellent chance they’ll go elsewhere.

The top five categories of reasons why employees decide the grass is greener elsewhere, according to an analysis of more than 234,000 exit interviews by the Franklin, Tenn.-based Work Institute, are a lack of opportunity to grow in one’s preferred job and career (21 percent); lousy work-life balance in terms of unfavorable schedules, long commute times, and lack of scheduling flexibility (13 percent); “unprofessional or unsupportive managers” (11 percent); personal or family health problems (9 percent); and inadequate compensation and benefits, with base pay cited more often (9 percent).

“Employers will pay $600 billion in turnover costs in 2018 and can expect that number to increase to $680 billion by 2020,” the Work Institute said May 1. And yet, while 42 million people will leave their jobs in the U.S. this year, or one in four of all employees, it said, almost 77 percent of turnover is avoidable.

Check back every Thursday to get your latest HR Buzz.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at mbermangorvine@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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