It's been 12 years since Daniel Yankelovich and John Immerwahr introduced the concept of discretionary effort - the voluntary effort employees provide above and beyond what's required. Encouraging this effort can restore America's competitive vitality, the researchers said. But a new survey reveals that employers aren't doing enough to encourage discretionary effort from their managerial, technical, and professional staff.
The survey was conducted by Response Analysis in Princeton, New Jersey, for Blessing/White, Inc., a Princeton-based individual and organizational development firm. It identified the most important factors that encourage voluntary effort, the least important factors, the factors that discourage effort, and how successfully organizations are encouraging this effort.
The survey's most significant conclusion is that there are extraordinary opportunities to improve productivity, but these opportunities are being wasted, says Dave Lynn, a Blessing/White vice president.
Entitled A Study of Voluntary Effort in the Work Force, the study surveyed 1,563 managerial, technical, and professional employees in manufacturing, services, and government/education.
Asked to rate their organization in encouraging voluntary effort, only 39 percent say it does a good job (29 percent) or very good job (10 percent). Another 20 percent say a poor job and 5 percent say a very poor job.
What encourages voluntary effort? The factors that are crucial to encouraging voluntary effort are grouped into five categories:
* Responsibility for the results of one's work (mentioned by 52 percent of employees) and the encouragement to challenge the ways the organization does things (32 percent).
* Sense of worth in one's job (42 percent) and recognition for contributions (41 percent).
* The organizations' making good use of employee skills (39 percent) and the opportunity to develop skills and abilities (30 percent).
* A good working relationship with the manager (29 percent).
* Compensation based on individual performance (29 percent).
Employers' attempts to give responsibility for the result of one's work got above-average ratings by 71 percent of employees. Organizations did not score well on most of the other important factors, however.
What doesn't encourage voluntary effort? Employees were asked to identify factors that least encourage voluntary effort. "There were surprises here. Some factors generally believed to play a strong role in encouraging extra effort, don't. While they're not negatives, they don't make a major impact," Lynn said. These factors fall into four broad categories:
* Compensation and benefits. More than half (55 percent) cited compensation based on total organizational performance among factors that do the least for voluntary effort, 48 percent mentioned a comprehensive benefits package, and 26 percent mentioned advancement opportunity. …