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  • authored by remote viewer
  • published Sat, Jan 5, 2002

'Good Employer' Surveys

The Globe and Mail Report on Business mag has just released its ranking of Canada's Best Employers. A listing of the top 50 picks, reasons why they were chosen and a description of the survey methodology is included in the report. This years best include - in the top 10 - minimum-wage paying service industry giants McDonalds Restaurants and Wal-Mart Canada Corp.

Let's talk about this:
What do you think about these kinds of surveys?
What do you think about the survey methodology (see below)?
What factors do you think should be considered in "best employer" surveys?

Note: According to the ROB Report, the survey methodology was as follows:

In April, 2001, 1000 companies across Canada with at least 300 employees were invited to participate. The survey was conducted by Hewitt Associates, North America's largest human-resources consulting firm. Hewitt received completed submissions from 161 companies, up from 86 last year and 62 in 2000.

The survey consisted of three parts:

1. Each participating company distributed a detailed questionnaire to 250 randomly selected employees. That counted for 70% of the mark.

2. Companies also completed a comprehensive human-resources practices survey, the People Practices Inventory. It counted for 25% of the final score.

3. Each CEO completed a questionnaire about his or her philosophy about the value of people. It counted for 5%.

[ 01-05-2002: Message edited by: remote viewer ]

[ 01-05-2002: Message edited by: remote viewer ]

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Sat, Jan 5, 2002 7:11am

OK, I just can't resist jumping into this one.

One problem with this survey that jumps right off the page at me is the sample size (the number of employers surveyed). The consulting firm sent out 1000 invitations and got back 161 responses. There are over 900,000 businesses in Canada and that doesn't include the public sector.

Notwithstanding this microscopic sample 161/1,000,000+, the survey is billed as The Best Employers in Canada. It's presented as something that is factual, even scientific, in a leading business publication, although the vast majority of workplaces in Canada were not surveyed or even "invited" to participate. If we accept this survey at face value (as people are apt to do), then we would have to accept that flipping burgers at Mac's is a better job (all things considered) than working for a large public sector employer (like the Government of Canada). It would have been more accurate if the ROB had called its survey the "Best of 161 Private Sector Businesses that responded to our consulting firm's invitation".

  • posted by weiser
  • Sat, Jan 5, 2002 8:29am

One of the biggest problems with "best" competitions is that they are comparative. Who was the best conquorer, Ghengis Kahn, Alexander the Great or Augustus Ceasar? Who is the best serial killer, John Gacey, Ted Bundy or Jack the Ripper?

Considering that work is not necessarily a blessed thing and work for someone else is even less blessed, it ain't much of a win to find that your workplace is the "best" of the worst. The ROB competition seems to ask "if you were to choose, out of all the shitty jobs in the world, where would a random sampling of people be the happiest on any given day.

The sad part is that you probably wouldn't find much difference between an entry-level Safeway employee and a Wal-Mart employee.

  • posted by globalize_this
  • Sat, Jan 5, 2002 8:37am

Here's another interesting survey:

90% of Canadians satisfied with their jobs?!

Edit: Argh! trying to fix stupid Toronto Star links!

[ 01-05-2002: Message edited by: globalize_this ]

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Sat, Jan 5, 2002 9:17am

Try it at this link

Again, how do they conclude that 90% of Canadians are happy with their jobs when they only interviewed 1500 people (1000 of whom were employed)?

I also wonder just what kind of questions they ask, how they define "happiness with one's job" and how they select who they're going to ask.

These surveys can be quite misleading I think.

[ 01-05-2002: Message edited by: remote viewer ]

  • posted by globalize_this
  • Sat, Jan 5, 2002 9:25am

Buried at the bottom of the article was this quote from CSN prez Marc Laviolette.

quote:


"Ninety-three per cent of Canadians are satisfied at work?" said an almost disbelieving Marc Laviolette, president of the Confederation of National Trade Unions labour federation. "That's pretty surprising because if you look at the absenteeism rate, it strikes me the problem is growing and is caused in part by economic insecurity brought on by private-sector downsizing, public-sector cuts and heavy workload.


These surveys depend so much on sample size, response rate and the questions that are asked.

What's pathetic is how the media regurgitates this propaganda as "news" just because the survey method sounds "scientific".

  • posted by siggy
  • Sat, Jan 5, 2002 9:38am

What exactly are these surveys used for?
My employer has at least 2 per year. The changes in operation never reflect the survey results. The survey results are used at the Company Rah Rah meetings, where the managers gives everyone copies of the results so we can all follow along, saying stuff like "employee satisfaction is up .05%". Though they never tell you up from what!
How much of all that's wrong in the corporate world is the result of inaccurate surveys?

[ 01-05-2002: Message edited by: siggy ]

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Sat, Jan 5, 2002 10:01am

They're just propaganda tools. Human resources managers use them so they can show the big bosses that their policies and programs and "initiatives" are working. They're also used to try and persuade workers that they're happy or that most of them are happy so that if you're not happy, it must be that there's something wrong with you. Some companies think it also plays well with the public (I mean, the market) if you can say, "our staff just love working here and think we're really great."

It's a lot of crap.

  • posted by weiser
  • Sat, Jan 5, 2002 10:08am

It's all relative. If a worker doesn't know it's illegal to be beaten, he or she may be happy if she or he is simply put down and verbally abused but never beaten.

You'll see one group is happy that their employer matches RSP contributions to 75%. Those with a 100% employer paid pension plan might not be as happy with the same deal.

How happy a person is depends on their expectations.

  • posted by Richard
  • Sat, Jan 5, 2002 11:39am

quote:


The sad part is that you probably wouldn't find much difference between an entry-level Safeway employee and a Wal-Mart employee.


I don't recall seeing Safeway, or Loblaws for that matter, on the list. Why wouldn't UFCW repesented people be the happiest in the world?

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Sat, Jan 5, 2002 12:04pm

Another problem with this survey is the distribution of the questionnaires. Each company was given 250 to distribute randomly. I wonder how random "random" really was and what steps were taken by the consulting firm to ensure that employer's didn't give certain "unhappy" groups of workers a miss?

I noticed that Purdy's Chocolates was on the list. They had a long strike last year. I wonder how many of their union members were given a questionnaire to complete? Come to think of it, I wonder what the questions were?

  • posted by siggy
  • Sat, Jan 5, 2002 12:17pm

quote:


What do you think about these kinds of surveys?


Ah .. they're stupid!

quote:


What do you think about the survey methodology (see below)?


see above ..

quote:


What factors do you think should be considered in "best employer" surveys?


How about something that encompasses at least a fair sampling of what's out there! Compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. Quit BS'ing the public, it may turn out more profitable and profit is what makes their world go 'round!!

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Sat, Jan 5, 2002 12:37pm

Some of the factors that I would like to see these surveys take into consideration are:

How do wage increases compare to increases in profitability (as a percentage)?

Levels of grievance and strike activity.

The availability of paid benefits like sick time, child care leave, education leave (rather than parties and social events).

  • posted by siggy
  • Sat, Jan 5, 2002 1:02pm

quote:


How do wage increases compare to increases in profitability (as a percentage)?

Levels of grievance and strike activity.

The availability of paid benefits like sick time, child care leave, education leave (rather than parties and social events).


Wouldn't surveying actual real life stuff put the control/manipulation factor right out the window? This would make the public informed. And we all know Knowledge is Power.

  • posted by Scott Mcpherson
  • Sat, Jan 5, 2002 1:49pm

First off, I never read any of the posts above, this "survey" is too silly to coment on except to say that I noticed not one single grocery chain is mentioned.

Isn't a good employer relative to who you are, what you do and what you bring to the table? I know people who think OFG is the best employer ever while I think they are truely scum of the earth. You bring OFG products into my house and I'll toss them in the garbage. (but I'm not bitter )

So I wouldn't put much stock in this kind of survey. It's just something to write about for the paper.

  • posted by siggy
  • Sat, Jan 5, 2002 2:00pm

This topic brings to mind when teh company I work (hard) for, decided to get the
employees' input. The company put together sessions province wide, every store participated. Everyone was all excited because at last the employer recognized the employees' value.
The sessions were extremely fun and highly productive. Some pretty innovative things happened. Everyone ended these sessions feeling empowered and thinking they had done a good thing and at last the company had seen the light. Ooops! Short lived! No sooner had these sessions ended then a survey company was hired to do a survey of the same employees.
Thousands of dollars later the survey produced the same responses as the sessions, only without the solutions garnered by the sessions. (Neither the results of the sessions nor survey were implemented.)

Companies have the most effective, inexpensive tool for growth and improvement at their disposal (employees), but instead choose to spend $$$ on ridiculous surveys. Surveys do create an illusion. Are most companies interested in being the best or just the illusion of being the best? Save your money ask your workers.

[ 01-05-2002: Message edited by: siggy ]

  • posted by sleK
  • Sun, Jan 6, 2002 2:11am

It does touch upon some appropriate themes however:

For instance, from this page about Flight Centre:

quote:


"Grahame could walk from office to office and tell you something about every employee beyond what they'd sold that month. It's the culture of the company.'


Testament to the polar-opposite of some (now) documented union cultures and thereby adding legitimacy to what, IMO, is not a widely and/or fully understood concept: organizational cultures

Here's another polar-opposite... on many different levels:

quote:


...a disconcertingly bright-eyed, energetic, 35-year-old Australian, who chooses the stairs over the elevator to reach Flight Centre's fifth-floor head office in Toronto,...


Could this be an actual-real-live-ethic in action?! In a leader!

And the Wal-Mart story:

quote:


Unions have repeatedly tried to crack Wal-Mart, and failed everywhere except Germany.


Wal-Mart isn't doing very well in Germany.

quote:


In Germany, its biggest headache, Wal-Mart was ready neither for the entrenched position of such discounters as Aldi, nor for the inflexibility of suppliers and the strength of trade unions. It had little feel for German shoppers, who care more about price than having their bags packed, or German staff, who hid in the toilets to escape the morning Wal-Mart cheer.

'We screwed up in Germany,' admits Mr Menzer. 'Our biggest mistake was putting our name up before we had the service and low prices. People were disappointed.' Mr Scott is blunter, blaming the cock-up on 'incompetent management'. Just as well that Wal-Mart can afford such mistakes. 'Who else can lose $300m a year in Germany and barely notice?' asks CSFB's Michael Exstein.


from the the economist.

It's not that big a stretch to find a correlation.

Wal-Mart + Germany(union+n) = -17320(embarassment)

Wal-Mart + the Americas - union = profitable happy - n + growth(loyalty)

Safeway + the Americas + union = quarterly loss + 832 +slaveway - 194

Unions, of course, aren't the only factor but, the culture they contribute, as shown in my poor attempt at abstract thought, certainly adds an unappealing factor to the equation.

If Wal-Mart could cough up some more bucks for the emp's, and cover and care for 'em like Flight Centre does their emp's, we'd *almost* have a certified-first-class business with middle-class, but rising, employees.

**"almost" because of their overseas human-rights issues... still

[ 01-06-2002: Message edited by: slek ]

  • posted by sleK
  • Sun, Jan 6, 2002 2:40am

The 10 worst corporations of 2001 according to the Multinational Monitor.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Mon, Jan 7, 2002 3:56pm

I noticed Wally-mart made their top 10 also. Goes to show you, it all depends on what we think is important to people. Do we want to live in a civil society where our rights respected or do we want free burgers and parties?

I couldn't help thinking today about this whole issue of how happy or unhappy we are at work. It struck me that even though I've worked all my life for large organizations that paid well and provided reasonably good benefits and working conditions (especially relative to Mac and Wallymart), most people were unhappy, no matter what their job was or whether they were management or labour. It's not that they were ungrateful or greedy or anything like that. They knew that they had it better than many others, but there was and is something, I think, about the very nature of the workplace that makes us unhappy. Think about it. The modern workplace is structured along the same principles as the 19th century factory. Some of us may be fortunate enough to have jobs that we really enjoy and derive satisfaction from, but most of us don't. The truth is that a lot of jobs are boring, repetitive, demeaning, stressful and so on. The workplace is organized in such a way as to set up barriers and power imbalances. Many workers - unionized or not - live in fear of losing their jobs and must cope daily with objectionable behaviour from bosses, co-workers, customers. The workplace is bound up in rules and regulations that don't always make sense and are applied rigidly or stretched to the nth degree depending on who you are and who likes you. Corporate execs talk about cooperation and teamwork but continue to operate their businesses in ways that promote competition and hostility among workers.

We are told to accept this - it's just the way it is. Well, that's not really true. This is a way of managing that goes back to the "scientific management" concept of the 1800's. The biz-unions would tell us that how the business is run is none of the workers' concern. It's a "management right". Well, that's the way it is right now but that doesn't mean we shouldn't look for better, more humane, more contemporary alternatives.

It's 2002. It's time we started to get out-of-the-box on this. Unions that are prepared to "go there", could do quite well. I think we need to change the nature of the workplace. That could get a lot of people interested.

[ 01-07-2002: Message edited by: remote viewer ]

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