Human Resources News & Insights

Are employers facing a ‘wage war’ with employees? Study says yes

In recent years, employers have enjoyed a comfortable status quo in which they’ve held the upper hand over anxious job seekers. But recent research says the balance of power may be shifting.  

New findings from the 2016 Emerging Workforce Study (EWS), commissioned by Spherion Staffing, indicate that more employees believe they have leverage to demand higher salaries and better benefits from their employers – or they’ll move on to an organization that will give them those things.

Check out these study results:

Nearly one-fourth (26%) of workers are at least somewhat likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months (up from 18% last year). More than half (51%) feel the expanding job market gives them more power to negotiate a higher salary either with their current company or with another. And employees list financial compensation, benefits, and growth and earnings potential as the top factors influencing their potential retention.

Difference of opinion

(Clearly, there’s a disconnect here — at least in this particular study. The EWS found that while employees prioritize financial compensation in their decisions, employers believe workers value more personal influencers, such as supervisor relationships.)

The study indicates that while employers seem to recognize the importance of raising wages to retain top employees, they largely are undecided on how to respond. It’s clear the pressure’s on for employers to keep up with wage trends — nearly three-fourths (74%) of companies say they have increased wages to remain competitive.

A nearly equal number (73%) say they have seen their competitors raise salaries.

But here’s the rub: 62% of employers who recognize the need to pay higher wages say they can’t afford to do so, the study says.

“The growing demands across the workforce for improved wages highlight that employees are no longer willing to settle for just any career opportunity,” Spherion division president Sandy Mazur said in a press release. “Not only are the job market and economy trending upward, but we are witnessing a major change in mentality with critical implications on employer-employee relationships. While salary has significantly influenced employee decisions throughout the first 19 years of the EWS, we’ve never before seen workers this motivated to improve their situation.”

The annual study was conducted online by Research Now among 416 U.S. human resource managers and 2,810 employed U.S. adults ages 18 and older. Spherion has been conducting similar research annually for the past 19 years.

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  • PhantomU

    But here’s the rub: 62% of employers who recognize the need to pay higher wages say they can’t afford to do so, the study says. This begs the question: Was there EVER a time where a majority of employers said they COULD afford to pay higher wages?? Employers that view labor as an expense rather than an asset will NEVER say they can afford to pay higher wages! These are the same employers who constantly harp that there are not enough qualified candidates in the labor pool. These are the same employers who look to raid other companies to fill their openings. These are the same companies that say they cannot afford to have in house training programs i.e. paid internships, apprenticeships and subsidized higher education/training. These companies will always be the laggards. Companies that view and treat their employes as assets aren’t complaining they use their HR department as an integral component of the Strategic Planning process. The best job candidates don’t and won’t work for the laggards any longer than necessary. The best and brightest want to work for the leaders not the complainers. One last point: Are the CEO’s of the 62%’s paid any less than the CEO’s of the 38%’s that didn’t complain???