The Single Biggest Problem With America's Labor Force

If you had asked investors in March 2009 what the likelihood was that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) and S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) would be hitting new all-time just four years and change down the road, you would probably have generated enough laughs to land your own HBO comedy special. Yet, somehow here we are at, or a fraction off of, a new all-time record closing high despite the unemployment rate running higher than the historical average, and GDP growth trekking lower than the historical norm.

Investor optimism has certainly been a big part of this rally, with higher consumer confidence boosting both consumer and enterprise spending. Improving economic fundamentals and historically low lending rates have also played their role in fueling this uptrend.

An underutilized and unmotivated workforce
However, the way I view it is one key part of the equation on the jobs front continues to dampen any major hope of a sustainable growth-based recovery, as opposed to a temporary cost-cutting-induced move upward.

Last month, we examined a study by Gallup on the state of the American worker with regard to workplace engagement. The results of that study showed that only 30% of the American workforce is actively engaged in their job (i.e., they're innovative and willing to work toward bettering the business). The remaining 70% are either not engaged (52%) and are simply going through the motions, or are actively disengaged (18%) and are actually seeking ways to undermine their employer.  

Today, I intend to dig deeper into that study and examine one of the biggest reason why America's labor force is in big trouble: underemployment.

One measure that the Bureau of Labor Statistics employs that might be a better judge of the overall health of the labor force than the unemployment rate is the labor underutilization rate, commonly referred to as U-6. This figure takes into consideration the number of unemployed persons as well as those who are seeking part-time work but have been forced to take on part-time work for economic reasons. As a percentage of the labor force, it's still an extremely high figure:


Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Full-time jobs are hard to come by
This is a big problem, especially for our country's youth. According to The Federal Reserve Bank of New York which in June, 44% of all recent college graduates were working at a job that didn't require a college degree. Understandably, for some graduates it's a matter of starting somewhere and working their way up. But for many more, it's a sign of a very difficult job market that's becoming impossible to chisel away at.

The impending implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is also having a decipherable impact on U-6, even if a study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis demonstrates that few employers are changing their hiring habits. Regal Entertainment (NYSE: RGC  ) , the nation's largest operator of movie theaters, slashed thousands of its workers' hours to get under the 30-hour weekly average in order to avoid being penalized for not providing health care insurance options to its employees. That point is somewhat moot now with the PPACA employer mandate being pushed back another year, but it's nonetheless a reason why full-time work is becoming difficult to come by in certain sectors.

Advancement is driving engagement
What's particularly interesting about Gallup's findings is that job engagement isn't just lower for recent graduates than high-school graduates – it's lower for all college graduates, regardless of whether or not they've recently graduated. Furthermore, being actively engaged in their job was dependent on the occupation they had. Jobs that required higher levels of skill or for graduates to actively use their degree often resulted in higher engagement scores. Jobs that require less education, or surrounded college graduates with lesser educated coworkers, resulted in less enthusiastic college-educated employees.

Here are Gallup's results of college-educated engagement broken down by occupation type:

Occupation

% Engaged

Manager, executive, or official

32.5%

Professional worker

28.8%

Sales worker

26.8%

Construction or mining worker

26.6%

Installation or repair worker

25.9%

Farming, fishing, or forestry worker

25.7%

Clerical or office worker

25.6%

Service worker

25.2%

Manufacturing or production worker

20.7%

Transportation worker

16%

Source: Gallup

We really shouldn't be shocked to see service workers -- think retail or food service -- toward the bottom of this list. Service workers are among the hardest hit by PPACA-related hourly cutbacks, and they often boast some of the lowest pay. Trust me, I've done my penance in the retail world previously and I can vouch for this! What this means is that service-oriented jobs are among the most difficult to keep a workforce engaged, usually resulting in high turnover and little employee cohesiveness.

You may not agree with me on this example, but take McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) for instance. McDonald's is arguably the stepping stone by which competing fast-food restaurants have modeled their brand around. But, according to estimates by Fast Food Nation that McDonald's employs 700,000 people in the U.S., and figures from McDonald's itself that it hires 1 million people annually in the U.S., this means the Golden Arches' turnover rate is around 143% per year! With generally low wages, inconsistent hours, and a staff with high turnover, perhaps investors should stop questioning McDonald's lack of innovation for its recently stagnant same-store sales results and start looking inward toward its employee engagement?

The key to turning America's labor force frown upside-down
The real key to success is in ensuring that college graduates are intrigued with their job, challenged on a daily basis, and are surrounded by coworkers who share those same goals. I would propose that some of the best examples of this are Internet-based companies such as Google, which have latched onto America's college graduates and given them a job filled with innumerable perks.

But, I would also extend this example beyond just offering big perks to grads to keep them happy. Simply removing the barriers of advancement often seen as the status gap between executives and employees can go a long way to encouraging engagement in the workplace. Take Red Hat (NYSE: RHT  ) CEO Jim Whitehurst, who chooses to work in a cubicle right along his employees, presumably to set an example that anyone within the office setting is reachable -- even the person in charge.

Whole Foods Market co-CEO John Mackey is another shining example, taking home just a $1 annual salary while capping executive pay at 19 times that of the average store employee.

Making employees realize they're important to the team, giving them a path to advancement, and paying them commensurate to the hard work they put into their college education, are all parts of the equation to really turning the American labor force around.

Another maddening fact about this recovery is that millions of Americans have waited on the sidelines since the market meltdown in 2008 and 2009, too scared to invest and put their money at further risk. Yet those who've stayed out of the market have missed out on huge gains and put their financial futures in jeopardy. In our brand-new special report, "Your Essential Guide to Start Investing Today," The Motley Fool's personal finance experts show you why investing is so important and what you need to do to get started. Click here to get your copy today -- it's absolutely free.


Read/Post Comments (59) | Recommend This Article (26)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 3:15 PM, mathisje wrote:

    The author ignores the way employees have been squeezed, marginalized and outsourced. Longer work hours, less benefits, and no pay raises for years. Gov't workers got forced layoffs added on. Stock prices are at all time highs, but very little profit trickles down to the workers. Nothing employers say can offset the way they treat toward their employees. "Atta boy" medals do not pay the mortgage.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 4:09 PM, PLD777 wrote:

    when the companies you work for brag up the impressive numbers and tell you how well the team is performing and then and very often in the same memo inform employees that their performance does not qualify for a raise can you really expect your employees to be involved when you refuse to share the good fortune for the worker raise equals praise

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 5:20 PM, MissDisplaced wrote:

    Workplace engagement?

    Hard to feel "engaged" with anything at work when everyone knows their job could be eliminated or outsourced at any given moment at the whim of an overpaid CEO. Longer work hours, reduced benefits, and little or no gratitude or pay also don't help this "engagement" you speak of!

    On the hiring front, companies are simply being too picky! There are MANY good unemployed Americans out there - many of whom are 50+ and college educated. Will they give any of them a chance? Doubtful.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 5:28 PM, mindzipper87 wrote:

    Rather than "underutilized and unmotivated workforce" as an explanation, maybe try over-worked and burned out. If America's Big Corps cut back on benefits any further, our "unmotivated" workforce may need to move to Canada!

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 5:36 PM, medguy1 wrote:

    I work at a hospital as a nurse. While they have not hired an AMERICAN Nurse in over 18 months, they send recruiting trips to the Pacific Rim 4-5 times a year. Nurses rarely take their vacations, for fear of their job not being there on their return. How the heck should workers be "Involved" with employers like this, that treat them as the lowest common denominator.

    Corporate America and the Government have failed us. From the banking sector, which, in effect, "stole" the economy, to heavy industry, that outsourced everything they could, to a Legislative branch so awash in bribe money their only concerns now are pushing laws that are bought and paid for..

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 5:52 PM, marjoe7 wrote:

    The article and the comments are describing the same problem. As a self-employed business owner, I have seen the American working world change since the 1960s and 70s. The fault seems to lie on both the employer and employee sides. The 1980s saw a shift from producing quality work and offering job security to a share-holder based profit generation which gutted many of the good American companies by outsourcing and cost-cutting. At the same time, the young people entering the job market as well as many of the children who inherited their families hard built businesses had no clear work ethic and dreams of immediate wealth. This trend continues today to the point that I wonder if the values that built our great economy will soon be forgotten.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 6:00 PM, tedmonahan wrote:

    perhaps investors should stop questioning McDonald's lack of innovation for its recently stagnant same-store sales results and start looking inward toward its employee engagement?"

    Is the single most important statement that upper executive management forgets. The "fools rules" is executive management believe they have all of the answers to today business problems. Take advantage of the labor and hire on reduced pay. Work them with two jobs for one pay. Take away any benefits they have. Tell them these are lean times and we all must sacrifice. Hold them hostage in jobs because you know they can't leave. As these employee's increase their wage base over time served, fire them and hire cheaper labor. or you can be a company that steals a products innovation. Ship it to China and have it redesigned. Have a labor force who will work for nothing manufacture the product and have it shipped to the United States. We will buy anything as lfong as it is cheap. SO American's don't blame corporate American for your problems. Blame yourself buying these products that are killing your labor force.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 6:01 PM, plange01 wrote:

    after close to 5 years without a president there are n jobs in a failing america...

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 6:05 PM, terrenze wrote:

    Biggest problem is they don't have a place to work!

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 6:09 PM, ManoftheRepublic wrote:

    This has been a building disconnect... Back in the 50's and 60's you had workers and companies. In most companies people started at the bottom and worked their way up. Most people stayed with the same company for most of their lives.. The workforce was mostly male and one of your biggest raises was when you got married.. You got another raise when you had children..

    Then a whole lot of things changed in short order... Women fought their way into the workforce. People started changing jobs for more money. As companies learned that their employees only cared about money, then the companies started to not care about loyalty either... And you had the notion of Education... Companies started hiring people out of college for the management positions instead of their own workers.. Those "college" people did not really know the business, they thought all they needed was economics... Workers were managed by people that did not understand the jobs that the workers were doing and only thought of them as numbers.... Now that so many people have gone to some amount of college, a college degree is merely a commodity... And truly good employees cannot excel because they might not have some stupid piece of paper that they could not afford...

    And before you get the idea that I am a disgruntled high school grad that never got anywhere know this, I am an Electronics Engineer... I just do not have blinders on...

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 6:24 PM, searay9451 wrote:

    The article does ignore the reason the stock market is at a all time high. That it's being propped up by the Fed printing money.

    I agree that many organizations and companies are now not looking for experience and education they are looking to get by with the person they can pay the least.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 6:28 PM, jfkst6 wrote:

    Job are going bye-bye and they are not coming back. Technology is going to continue taking them at an alarming rate. For a period those that control the means of production will accrue record profits (similar to what is happening now). Though eventually unemployment will achieve an unsustainable level and collapse the economic system.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 6:34 PM, eddiemooner wrote:

    Maybe one of the problems is we NEED UNIONS to make companys pay a lliving wage and give benifits to workers instead of profits for the companys and shareholders who do nothing to help companys make profits

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 6:38 PM, veggiedragon wrote:

    I'd just like a chance at a regular job again. Try being a middle aged female who doesn't speak Spanish - I've applied for hundreds of jobs, in all kinds of fields, I have a teaching credential and 3 degrees, but can't get a job because I'm either too old (i've actually been told in interviews they want people straight out of college as they can't see investing their time in someone older) , over qualified or they think teaching jobs are going to open up and I won't stay. I'm not sure what we're supposed to do, too young to retire, no $ anyways, too old for other government benefits, and as a substitute teacher you are denied unemployment benefits. My next address , and soon if things don't change , will be under the local bridge. Isn't life in America grand these days ?

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 6:45 PM, geowb wrote:

    Not Engaged?

    Managers at a 32.5% level?

    NOT WHERE I WORKED.

    (Mine was a pile of worth dog poo, didn't

    even know what was going on half the time)

    32.5%...HARDLY

    I was an electronics tech/engineer for 30 yrs

    (Grossly under-paid)

    AND I'M SO GLAD I'M NOW RETIRED.

    (Before I lynched somebody)

    "NOT ENGAGED" ANY MORE........

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 6:47 PM, ManoftheRepublic wrote:

    Yes eddie.... Unions have made the Detroit the city that it is TODAY.... bankrupt... Now which companies do you want to bankrupt?

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 6:47 PM, geowb wrote:

    Motley Fool, where do you ever get your staffers?

    The writer of this article must come from La-La Land.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 6:48 PM, shineridge wrote:

    Blah, blah, blah, blah, the ONLY valid point in this article is that FULL time jobs are tough to find. THAT is a fact. But, as far as workers being "engaged" (enthusiastic) about their job, it's hard to feel that way when your making a SH*T wage !!!! We have LOST millions, and millions, and MILLIONS of GOOD paying jobs, jobs that pay a LIVING wage. To fix that America needs to be RE-INDUSTRIALIZED. Bring the FACTORIES back. THOSE jobs payed good wages. Those jobs created the Great Middle Class. Until average Americans make better wages, just "going thru the motions" on their job is about you can expect from these "working poor".

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 6:52 PM, eddie252000 wrote:

    high tech machines and computers and lower paying countrys are taking them away from america.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 6:56 PM, geowb wrote:

    People, if you want your country back, support a union, any union, even if you're not in that union...

    We need strong union lobbies in DC...

    Stronger than those corrupt corporate lobbies that are ruining America.

    You all saw what the rich mans Wall Street did to us. Almost destroyed the country in a flash...due to their corrupt ways of handling money and responsibilities. Worldcom, Enron, JP Morgan, The banks and their handling of home loans. Even after that, they're still out there push "cheap" home loans.

    OH YEAH GO AHEAD AND TRY TO BLAME THE UNIONS...HA!!!

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 6:57 PM, benkokua wrote:

    Don't blindly attack unions. Certainly, they have helped contribute to their own demise, but they

    have also formed into healthy work partnerships

    with employers . Read " The Price of Inequality" by Steiglitz, or "Winner-Take-All-Politics" by Hacker

    and Pearson. Both talk about the massive shift of

    wealth in this country to the already rich and the shrinking of the middle class. Among the major factors, if not the most important, is the lack of union influence in the workplace. Both books indicate that without the stabilizing counterweight of unions, the marketplace and the workers are run by the rich.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 7:06 PM, FinePrintFocus wrote:

    Apparently writers are also not engaged at work:

    "This figure takes into consideration the number of unemployed persons as well as those who are seeking part-time work but have been forced to take on part-time work for economic reasons."

    I think these people are looking for FULL-time work...

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 7:41 PM, tbone4391 wrote:

    Detroit is bankrupt because they gave in to companies like walmart mc d s and the rest of these low payin jobs,Detroit like my great state of Ohio gave them tax breaks they don t deserve,and give there workers government paid insurance and food stamps,tell me how a country can survive when we don t make anything but hamburgers,and sell chinese garbage.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 7:58 PM, anonimiss wrote:

    Do we really need stats to prove how unmotivated the general workforce is? Even highly paid workers are de-motivated. The stakes are higher. In lower paying jobs, we have abusive managers, uncaring ownership, exploitation of the very backbone that "feeds the fat". I've worked as an admin, as a sales professional and retail. I have yet to see a business model that effectively uses the untapped potential of a group of highly motivated employees and maintains that model. It is cut throat, churn em and burn em. They dont care about turnover, cuz they know newbies are hungry. This is all done with algorithms, they have it figured out to a T. Motivation? Not utilized, at least not for the right reasons.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 7:59 PM, anonimiss wrote:

    What tbone4391 said!

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 8:12 PM, Chiara2 wrote:

    Propaganda!

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 8:20 PM, Mega wrote:

    Who paid for the Gallup study? Probably not American workers.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 8:31 PM, bluetaz wrote:

    many discouraged unemployed workers no longer looking for work due to , to many requirements such as work stability , drug testing backround checks credit checks ,valid drivers license, aptitude test , basic knowledge testing college degree requirements , numerous years of experience, multiple forms to fill out , numerous enterviews. followed by physical test, also to much unfairness in pay age discrimination current professional refrences from past employers or people who know you ...discrimination of being over qualified, and past criminal history even for minor offenses.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 8:37 PM, SLTom992 wrote:

    Actually the answer is in the factory at Tesla. Although the Liberals praise this company it has in fact developed it's entire production facilities around this conundrum. The research and design facilities are almost totally computer automated and only those capable of producing are employed. On the production floor the entire assembly line is automated and only very few workers are there, they are non-unionized and you either do your job with vigor or there are a dozen people waiting in line for your job.

    Gotta love those environmentalists.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 8:48 PM, ChMacQueen wrote:

    You'll never get the low end workers engaged. Their is no need for brain power or thinking to flip a burger, fry fries, or take a customer's order. Even if you offered starting wages $15 an hour it won't engage workers, just less turnaround while prices double.

    Far as the rest though its to much immigration and illegal aliens, and to many of our skilled jobs being out sourced. There are not enough educated jobs that take partificpation out their and out of the small group of jobs that does not many reward the small man for coming up with great new ideas. Help cut a companies yearly costs by 5% should warrant a serious 5-6 figure bonus even if your the front line tech support.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 8:57 PM, Lazyfrog2001 wrote:

    You must be one of those job creator who promise if you vote for the republican. We have been screw by guys like you more than once. Give me one reason why I should be engage. The minute something go wrong it the labor force that wrong. Never the boss. The next excuse is the Unions, really there lest then 6% of the workforce is unionize. The people that don’t give a crap are upper management they get paid whether the do good or not put the blame were it belongs. When I work I did what I was told and that still was not good enough

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 9:02 PM, Igor22 wrote:

    I think that what these companies are missing is that for the employee to be 'engaged' implies that the employee has an emotional tie to the company they work for. (Used to be referred to as drinking the company Kool-Aid.) Once upon a time, this emotional tie was built on the trust that if they contributed to the employer's success, the company would then be loyal to the employee in the form of job security, perks, raises, promotions, etc..

    These same companies also must realize that from the viewpoint of the workforce, the trust is gone. These people have been downsized, restructured, eliminated, consolidated, or whatever term the company likes to use. These people learned very quickly that there is no such thing as job security, and if they did get new jobs, they are not going to invest themselves like they did before. There is no incentive to go above and beyond when there is no trust that their job will be there tomorrow.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 9:06 PM, Isaacblack wrote:

    Reading these comments just confirms the authors points. American workers are sounding like socialists, total entitlement drones. Salary should reflect performance, not years on the job. In America, if you feel you deserve more you can demand it or look for another job. Trust me, if you are doing something valuable your employer will pay you more to keep you. If they don't try to keep you, you have become one of the employees, from the article...(ie. someone who is just going through the motions).

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 9:11 PM, Cmie wrote:

    Except Google doesn't really hire Americans. Chinese, Indian, people that went to school in the middle east or Waterloo and then came here, hardly an American to be found. And then they only hire their own kind and buy up all our real estate. So real Americans can't get good jobs and no longer own this country. Maybe that and a socialist progressive education system is where you will find the cause of the lack of engagement.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 9:28 PM, vman0626 wrote:

    Corporate America and the Government have abandoned us. I have been laid off 3x. I possess a Masters' Degree, have always been a popular, responsible and enthusiastic employee, never been in any trouble in my life, credit score of 746, responsible parent and father, etc. Now I am too old to get hired anyplace even though no one will admit it. The Portuguese restaurant down the street has illegals working as waiters. One told me last week he makes $800 cash on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. That's $2400 CASH for three nights a week. I can't get hired there. The system is broken. You don't have to be a felon or an addict to be ignored. Just a 35+ yr old with an education and work ethic. You will be considered a threat and ignored by the United Stated of America. How tragic....

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 9:48 PM, ESDZAPMAN wrote:

    I have been looking for full/part time work for over three years now. I have a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering and during my few interviews I sense that they do not want to hire me because of my age (61) or they use the excuse that I am "over qualified" for the position. I don't understand why any employer would not hire someone because they bring to the job more skills than asked for. You are either qualified or not, this idea of "over qualified" is just BS. No one has ever bothered to ask me how I felt about the starting wage to see if I had a problem with it, I think the employer just assumes that I would. I don't know how they can make this call since they don't know me well enough. There is no "skills gap" as is often reported, the employers are just trying to hire someone who is already doing the exact same job somewhere else. No more OTJ training.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 10:08 PM, guyhill80 wrote:

    The reason that the labor force has no positive motivation is obvious. They look at their "white collar" superiors as having taken advantage of their financial vonerabilites. While the working class have no recourse for the resent unfair increase of white collar income that kept up with cost of inflation, the blue collar worker's only response is the vindictive attitude that cost a company many times what they saved in reduced labor costs.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 10:23 PM, spankleelee wrote:

    Sounds like it's time for the people to boycott to me. Quite frankly, I do not believe this same old excuse the financial side keeps spewing. While I understand the want to make money desires, I can't wrap myself around the concept of hurting families to achieve the mountain of money that you all seem hell bent on making. Exactly what price is your happiness goal? How much do you really need to be happy? I think I will stay poor if this is how people with boat loads of money act.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 10:25 PM, ockhamsrazor wrote:

    an unmotivated rank and file is absolute and unconditional proof of bad management. it's what happens when you hire MBAs instead of promoting from within.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 10:40 PM, Panth wrote:

    Some good points to be made, with one glaring exception... The all time highs. Although the index may be at or near an all time numerical high, keep in mind that these indexes are not just a number, but a composite price, in dollars. Due to inflation (the real inflation, not the fudged federal numbers) the indexes are not even close.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 11:13 PM, AutumnMyst wrote:

    Could it have anything to do with waiting for the other shoe to drop? We keep hearing from big investors that predicted the last crash that it is coming again soon. That would certainly make a lot of people hesitate.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 11:44 PM, brooklynbummer wrote:

    I think that the American worker has been marginalized by employers so that employees are just another commodity.

    Quote one HR manager, "We hire them, burn them out and then replace them". The treatment of the employees was exactly that. One day a person was gone on Friday and on Monday a new body was in the seat.

    Americans have to compete for Third World wages and people cannot live in America working for Third World wages.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 11:47 PM, rookie627 wrote:

    My belief that what is wrong with our workforce is our government allowing so many temporary laborers. Temporary means short time, but I have worked with people that have been temporary at the same place for over ten years...that only benefits our corporate elite by eliminating any benefits. I have also taken a GallupQ11 survey that measures "engagement"..Eleven random questions like, " I have a friend at work", or "I believe my opinion means something" at work, true or false, is what they claim to use to determine engagement! Truth is, any answer is good....they just want you to answer this "voluntary" survey. Our supervisors took us out to expensive restaurants just to get us to fill these out...My sister, in an unrelated field, also gave her employees gift cards just to respond. How can you expect "engagement", when all know that the big companies only want lip service to prove that they care and their minions are engaged? It's all a show for the rich...plain and simple.

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2013, at 1:13 AM, vincelee76 wrote:

    The results of that study showed that only 30% of the American workforce is actively engaged in their job (i.e., they're innovative and willing to work toward bettering the business). The remaining 70% are either not engaged (52%) and are simply going through the motions, or are actively disengaged (18%) and are actually seeking ways to undermine their employer.

    Imagine that 18 percent is seeking ways to UNDERMINE their employers. It is no wonder companies move overseas. No foreign worker will try to undermine their employers.

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2013, at 1:18 AM, BilFoxsoapbox wrote:

    some of this is inevitable, automation, but the welfare state and an education system that produces liberal "artists" rather than craftsman, of course shipping jobs overseas and flooding the country with cheap labor from latin America and Mexico doesn't really help produce anything - and let's not forget the environmental flat earth no growth marxists that pushed their Divider in Chief to can the Keystone Pipeline - and to put a halt to cheap domestic oil from shale and natural gas...Blame the rinos, the illiberal locusts of the left...no, let's blame bush or George Zimmerman..

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2013, at 2:48 AM, motleyscrewed wrote:

    @ searay9451 :

    Once again, for the unfortunately ill-informed:

    Quantitative Easing

    ● Purchases drive prices to indifference levels

    ● The Fed debits securities accounts and

    credits reserve accounts

    ● NET FINANCIAL ASSETS REMAIN UNCHANGED

    ● The economy forgoes interest income

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2013, at 4:04 AM, intloilfield wrote:

    Or just do what I do. As I write this I am on a rig off the coast of Africa working for an American oil and gas major. I'm 27 years old, educated and I love my job. Too bad I have to come all the way over to Angola. But it is what it is. Im engaged to provide.

    By the way I would never hire anyone from my generation, they are flat out lazy. And I did not start out in this industry with a degree... But I have never lived a day in my adult life paycheck to paycheck. Its all how you are raised.

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2013, at 6:17 AM, Ryygar wrote:

    where is the motivation? my company hires mostly temps and now they fire any temp that has worked over 1 year. then they complain about quality. seems we are loosing business due to quality complaint, yet we lay off the skilled workers, and bring in more new people. dropping quality, its becoming the new people training the new people. im gonna lose my job over it eventually, because I cant keep an eye on these new people, with the ever increasing work load they put on me.

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2013, at 6:20 AM, Ryygar wrote:

    also I look at my fellow employees and I talk to them and im the only one who really cares. im in manufacturing and where I work the % is far smaller for workers who are "company wo/men"

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2013, at 7:13 AM, PastToTheFuture wrote:

    I don't off hand see any mention of companies investing in their employees. You are expected to come will all the skills and experience desired (to the point of whim) and then the company offers no help in developing your skills or education. That is a perk that is needed and will motivate.

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2013, at 11:06 AM, skypilot64 wrote:

    Why have workers become so disengaged? A big reason I think is that the quality of management has been on a steady decline for years now. I have seen this in both the public and private sectors. It is amazing to me how many of our mid and senior level managers cannot competently direct the activity and the quality of the work of their employees. 100k a year managers who write at an 8th grade level! And cannot conduct effective meetings. I have always thought that the managers actually work for the employees, not the other way around. The manager is just the director, not the star of the show. One of their primary responsibilities is to create the conditions necessary to enable their employees be successful which in turn makes the managers successful. Pretty simple concept. Don’t know why organizations fail to see and understand this when moving someone into a managerial position? Just because someone who’s performance has been “outstanding” does not necessarily qualify them to be a good manager. Crude analogy ….. you can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig.

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2013, at 11:07 AM, mdk0611 wrote:

    1. There seems to be a pattern of "it's all their fault. No it's all THEIR (different their) fault" among the comments.

    I suggest you read "The Reckoning" by David Halberstam, written about 30 years ago and focused on the auto industry and indirectly on Detroit. The main point shown in that book is "It's BOTH their faults" , in this case the UAW and Big 3 management.

    2. While fading over the last 5 years, there still appears to be something of an expectation disconnect held over from the dot-com boom/bubble of the late 90's. During that brief time, you didn't even have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time to get a high paying entry level job with benefits. But some still look to that anomaly as a norm, when it's just not the case. For most of the Post WWII 20th century recent college grads couldn't afford a Beemer, might have had to share an apartment if they were in high rent NYC or other coastal cities and didn't take international vacations. You started humbly, saved, and worked your way up the wealth ladder.

    BTW - It's tough to determine who was at fault first with respect to the employee-employer loyalty question, but during the late 90's it was the workers who had the greater "screw you" attitude.

    3. Here's a choice this country will have to make. Want manufacturing jobs to cone back? Well then you will have to accept the DOE report from last week and stop the opposition to fracking. Less important, but still relevant, Keystone has to be approved. That way American manufacturing gets a key competitive advantage.

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2013, at 4:36 PM, devoish wrote:

    If minimum wage had grown with productivity since 1968 it would be $22.00/ hour today.

    Step 1 ; LOWER the retirement age and increase benefits.

    Step 2 ; Make college available for every kid who wants to go - but make it free.

    Step 3 ; raise the minimum wage to match 1968 levels as compared to productivity growth - $22./hour

    Step 4; Eliminte the theft of bidding on commidities you are not taking delivery of.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On July 23, 2013, at 10:47 AM, mdk0611 wrote:

    1. If the technology of 1968 was still being used, productivity would be nowhere near what it is today. Capital investment played a large roll, which varies by industry, in the increase in productivity. And do you think the kid pouring soda at McDonalds is more productive than the kid who did it in 1968?

    2. Free college for anyone who wants to go? Who pays for that? What if the kid really isn't college material? Not everybody is. What if a kid decides on the 7 year plan, on someone else's dime, because he/she really likes college and doesn't want to enter the real world?

    3. Some businesses bid on commodities as a matter of hedging against large price increases. A form of insurance. Southwest Airlines with respect to aviation fuel, for example. If prices stay stable, they never exercise the option. You want to ban that?

    4. Social Security and Medicare both have significant long term funding issues as it stands. You want to make it worse. What happens when the money runs out?

  • Report this Comment On July 23, 2013, at 1:12 PM, foolishlymeek wrote:

    I think a lot of people have made some good points. Unfortunately, the problem of workers being disengaged is much more complex than any simple answer can provide.

    We have a society that is "more educated" than ever, yet college graduates don't know basic math and English. I went to the Dairy Queen on Mother's Days for a DQ cake. I asked to have "Happy Mother's Day" written on the cake. When the woman was writing on the cake, her colleague mentioned that she needed an apostrophe s. When I saw the cake, I asked where the apostrophe s was. The woman kept pointing to the side of the cake. Finally, she took the lid off and pointed, saying, "There." She was pointing to the exclamation point! When I said she was pointing to an exclamation point, this college student laughed and said she never was good at English! (I thought exclamation points and apostrophes were taught in third grade! However, many of the posts here have glaring spelling and punctuation errors, and I always thought TMF community was highly educated!)

    We have employers who want to pay the least amount of money and no benefits. Therefore, employees always have one eye looking out for a better job, better pay, or better benefits. High turnover costs companies money that is very difficult to quantify. There are the initial training costs, but the employee also has knowledge of company culture, management's habits, and customers' preferences. This knowledge leaves the company with the employee.

    In addition, companies are often not willing to provide training to employees. I worked as a training consultant for 20 years. When I would first start with a company, they would say it didn't matter what type of financial system they put in, it would not work correctly if employees were not trained correctly. At the end of the project, usually over time and over budget, these same companies wanted their employees trained as quickly and as cheaply as possible. After paying millions of dollars to implement PeopleSoft or Oracle, they wanted to skimp on training.

    Consumers have also pushed many jobs to other countries. We want high-paying jobs, but low-cost merchandise. Unfortunately, something has to give to have both. Over the years, wages have eroded, benefits have been cut, and jobs have gone overseas.

    Finally, the government has done a wonderful job of promising people something for nothing. I'm afraid Obamacare will be a supreme example. Everyone cannot have superior care and low costs. Someone will have to pay somewhere - whether it's the middle class paying higher premiums, doctors and hospitals taking lower profits, or companies reducing employee hours so that they do not have to provide benefits and/or pay a penalty.

    Disengagement of employees is a complex problem that has been getting worse year after year. No single answer will fix the problem. The problem has to be solved from all sides - employers, employees, our school system, and the government.

  • Report this Comment On July 23, 2013, at 1:29 PM, Seastars2 wrote:

    Health care needs to be uncoupled from employment. Nothing would revitalize our workforce more!

    Fund a single payer system with either a payroll tax or an income tax, but keep it away from employment.

  • Report this Comment On July 23, 2013, at 8:29 PM, devoish wrote:

    "1. If the technology of 1968 was still being used, productivity would be nowhere near what it is today. Capital investment played a large roll, which varies by industry, in the increase in productivity. And do you think the kid pouring soda at McDonalds is more productive than the kid who did it in 1968?" - mdk0611

    I think McDonalds needs to be forced to pay for the costs of its help and not pass those costs onto taxpayers.

    2. Free college for anyone who wants to go? Who pays for that? What if the kid really isn't college material? Not everybody is. What if a kid decides on the 7 year plan, on someone else's dime, because he/she really likes college and doesn't want to enter the real world? - mdk0611

    Yes free college. If you want to give them seven years all the better. I was thinking four. There is no reason to make our kids debt slaves to our financial industry, when it is the US Gov't that enables the financial industry.

    3. Some businesses bid on commodities as a matter of hedging against large price increases. A form of insurance. Southwest Airlines with respect to aviation fuel, for example. If prices stay stable, they never exercise the option. You want to ban that? - mdk0611

    Southwest Airlines takes delivery of significant amounts of fuel. The financial industry just inflates prices without adding value.

    4. Social Security and Medicare both have significant long term funding issues as it stands. You want to make it worse. What happens when the money runs out? - mdk0611

    Had minimum wage kept pace with productivity neither SSI, Medicare, or the US gov't would be facing deficits.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On July 23, 2013, at 9:05 PM, damilkman wrote:

    I am going to quote an old Michigan football coached by the name of Bo who I take to heart. He said if your just a floor mopper or a toilet cleaner you be the best #$%$# cleaner there is and someone will notice. So I got a rotten job in bottles return for 3.35 an hour. But I worked like a maniac. The grocery manager noticed my work ethic and asked if I wanted a job in grocery. I leap frogged all the more senior people in line who were not as motivated as me and doubled my salary. With that job I paid for most of my education.

    I always listened to the sayings of that old coach. Strange how people who don't complain and are engaged even when they are doing crummy work get notice, especially when that awful project gets done. Not only did I get it done in time I had a blast doing it.

  • Report this Comment On July 23, 2013, at 10:02 PM, PastToTheFuture wrote:

    Interesting. I see a lack of mentioning that all the middle managers are gone that were the leaders of the employees, that trained them. They were disposed of and you have the senior management that everyone seems to be complaining about here. They were the ones that gave continuity to a company. They were loyal and passed that on. They were the ones dependable to their companies and their families.

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