Just in time for spring, optimism about pay among American workers seems to be growing, according to a new survey. So how can HR make the most hay with this bit of sunshine?
Employees are more confident about future pay raises and company outlook than they have been in the past four years.
That's according to a survey of 2,013 U.S. adults in the first quarter of 2012, who were surveyed for Sausalito, Calif.-based Glassdoor's Employment Confidence Survey.
Indeed, for the first time since the survey began tracking such trends -- in the fourth quarter of 2008 -- more employees (43 percent) expect a pay raise within the next 12 months than those who do not (38 percent).
"These are absolutely the brightest, most positive numbers we've seen," says Rusty Rueff, a member of Glassdoor's board of directors. "We're seeing the best numbers around employees finally feeling that their compensation is going to settle in" after years of financial turmoil.
In addition to that, nearly half (46 percent) of those surveyed believe their company outlook will be better in the next six months, which is up six points from the previous quarter and is the highest level ever recorded by the survey.
"The picture is sharpening [for workers]," Rueff says. "Now they see the contrast between industries and see where their company sits.
"We're not in [high definition] yet," he says, "but we're getting there."
Rueff says the survey also finds that 40 percent of companies are restoring health and dental cuts or restoring pay cuts.
"That's great," he says, "because those were the first [items that were cut] during the great recession."
And with 24 consecutive months of quarterly job creation under its belt, Rueff says, such optimism in this economy is now warranted.
"When churn was dead, from 2008 through 2010, everyone hung onto their chair because there was no music at all," he says. "Now, the music is playing and people are less worried that the music will stop or that they won't find another chair."
Max Caldwell, managing director of New York-based Towers Watson's data, surveys and technology line of business, says the Glassdoor survey can be read as a sign of "a slowly changing mood."
"People have noticed that, although the company may be doing better, they're seeing companies in a bi-polar mode," he says.
The common corporate climate is still probably focused on running lean, he adds, but many workers may be starting to feel like they are one of the people who helped the company through a tough time.
" 'I sucked it up during the tough times and now I expect to be rewarded,' " he says in the voice of such a worker. "That's not an entirely unreasonable expectation, but companies need to manage those expectations."
Angie Strunk, vice president of operations for Sheakley HR Solutions in Cincinnati, says the survey results may encourage workers -- who may have been hesitant to change jobs due to the economic outlook -- to consider making a switch.
"Executives should be cognizant [of this] and reward those who have stepped up during these tough times," she says. "HR executives should consider ways to incentivize their top performers to ensure those key employees are committed and have bought in to the organizational goals."
Towers Watson's Caldwell recommends HR leaders get a jump on communications efforts.
"I'd want to really reinforce in people what to expect and how value is being delivered across a whole spectrum of rewards," he says, "to make sure people aren't going to be disappointed at the end of the day."
"If I was in HR and I saw this data, I'd have to continue to be great at communicating how great the company is doing and to ensure a second shoe won't drop," he says, adding that social-media sites -- such as LinkedIn and BranchOut -- provide opportunities for sharing and commenting on such information.
"It is an open and transparent conversation and companies must do the same," he says. "The last four years, the employer has held all the cards and held them close to the vest.
"Now," he says, "they have to show their hand."