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What workers want? Better pay

On the Job

When it comes to benefits that attract and retain workers, bosses and theiremployees are far apart on what matters.

Two surveys released last week found that workers put more emphasison pay, while employers believe promotion opportunities and careerdevelopment are top reasons employees join or leave the organization.

A survey of 1,100 workers by Watson Wyatt Worldwide and WorldatWorkfound that 71 percent of top-performing employees rank pay as the topreason they would leave a company. The margin of error was 3 percentagepoints.

A separate survey of 262 U.S. companies by the two groups found only45 percent put pay at the top of the list. Instead, employers citedpromotion opportunities at 68 percent and career development at 66 percent.The margin of error was 6 percentage points.

Why is there such a disconnect?

It's partly because employers have "lost sight" of the cumulativeeffects of benefits cuts on workers, says Laura Sejen, director ofstrategic rewards consulting at Watson Wyatt.

More and more, companies are asking workers to pay a larger share oftheir healthcare costs, Sejen says. And many employers have shiftedemployee retirement plans from traditional pension funds to definedcontributions, she says.

The bottom line: Workers want better pay.

Sejen says companies need to act if they don't want to lose workersor experience difficulty in attracting qualified ones. They can respond toemployees' needs by offering individualized compensation packages or moreflexible benefits, including job-sharing and part-time work.

Already, employers are having a harder time recruiting. The employersurvey showed that 63 percent of bosses report a moderate or high level ofdifficulty in attracting skilled employees.

From the mailbag: I received a few holiday party horror stories lastweek, and here's the best one.

Al, a reader from Felton, Pa., tells a cautionary tale.

He says his boss allowed employees to charge drinks to his corporatecard for the first 90 minutes of the party. The boss extended the timelimit by another 30 minutes. That's when things started to get a littletipsy, Al says.

At one point, a female employee -- who was wildly gesticulating withher hands while telling a story -- hit a waiter holding a tray full ofdrinks.

"Everyone seated at the table ended up wearing a drink or two afterthat little maneuver," Al writes.

In a second embarrassing moment, another professional who Al says hadbeen openly campaigning for a promotion drank a few too many. The bossnoticed that she was absent from the party, so colleagues went looking forher. They later found her passed out in the ladies room.

The next morning, most workers were recovering from a hangover. Asfor the drunk worker, she was never promoted and left the company a year ortwo later, Al says.

"I think it proves the point that, as young (or older) professionals,we may develop friendly relationships as we did in college, but we shouldnot expect to be able to go out and drink like we might have been incollege -- at least not if we can't pay the 'price' for our actions when wedo so," he says.

What's important to you when you look for a job or what benefits help you stick around? And what else is on your mind about life at work? Send your stories, tips and questions to Please include your first name and your city.

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