Interview Patty

Houston’s Top Workplaces give employees sense of meaning, even when the pay isn’t great

By Mark Collette, Houston Chronicle Business Reporter, November 1, 2018


Despite another year of a slow recovery from an oil slump and catastrophic flooding, employees at the Houston Chronicle’s Top Workplaces for 2018 found their jobs even more meaningful than the year before — even if they weren’t satisfied with pay and work-life balance.


More than 81 percent of employees responding to a survey the Houston Chronicle and the Pennsylvania consulting firm Energage said their jobs make them feel like they’re part of something meaningful, a bump of about 3 percent over last year and nearly a percentage point higher than nationally.


Those attitudes showed in dozens of employee responses that mentioned how their workplaces responded to Hurricane Harvey.


At Cornerstone Home Lending, a manager left his own family to help employees move to higher ground as their houses flooded. At Gillman Auto Group, employees, up to the CEO, were credited with ensuring workers had a home and access to financial assistance after the storm.


Drury Hotels raised thousands of dollars for dozens of Houston families and gave each employee $500 to deal with fallout from the storm, even if they weren’t directly affected by flooding.


“I feel proud and empowered to work for a company that puts their team members before the bottom line,” one employee wrote.


The factors that employees said they cared about the most — company direction, feeling appreciated and feeling part of something meaningful — remained unchanged from 2017, demonstrating that those items transcend economic times and natural disasters, said Bob Helbig, media partnerships director for Energage.


“It’s really easy to treat people well when times are good, although a lot of successful companies don’t even do that,” he said. “But it’s another thing to show that appreciation when times are tough. I think those companies have proven they can survive really serious challenges.”


Helbig pointed to energy companies that have made Top Workplaces nine years in a row, through boom, bust and now recovery, such as Plains All American Pipeline, EOG Resources and Enterprise Products Partners.


“I can’t imagine any sector that’s been more turbulent in the history of the top workplaces program,” he said. “Yet there they are every year.”


253 companies with about 139,000 employees participated in the survey. About 81,000 workers responded.


While Houstonians felt part of something bigger than themselves this year, they were not as positive about their working conditions as workers nationally, according to Energage’s surveys. Only 55 percent of respondents said they felt pay was fair for the work they do — a drop of more 5 percentage points from last year — compared with 63 percent nationally.


Houston-area hourly wages averaged $25.87 in August, according to the U.S. Labor Department, 6 percent higher than the U.S. average. But for jobs that don’t require a college degree, wages were slightly lower than the national average.


Part of the problem could be that the Houston workers have grown to expect increasing wages during boom times in energy, said Patty Block, a Houston business consultant. They might also feel overworked after firms cut jobs in the last few years and remaining employees took on more duties.


She noted retention was lower in this year’s survey, indicated by the number of employees who said they were considering other jobs, up nearly a percentage point to 42 percent.


Just as Harvey pulled some workers closer together and increased feelings of connection and meaningfulness, it also traumatized some people after three consecutive years of major flooding, including the tax day floods in 2016 and the Memorial Day floods in 2015.


“You have to wonder if that’s impacting that retention number, with people looking for opportunities in other places” outside Houston, Block said.


Overall, in her interactions with Houston employers, she is finding a brighter outlook as rebuilding efforts advance and new flood control measures are put in place.


“I see a lot of optimism,” she said. “I see a community that has come together.”

Read the original article: Houston Chronicle

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