Wave of Layoffs Brings Job Worries -- and Opportunities

What do bank employees think of their jobs?

Well, they certainly don't feel they have much job security. But those who have survived the layoffs say they are finding more opportunities to learn new skills and take on extra responsibilities.

These were just a few of the findings of an employee attitude survey taken early this year by Chicago-based Human Resources Services Inc. Over 58,000 people in 42 banks participated.

Job Security Is Top Concern

Pay, job satisfaction, corporate communication, and career opportunities are but a few of the issues rated as important. But job security -- or the lack thereof -- topped the list.

Fifty-one percent of the respondents said they felt less secure in their jobs than they felt one year ago.

"In light of what's happened recently -- with the merger announcement between Chemical and Manufacturers Hanover -- it's not at all surprising that employees are fearful about job security," said Kevin A. Sheridan, president of Human Resources Services. As if to emphasize his point, NCNB and C&S/Sovran announced this week that they, too, plan to merge and trim payrolls.

Prime Motive Undermined

"If I went out and conducted the same survey today," Mr. Sheridan said, "I'm fully confident" that 65% of employees would feel less secure, as opposed to the 51% earlier this year.

"Employees are scared," he said. "Many bankers chose this profession because of the job security. I spent four years at Chase Manhattan, and I knew a lot of people who had that mindset. But the security is not there anymore."

Nevertheless, 49% of the respondents did not raise job security as an issue.

"These are the aggressive people. They are the ones that are thriving in this environment," said Gary Peters, senior vice president and director of human resources for West One Bancorp, Boise, Idaho, a bank holding company with $4.5 billion in assets.

And, they are probably those employees with less than 10 years of service, the survey found. Such employees were twice as likely as those with longer service to cite pay as their most pressing concern.

"Newer bank employees are more willing to accept risk, but they are demanding more compensation in return," Mr. Sheridan said.

"I don't agree with that finding," said Mr. Peters, who is also a member of the human resources committee of the American Bankers Association. "I've never seen any case where money buys happiness. Happiness comes from job satisfaction."

Job Dissatisfaction Rises

Even if Mr. Peters is right, it's unfortunate -- because over 25% of the employees responding to the survey said they were dissatisfied with their jobs, up from 15% in a similar study three years ago.

Furthermore, only one-half of the employees felt their job had measured up to what they expected when they took it, down from 65% three years earlier.

Other survey results point out the reasons for job dissatisfaction:

* Nineteen percent said their immediate supervisor was unfriendly or unhelpful.

* Only 29% believe that supervisors, other employees, and other work groups give them enough information to do their jobs.

* An overwhelming 65% said information came through the grapevine rather then through proper channels.

* Seventy-seven percent said higher-level managers rarely or never come to their work area.

"It's clear from these results that it's time to get back to basics," Mr. Peters said. "Managers must become better listeners, be more genuinely concerned, and become good communicators."

More Cooperation Reported

On the bright side, the survey found that the employees sense more cooperation with co-workers and more opportunities.

Sixty-six percent of the respondents said there was good cooperation among members of their immediate work group -- significantly more than the 55% who said so three years ago.

And 47% of the employees felt their jobs gave them the chance to learn and to assume new responsibilities. In 1988, only 28% of the employees said they had this opportunity.

"These results are clearly attributable to consolidation and downsizing," said Mr. Sheridan of Human Resources Services. "The need for cross-training is highlighted in this type of environment."

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