What You Really Need To Know About Workplace Statistics
A quick study of workplace statistics can tell you much about your career choices and prospects, your organization's performance, even your company's future. It is true that statistics generally involve large populations, not individuals. Workplace statistics however, can be very useful, covering everything from employment rates, to perceived job satisfaction, to projected manpower and skill requirements. Some of these statistics can be very meaningful, not only to the organization but to the individual.
Someone once remarked that one characteristic about data is that it can be "tortured" to tell you whatever you want it to say. The same can be said for statistics, a particular type of data. People love to quote statistics, be it in the workplace, on the political stage, or simply to bolster an argument.
It's not at all unusual for someone to quote a statistic to bolster an argument and someone else to use the same statistic to bolster an opposing argument. In the workplace, statistics are often quoted to justify a performance issue, to forecast manpower totals, or to compare current production figures to those of previous years. Unfortunately, more often than not, supportive data, which tells how the figures were reached, are often not presented. Let’s look at a few random statistics and see what they might mean to you, if anything.
Statistics tell us that only 50% of employees are satisfied with their job, and only 16% think their job is the one they really want to be doing. On a national scale, this may not have much meaning to the individual worker. But a similar statistic, when describing job satisfaction within an institution or in a particular career path, might make you think twice about the career path or organization you are thinking of entering.
Statistics tell us that 20% of workers do not trust there boss, and one in four believe they could do a better job than their boss. If this statistic is true, it means that the chances of you being happy with your boss, whoever he or she might be, are not very good. What the statistic doesn't tell you, is whether this is due to personality shortcomings of most bosses, unrealistic expectations by employees, or corporate cultures which encourage promotion into management of less than qualified people.
Statistics say that by 2010, there will be a need in the US to fill 10 million skilled positions with no one to fill them (This statistic was obviously released before the economic downturn of 2008-09, the number may still be valid, but the year probably is not). A statistic such as this is often used in recruiting. The message? Come to work for us, there'll be plenty of juicy assignments, and as far as job security is concerned, we can't be beat!
One set of workplace statistics of some importance is turnover. Yet, even the numbers here can be misleading. A 20% annual turnover rate in retail stores or a fast food chain is not generally of great concern, in fact is considered about normal. That same percentage, if applicable to an engineering or high tech organization could be devastating. While the number is important, what is really important is - why?
When you are confronted with a set of workplace statistics, some are obviously going to seem to be of greater importance than others. Some may be of great significance as far as your career and employment plans are concerned. As was the case with the turnover statistics, while the number assigned to a particular statistic may grab your interest, what you really need to know is – why?