Workers More Confident in Economy

Employee confidence in the economy increased for the sixth consecutive quarter -- reaching its highest point since 2010 -- but worker effort has hit an all-time low, according to research released this week by a subsidiary of IT consulting and research firm Gartner.

Nearly 55 percent of employees reported feeling confident in the third quarter, a roughly 1 point increase over the previous quarter, according to survey data from about 22,000 professionals in 40 countries compiled by Arlington, Va.-based technology and insights firm CEB. At the same time, perceptions of available job opportunities rose to a three-and-a-half-year high.

"Today's employee is far more aware of what opportunities are out there in other companies, and it's much easier to come across that info," said David Lewis, founder and CEO of Norwalk-based HR consulting and outsourcing firm Operations Inc. "That knowledge that there are so many other jobs out there has to be feeding confidence levels more than anything else."

Amid the improving outlook, job-seeking remains steady. The number of employees intending to stay in their current positions ticked up, by about 1 percent, for the second straight quarter.

In the third quarter, 16 percent of employees reported a high willingness to go above and beyond their assigned duties; the rate ran at 20 percent in the third quarter of 2013. The drop equates to one in five of a company's hardest-working employees no longer working as hard as they used to or not putting in additional effort, according to CEB.

"In today's labor market, employees are not concerned about losing their job or their company underperforming," Brian Kropp, HR practice leader at CEB, said in a statement. "In addition, they feel there is a lack of opportunity to move up within their organizations, and thus very little incentive to work harder than they must. This lack of motivation is of course problematic for organizations, but also likely explains a significant part of the productivity drag we're seeing in several economies."

In southwestern Connecticut, workers' productivity often correlates with their range of job opportunities, Lewis said.

"For those who work locally and have no interest in commuting out of the area, their productivity shouldn't have altered that much in the post-recession era," Lewis said. "The market is such that they likely won't lose their jobs, but they also understand there are not a lot of opportunities for them locally to leave their current job and go somewhere else. When you don't have lots of opportunities, your motivation turns inward, and you're going to focus more on doing what you can to retain the job you're in."

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