In our world of sound bites and summaries, statistics are playing an increasingly important role. They are the basis of infographics. They are used in catchy headlines. They provide support for arguments, both real and imagined. They also provide ammunition for the ongoing wars about compensation, engagement and more.
The real question is should they have this power?
I have gathered some recently reported statistics that have been touted as important, forecasting or eye opening. I then compared them to prior statistics that came with the same dire warnings. Feel free to follow the links to explore the wonderful Internet for yourself.
The Mythical Dream Job Warning
2013: Only 14% of US workers believe they have the perfect job and more than half want to change careers, according to a new poll released on Monday (July 1, 2013). Link to article
2002: Only 19% of the US Population love what they do. Link to article
So, let’s make this clear. 80-85% of people don't have the perfect dream job or love what they do. In more than ten years, this number has not dramatically changed, but each time it is reported it is done with great drama.
Engaging Conversations Past and Present
2013: 52% of employees are not engaged. Even worse, 18% of employees are “actively disengaged”. Link to article
2003: 55% are not engaged and 16% are actively disengaged. Link to article
Engagement has been a buzzword in our industry for decades. In the past 10 years, we have improved from 71% being disengaged in 2003 to only 69% being disengaged in 2013. We wring our hands about this every year, but the “improvement” is easily within the margin of error. Perhaps we would be better off putting even more time and effort into rewards and compensating the 28-31% of employees who seem to be buying into our work.
CEO to Worker Pay Ratio
This next set of numbers is the most fun. All three statistics are from 2013. Depending on whom you ask, CEOs make between 204 and 354 times the average worker. If I gave disparate ranges like this to my clients, they would send me back to the drawing board for a bit more effort.
2013: In 1950, CEO to worker pay ratio was only 20-to-1, increasing to 42-to-1 in 1980, 120-1 in 2000 and now to a record high of 204-1 in 2013. Link to article
2013: CEOs are paid 273 times more than workers in 2012. Link to article
2013: CEOs make 354 times more than the average worker. Link to article
A quick update and interesting fact about Say on Pay
Advocates for Say on Pay say it is a way to help control outsized compensation. I did a quick review of Say on Pay Failures (55 so far) compared to the recently released Equilar / New York Times CEO compensation data. Of the 55 companies who failed 2013 Say on Pay votes, only 2 had CEOs in the top 55 in total compensation.
Paul A. Ricci of Nuance Communications
Wellington J. Denahan, Annaly Capital Management
So, what does this all mean? First, we need to stay focused on the people who like their jobs and are engaged with our companies. A majority of people will never get there. While can't ignore them, we can’t let them distract us from those who are real players on the team. Second, we need to understand that statistics cannot be warped to anything, but as the CEO:Worker pay ratio shows, they can be distorted to the point of no longer telling a useful story. Third, Say on Pay is not about high CEO pay, it’s about pay or performance that do not seem to correlate. Finally, statistics, as they are used in the media for public consumption, are not our greatest source of truths; they are simply numbers looking for believers.
Dan Walter is the President and CEO of Performensation an independent compensation consultant focused on the needs of small and mid-sized public and private companies. Dan’s unique perspective and expertise includes equity compensation, executive compensation, performance-based pay and talent management issues. Dan is a co-author of “The Decision Makers Guide to Equity Compensation”, “If I’d Only Know That”, “GEOnomics 2011” and “Equity Alternatives.” Dan is on the board of the National Center for Employee Ownership, a partner in the ShareComp virtual conferences and the founder of Equity Compensation Experts, a free networking group. Dan is frequently requested as a dynamic and humorous speaker covering compensation and motivation topics. Connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter at @Performensation and @SayOnPay.