Workers are experiencing high levels of on-the-job-stress and it's a trend employers expect to continue.

In the Towers Watson Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey, a study of 1,605 companies globally, including 278 from the U.S., 48% of respondents indicated that employees often experience excessive pressure in their jobs, and more than half (53%) reported that their employees worked more hours than normal in the past three years. Moreover, 43% of those surveyed expect that pace to continue over the next three years.

In the U.S. stress levels are even higher, with 61% of employers saying employees at their companies often experience excessive pressure on the job. Nearly three-in-four U.S. companies surveyed (71%) said employees are working more hours, while almost two-thirds (63%) expect that trend to continue over the next three years.

The survey also highlights employers' continued struggle with attracting and retaining high-potential and critical-skills employees. Nearly three-fourths of respondents (72%) cite problems attracting critical-skill employees, while roughly six-in-10 employers are having difficulty attracting high-potential and top-performing workers (60% and 59%, respectively).

In the United States, the number of employers having difficulty attracting employees with critical skills increased for the third consecutive year, to 61%, nearly the same percentage as in 2005 and 2006, when economic growth was stronger and unemployment rates were significantly lower. More than half of all respondents also reported difficulty retaining top-performing and critically skilled employees.

"There appears to be a mismatch between what employers are offering and what employees are looking for," notes Laura Sejen, global leader of rewards at Towers Watson. "Employees, including top talent, are more focused on competitive base pay and job security. Employers, on the other hand, are emphasizing other items, such as challenging work, and their mission, vision and values."

The survey also suggests employers are struggling with their performance management programs. Only half (51%) of U.S. respondents believe their performance management process effectively links salary increases to individual performance results, compared to 62% of global companies.

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