I’m hoping you HR/benefits pros can help me understand something. At a recent EBN staff meeting, we discussed head-scratching results from a new survey by WFD Consulting and Alliance for Work-Life Progress.

The study showed senior managers are steadfastly committed to work-life initiatives, yet failed to invest work-life resources to address their most serious workforce issues.

When asked to identify the top two work-life issues facing them in 2010, employers most frequently cited stress/burnout, excessive workload and employee engagement/commitment.

Makes sense, particularly in the face of stats showing engagement is falling, while stress and workloads increase with workers struggling (and sadly, sometimes failing) to do more with less following the recession. No problems there.

Where the staff and I start to get confused, though, is when asked where they’ll pour resources, employers brushed off the above concerns entirely, saying instead they’ll opt to address problems with wellness/resilience/energy programs and flexibility policies. 

Even more strangely, nearly half of companies will address career management, although just 15% view it as a serious issue. 

What kind of sense does that make?

Why would employers spend resources — which are even more precious now in an era of squeezed budgets and staff — to solve problems they don’t think are all that pressing, but not on the problems they themselves say are top concerns?

Why would you tell surveyors, “Yes, we are VERY CONCERNED about employee stress/burnout, engagement and excessive workloads,” then in the same breath say, “While we’re VERY CONCERNED about these things, we won’t spend a dime to try to make the problems better”?

This is far from the first time us EBNers have seen this disconnect; countless other studies on other benefits topics have shown the same concern-to-resources disparity. We’d like your help to figure out this strange survey phenomenon.

Are pros just lying to surveyors about their level of concern? Lying to themselves? Are they truly concerned about serious organizational issues, but are being thwarted by miserly CFOs who’d rather spend money on less pressing matters?

Seriously, what gives? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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