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Author's profile photo Susan Galer

How Leading U.S. Companies Keep Employees Happy

USWF2020blogleadership.PNGA new study sheds light on what high-performing companies in the United States do differently from the rest. Using data cut from the SAP-supported Oxford Economics “Workforce 2020” survey of over 2,700 executives from 27 countries worldwide, the findings reveals how successful organizations in this country handle employee rewards, the position of human resources (HR) in the corporate hierarchy, leadership development and technology training. Here is how these leaders are keeping employees happy and helping drive company growth.

Offer the right benefits

In highly mobile talent markets like the United States, compensation and benefits may be the key to employee retention. Executives at U.S.-based companies are overwhelmingly more likely than underperformers to say they offer competitive compensation (86 percent vs. 38 percent), a flexible schedule (57 percent vs. 26 percent), and healthcare (79 percent vs. 38 percent).

Keep HR close to the C-Suite

The more successful the company, the closer HR is to senior management. Sixty-one percent of executives at high-revenue-growth companies in the U.S. say HR works with the C-suite to make strategic decisions about the business vs. 31 percent of underperformers. In three years, 79 percent of high performers say HR will work with the C-suite.

Forty-six percent of executives at high-revenue-growth companies say workforce issues are already driving strategy at the board level. That number is lower for underperformers (33 percent), which respondents expect will increase to 44 percent in three years.

Invest in developing future leaders

Top leadership at 71 percent of high-performing U.S. companies considers workforce development a driver of competitive advantage compared to just 46 percent at underperformers. High performers also appear to have a deeper bench. Fifty percent say that when a person with key skills leaves, they tend to fill the role from within versus 23 percent of underperformers.

High-performing organizations also believe their leaders are more effective than their counterparts at underperforming companies. Executive at high-revenue-growth companies in the U.S. are significantly more likely to say their leaders can inspire employees (50 percent vs. 44 percent). The high performer’s long-term outlook is also much brighter. Eighty-two percent of executives at high-revenue-growth firms say they are capable of retaining, updating, and sharing institutional knowledge—less than half of underperformers agree.

Closing the technology skills gap

Regardless of company performance, all of the respondents in this study agreed that access to insights from data was a major factor in their employee’s ability to do their job. However, the impact on underperformers was much greater. For example, 55 percent of underperformers agreed that lack of industry data impeded job performance versus 31 percent of high-performing companies.


An overwhelming majority, (89 percent), of high-revenue growth companies say workforce development is a key differentiator for their firms—only 51 percent of underperformers agree this is the case at their companies. The feedback about technology expertise bears this out. Seventy-one percent of executives at high-revenue-growth companies say programming skills are well represented at their organization compared to only 46 percent at underperforming organizations. Even so, only a little over 50 percent of high-revenue-growth companies say cloud skills are well represented at their organization. That percentage is lower (38 percent) for underperforming companies. Mobile skills are even lower for both high-performing (39 percent) and underperforming organizations (24 percent).

Every company has challenges and a complex dynamic of variables impact success. Yet executives at leading companies may be on to something when it comes to making employees happier. The right combination of benefits, training and effective leadership, coupled with an HR seat in the boardroom, comprise a formidable competitive edge.   

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