Majority Of U.S. Companies Asking Employees To Work Longer Hours

more overtime Great RecessionSomething's got to give.

The country's cities are being occupied by citizens clamoring for a reassessment of our capitalist system. Of course, there's the motivator of 9.1 percent unemployment. But while the plight of the employed might pale in comparison to those still out of work, times are also tougher for those fortunate enough to be on the payroll.

Indeed, a new survey released by Towers Watson found that two thirds of Canadian and U.S. companies are asking their employees to work longer hours.

The survey was conducted by questionnaires sent to 316 firms. And about half said that they expect the trend to continue for the next three years.

The leaders of the survey didn't take the results as just another testament to the Protestant work ethic.

"In the short run, having employees work extra hours can increase productivity, but in the long run, extended hours can negatively affect employee well-being and retention," Laurie Bienstock, North America leader of rewards consulting at Towers Watson, told the Benefits Canada news outlet. "Employees at many organizations are already suffering from change fatigue. As a result, when the labor market does recover, companies can expect a sharp increase in voluntary turnover, especially if they do not address employee concerns, and deliver reward and talent management programs more effectively."

The survey's findings also revealed another developing narrative about the American workforce. As MarketWatch reports, the survey showed that for the second consecutive year, the North American companies are having trouble finding and retaining skilled workers. Nearly six out of 10 U.S. companies (59 percent) reported problems attracting critical-skill employees this year. That is an increase from 52 percent last year and 28 percent in 2009, according to Marketwatch.

"Companies are taking longer to fill these positions, and more of them are open. There is clearly a greater-than-normal mismatch between the skills employers seek and those that are available in the marketplace. In short, despite the overall weakness in the job market, companies need a more appealing offering to attract critical-skill employees," said Laura Sejen, global head of rewards consulting at Towers Watson.

There's been no fiercer advocate for skilled workers than former "Cheers" star, John Ratzenberger. He sat down with AOL Jobs earlier this month to argue for increased training in professions like electricians and plumbers.

"The average age of the American factory worker is around 57 years old. A lot of people aren't aware of that," he said. "Many major corporations, especially in manufacturing, can't find enough workers. The companies can't say anything because it will affect their stock prices. There's a ton of work out there, it's just that there aren't enough skilled people to fill them. We need to inspire the next generation before we run out of people who can make a building and invent things. We've got maybe six to 10 years before the entire workforce is impacted."

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