Employee attitudes and loyalty have dropped in the past several months, even as the economy and corporate profits have rebounded, according to a national study by Minneapolis-based Modern Survey.

The survey of 1,000 U.S. working adults reveals that the percentage of people who take pride in their company has fallen to 73 percent from 79 percent between August 2009 and mid-February. Those intending to stay with their company fell to 57 percent from 63 percent, and those willing to go "above and beyond" their regular duties fell to 57 percent from 61 percent.

Fewer employees said that they'd recommend their company to others.

Don MacPherson, a founder of the 10-year-old firm that conducts surveys for employers, said Friday he was surprised by the results because the same numbers rose between August 2008 and August 2009.

However, when he previewed the results recently for a focus group that included executives from UnitedHealth Group, TCF, Ameriprise, Cargill and Xcel Energy, several executives suggested that employees are just "exhausted."

"Some of their people have been asked to do too much for too long," MacPherson said. "What I'm predicting is that when opportunities happen, some of these experienced people will leave for other opportunities. Some of these companies will have to go through the expensive process of hiring and training new people."

The survey seems consistent with the reality that big companies cut employment sharply during the 2008-09 recession, but have not added people, counting instead on the well-documented increases in worker productivity, as well as modest sales rises, to regain profitability.

The analysts at Modern Survey began the workforce-engagement polling in August 2007, while the economy was still humming. Worker sentiment bottomed in August 2008, amid huge layoffs, the credit crisis and tumbling stock market. It rose over the next year.

Pollsters had expected sentiment to rise with the brightening economic outlook over the last several months.

"These results should serve as a wake-up call to organizational leaders who may have been preoccupied with other matters in recent months,'' the authors of the survey concluded in their report. Survey results are available at www.modernsurvey.com.

A cleaner deal

The 4,000 Twin Cities commercial office building cleaners who signed a deal with five management companies this month won an improved three-year contract that also provides management with scheduling flexibility, moves toward lower-cost "green cleaning" with some day hours and the use of less-toxic chemicals.

A spokesman for the Service International Employees Union (SEIU) said the wages of full-time janitors, about half the workers, have risen 25 cents to $13.22 an hour, to be followed by dime-an-hour raises in 2011 and 2012. Also, the union agreed to single-plan health coverage for all workers that results in lower premiums and out-of-pocket deductibles and better coverage.

Support the jobless

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans in April will present free educational workshops at 10 area churches designed to help idled breadwinners recharge emotionally, keep a positive attitude and prepare for that better job that is just around the corner.

The 90-minute workshops at Golden Valley Lutheran, Christ the King in Bloomington, Calvary Lutheran in Minneapolis and elsewhere will be presented by volunteer Thrivent Financial representatives. More information can be found at www.thrivent.com/findaworkshop or 763-746-3152.

A tremendous amount of networking and support occurs regularly at these and other churches and synagogues that sponsor job-support meetings for those in employment transition.

Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144 • nstanthony@startribune.com