Flexibility: The Key to Happiness in the Future Workplace? – #EWS2015

slinkyI‘ve partnered with Spherion to provide insight and information from the 2015 Emerging Workforce Study but all opinions are my own. Please see below for additional disclosure.

A friend of mine lives a life to which many of us can relate; she has a demanding job and a demanding personal life trying to juggle her career while successfully managing hearth and home. Her husband heads in direction A each morning, she heads in direction B, and their teenager heads in Direction C. During any given week there are doctor appointments, school activities, sports, after-hours work commitments, and community or professional events. Long drives, long days, and long nights; she often first arrives home at 8 PM or so after spending countless hours behind the wheel and traversing many miles. There’s no such thing as balance…it’s more a matter of making sure it all gets done.

I get exhausted just contemplating her schedule.

Luckily though she works for a company that realizes flexibility can improve worker engagement, retention and motivation. While she is somewhat tethered to her phone 24/7 at least she has accessibility to flextime and periodic telecommuting as needed. Her employer, reliant primarily on tech workers and in-demand professionals, long ago grasped the need for flexibility in order to attract, retain and engage employees.

And that, my friends, is one of the findings from the EWS; increasingly more employers are offering work/life balance programs:

  • More employers are offering formal and informal work/life balance programs this year, like telecommuting (53%), flex-time (60%) and sabbaticals (39%). This is great as workers are willing to take advantage of these programs, even if their company didn’t offer them:
    • Flex-time: 52%
    • Telecommuting: 46%
    • Paid time off for community service: 32%
    • Sabbaticals: 29%
  • A new trend that the Emerging Workforce Study uncovered is employers offering sabbaticals to employees. Sabbaticals have significantly increased as a work/life balance program offering for workers (39% in 2015 versus 17% in 2014).
  • Employers are also increasingly adjusting their offerings to include work/life balance options that workers desire. And they are noticing that it’s positively affecting worker satisfaction (81%), productivity (73%) and recruitment (62%).

I think that last distinction is important; the offering of work/life (#workflex) balance options can be a differentiator in recruiting top talent (62% of employers see a positive impact on ability to recruit). I, for one, have noticed that candidates are increasingly asking about flexibility options very early on in the talent acquisition process. And it’s not like all employees expect to work 100% from home; what I have found (anecdotally of course) is pretty much in alignment with what was uncovered in the EWS:

  • Workers indicate that if they could choose the ideal work arrangement, the following would be most appealing to them:
    • Working full-time both in an office and remotely: 37%
    • Working full-time in an office: 27%
    • Working full-time, but remotely: 18%
    • As a remote freelancer or contractor: 8%
    • Working part-time in an office: 5%
    • Working part-time but remotely: 4%
  • Employers agree that working full-time both in an office and remotely is the most beneficial work arrangement (44%) and working full-time in an office is second most (37%).

There’s an important distinction to be made here though; not every business model allows for flexibility of this sort. The reality is that a number of people work in 24/7/364 operations (health care, hospitality, manufacturing) where employees must, obviously, be on-site – scrubbed, shiny and ready to greet the public. We can’t all work from home in our yoga pants.

The concept of flexibility, and “balance,” can be incorporated in sensible ways across positions or departments. It may be as simple as allowing employees to have more input in scheduling or eliminating draconian HR policies that require managers to chastise an employee who steps from her cubicle to take a personal phone call. A gradual evolution to a new way of working can be more palatable as companies distance themselves from old-school “command-and-control,” “butts-in-seats,” “I need to see my staff to know they’re working” management models.

Yoga pants not necessary.

 

Disclosure Language:

Spherion partnered with bloggers such as me for their Emerging Workforce Study program. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about any idea mentioned in these posts. Spherion believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Spherion’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

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The Employee of the Future

peggyI‘ve partnered with Spherion to provide insight and information from the 2015 Emerging Workforce Study published in part by CAHI but all opinions are my own. Please see below for additional disclosure.

I don’t dispute the very obvious fact that there are generations; I think we all get that. That’s always been the case. So why, as we head into the sunset of the year 2015, do we continue to denigrate one specific generation? The largest one by the way. According to the population projections released by the US Census Bureau earlier this year “Millennials (whom we define as between ages 18 to 34 in 2015) are projected to number 75.3 million, surpassing the projected 74.9 million Boomers (ages 51 to 69). The Gen X population (ages 35 to 50 in 2015) is projected to outnumber the Boomers by 2028.”

Obviously crap topics like “How to Manage Gen Y” still sell or these sessions wouldn’t continue to have massive attendance at every HR conference and articles and blog posts covering the subject wouldn’t get clicks and shares. But I, for one, had enough about 4 years ago. Really. Get off my lawn.

The tension – the push and pull – between the generations in the workforce has always existed. Let’s take a look at a youngster entering the workforce with whom many of us are familiar. OK, the “imaginary” workforce, but bear with me.

Peggy Olson was born (according to her official Mad Men bio) on May 25, 1939; 5 months before my mother (well, you know, if Peggy were real). On the show we saw her start her career as a timid secretary (at the age of 20) and, when the story ended in the fall of 1970 she was blasting her way up through the glass ceiling as a 31-year old advertising executive.

Peggy rocked.

She was brave, spirited, and complicated; she took us on a journey through the decade and showed us what it was like to be an eager goal-oriented woman breaking into the old-boys club. She put up with sexism and all the assorted biases and constraints imposed upon her by her coworkers, managers and clients. She kicked ass at her job, explored the counter-culture, smoked weed, and demanded to be treated with respect.

And, at her age, many with whom she worked considered her a kid. Agency Partner Bertram Cooper was born sometime in the latter part of the 18th century and Roger Sterling arrived around 1917. Ida Blankenship was, I would imagine, pushing 70 when she died at her desk in 1965. (RIP Miss Blankenship). Don Draper/Dick Whitman, Peggy’s mentor, boss, and eventually her subordinate, was born sometime circa 1925.

The workforce was changing and I would imagine that over 3 martini lunches they pissed and moaned about the lack of work ethic, lack of attention to proper professional office attire, and wacky hairstyles too.

Fast forward to 2015 when Peggy would be 76 years old, and, no doubt, the Chairman Emeritus of some Advertising Agency. What would she, and her executive team, leaders and HR team be thinking about when contemplating the workforce of the future? If they dove into the Spherion study they would learn:

  • There are more generations in the workplace than at any other time in history and employers are faced with the challenges of recruiting, managing and retaining workers with vastly different wants and needs. (I don’t know; Miss Blankenship and Peggy had a 50-year age gap and both managed to get their wants and needs met at work).
  • Many employers are concerned with the growing skills gap and know that narrowing the gap is critical to their future success.
  • 82% of employers say recruiting and attracting Generation Y workers are critical to their company’s future success. (Really? You haven’t yet figured out how to recruit a 30 – 34 year old employee? They are Gen Y too…)
  • One-third of employers are concerned about turnover and retention; a significant jump over last year when not even a quarter (23%) of employers shared the same concern.
  • 70% say that Baby Boomers exiting the workforce will leave a major skills gap within their organizations. (We’ve been singing this song for 10 – 15 years already; time for a new tune).
  • 58% report they are already preparing to attract and recruit Gen Z to stay ahead of future talent needs. (I was targeting and pre-sourcing middle school and high school students in the mid 90’s when I worked for a science and research organization; don’t smart recruiters in high growth professions/companies always do this???)
  • Gens Y and Z are least loyal generations and most likely to leave current employers. (This is utter crap. Talented and in-demand employees will always leave bad employers and toxic workplaces; it has nothing to do with generations. See Peggy Olson’s picture above. #WorkIt.)
  • Gens Y and Z engagement and job satisfaction are low. In addition, the online reputation of a company is important. (Reference Amazon. Am I right?)

The study gives us good insight into what many employers are thinking. Check it out. Then, once it hits about 11 AM, feel free to loosen your tie, pour yourself a drink, and relax in your office as you contemplate the immortal words of Roger Sterling:

“Maybe every generation thinks the next one is the end of it all. Bet there are people in the Bible walking around, complaining about kids today.”

Disclosure Language:

Spherion partnered with bloggers such as me for their Emerging Workforce Study program. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about any idea mentioned in these posts. Spherion believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Spherion’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

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Everybody’s Working for the Future

loverboyI‘ve partnered with Spherion to provide insight and information from the 2015 Emerging Workforce Study but all opinions are my own. Please see below for additional disclosure.

In the immortal words of Mike Reno and Loverboy:

“Everybody’s working for the weekend

Everybody wants a new romance

Everybody’s going off the deep end

Everybody needs a second chance

Sort of sounds like today’s world of work. Well, maybe not the romance part (except for that creepy guy who works in your mail room) but the other lyrics sure remind me of work. But don’t take my assessment of the situation; our friends at Spherion did a great job of pulling together their 2015 Emerging Workforce Study by examining several forward-looking trends and indicators for what the future workplace will become. They surveyed more than 2,000 workers and 225 human resource managers to gather their opinions and attitudes on topics including recruitment, employee engagement, job satisfaction, retention, employee advocacy, social media use, generational differences and work/life balance. Conducted by Harris Poll (a Nielson company), the survey was conducted in March and April of this year.

What did I learn by taking a dive into the study? What’s the talk around the water cooler both in the HR suite and out on the shop floor?

First and foremost, the skills gap is top of mind for both employers and employees. While employers cite a skills gap in the current workforce, employees also expressed concern that they won’t be able to prepare for tomorrow’s jobs or have the ability to progress in their own careers. The study results showed that 33% of employees agreed with the statement I believe my current job skills fall short of what will be required in future positions” and 36% agreed with “I don’t feel my current job skills will help me attain a promotion today.”

In addition, 31% of employees surveyed agreed with the statement “I don’t feel like my current employer has trained me adequately enough to keep my skills up.”

So who is to blame? Leaders and human resources professionals like to point out, in a perfectly reasonable manner, that employees should be responsible for their own development. Naturally, this is a bit different for an IT professional like a .Net Developer as compared to a non-exempt help desk technician making $32k who may not have the resources or time to self-fund her own professional development.

Are organizations and human resources/L & D teams falling short by failing to adequately up-skill their current staff? According to the survey, 24% of employers think it’s very/extremely challenging in terms of cost to keep workers trained for future skill needs/requirements, and 26% say the same for keeping up with evolving training demands to keep workers’ skills up-to-date.

Where’s the disconnect?

It appears both groups identify the same needed skills; according to the survey employers believe the top skills that would be required for employment include problem-solving skills, strategic thinking skills and team building, the ability to understand and interpret data, and evolving technology expertise. For the most part, employees agree and cite problem solving skills, strategic thinking skills, evolving technology expertise, and ability to understand and interpret data as necessary for success.

If we all agree this is an issue affecting the acquisition and retention of talent isn’t it time to give enhanced employee development programs a second chance? Work smarter during the week so we can truly live on the weekend?

I think Mike Reno – and his headband – would approve. 

 

Disclosure Language:

Spherion partnered with bloggers such as me for their Emerging Workforce Study program. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about any idea mentioned in these posts. Spherion believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Spherion’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

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