While advances in technology are transforming the way we work, enabling more freedom of choice over when and where we work, so too are people’s expectations from their employment. Contributor Asimina Stamatiou, Senior Business Analyst and Employee Engagement Expert – MHR.
Where once a great place to work was defined by a good salary, prospect for career progression and the prestige that was attached to working for a high profile brand or in a state of the art office, today employees are no longer prepared to stick around if the work itself isn’t fulfilling and meets their lifestyle needs on a day to day basis.
In a recent YouGov survey commissioned by MHR we aimed to establish what makes people happy in their job. The answers we received varied wildly, from employees who were passionate about their employment and employer in equal measure, to those making impassioned, negative comments, full of colourful language; but lacking in optimism. One thing was clear though – out of the group that were satisfied with work, 63 percent said they were given the flexibility and support to do their job, which really shows how important it is to look after your people.
Looking at the results in more detail, we found that many employees cited flexible hours and the freedom to manage their own working time as important factors in job satisfaction. Other factors included regular meetings and having understanding managers, showing support and freedom are the main components of satisfaction.
Always On? Or Always Off Target for Productivity?
Britain is widely regarded as a nation suffering from an ‘always on’ culture. This not only refers to our extensive, increasing use of tech at all hours, it also refers to our inability to switch off from work; digitally as well as mentally. With the combination of increased workloads, constant notifications for email and text, as well as the lack of standard working patterns in many jobs; it’s hard to decide when work stops and life starts – or if they have become the same thing.
This madness needs to stop. Doing a few more hours to hit deadlines has always been common and isn’t going to disrupt life too much, but the difference is that the always on culture takes away the freedom to control our own lives on our own terms.
Getting outside for fresh air and exercise, taking time to socialise with friends and concentrating on hobbies are all essential to work/life balance, but the real question is ‘why don’t we have time to do our job in normal working hours?’. The inability to switch off is evidence of poor working practices. When workloads are managed inefficiently, the wrong staff are doing the wrong jobs, or outdated systems are being used, employees are forced to pick up the slack well after five P.M.
According to CV-Library ‘the always on culture is hitting sleep quality, stress levels and family life, with almost eight in ten professionals recognising a negative effect’. This means that the workers doing the extra hours do not benefit your business as they’re burned out, meaning they achieve less, in more time.
It makes more sense to use analytics tools to visualise how productive each worker is, so you know what is being achieved, and use self-service technology to help your people manage their time better. Monitoring staff might sound like micromanaging, but it’s actually a way to flag staff who are facing burn out, so you can intervene and help them get back on track before they miss time through illness or leave altogether. This approach needs to start now, so problems don’t have chance to escalate.
It’s Crucial to Empower Your People
It’s not uncommon for long-standing employees to ask for extra responsibility to help with personal development and it’s just as common to hear complaints of micromanaging and interfering – both are born out of a feeling that control and independence have been lost within a role.
The answer to this is obviously to give extra responsibilities and step back, but it’s quite understandable that many managers will be hesitant as they fear losing control of the situation and may worry employees will make mistakes without their assistance.
Despite their best intentions, managers are just building distrust and animosity here, the answer is to give their people the tools to manage themselves and plan their own projects, in a way that can easily be audited for peace of mind; the answer is employee self-service technology. This combination of manager and employee input means everyone has the chance to contribute without losing control, so each person’s skillset assists in all the key admin processes.
What This Means for the Future of HR
With the empowering of staff giving increased autonomy, now is a great time to start reassessing traditional roles within your HR department. Right now a lot of the duties of HR professionals are still completed with manual processes and even when they are not, the list of duties remains unchanged:
- Recruiting & Staffing
- Processing changes to personal data
- Employee Safety and Employee Relations
This is just a short list from the many HR duties that exist, but the important point is that HR professionals are capable of far more than this, and as technology evolves, many of these duties will be automated to save costs and assist in analytics processes; so it’s crucial to start redefining HR roles now.
While it’s easy to think HR automation will take jobs, what it actually does is to take control of the menial admin tasks which currently take up so much time, meaning your HR employees are given the freedom and training to facilitate a more complex role full of opportunities to concentrate on strategy and engagement. This flattens out the hierarchal system, creating a better, more economical future for HR and your business as a whole.