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Why the workforce is changing

Steve Wainwright
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Areas such as onboarding, retention and employee nurturing need to change to appeal to the modern worker, a term that encompasses all of the generations in the workforce. Contributor Steve Wainwright, Managing Director EMEA – Skillsoft.

This overhaul is drastically changing the way that HR functions.  Rather than focusing on specific age groups, those organisations focusing on the needs of the modern learner will be best positioned to meet the challenges of the future.

Embracing change
Reports claim that upwards of 90% of the younger generations within the workforce will spend less than three years with one employer. Successfully onboarding and retaining employees can be a challenge for HR departments. With such a high departure rate, HR departments are investing more time and effort into onboarding and retention strategies.  When someone leaves, it costs the firm money. Investment in retention can return dividends over a relatively short period of time.

For instance, in the context of the low average tenure, every week wasted between onboarding and full productivity is – relatively – much longer. It takes the average employee about eight months to reach full productivity.  The workforce has a shorter window to full productivity, so HR professionals are putting tools in place to allow the onboarding process to start the moment the role is accepted.

The key is to reduce the onboarding window. The new workforce is very receptive to this, and it supports a more effective on-going review process. It also allows for individual differences in ‘ramp up’ times to full productivity, while reducing onboarding time overall and boosting productivity. The key is allowing HR teams to adapt and change their traditional processes, so that talent, including younger talent, is attracted and retained.

Creating a culture of value
Continuous onboarding is important for all workers; it has been shown to increase employee engagement and productivity across the board. Employers should encourage their entire workforce to stay for the next stage of their career. Often, this will involve encouraging an individual to take on a new role, and this is where talent mobility platforms come into play. This can help an employee see where their next step within the organisation will be, and what they need to do to get there. It is important for companies to ensure that the whole workforce feels valued and appreciated, and this form of continuous onboarding certainly helps.

The key element of talent mobility is not the money, but showing employees the company values them and wants to give them the opportunity to progress their career. The modern worker seeks employers that encourage work-life balance, and offer perks like flexible schedules, volunteering opportunities or customisable benefit packages.  Usually, the choice to leave relates to a manager, or a lack of visible career progression. HR professionals need to take a wider perspective on their retention strategies, aligning them as much as possible to the needs of the new workforce.

Continuous feedback
Historically, many organisations have viewed employees simply as vehicles to drive growth. But this view is out-dated; now the modern worker demands quid pro quo. They want to help grow their employer’s bottom line, but also expect them to help grow their personal brand and skillset in the process. Frequent feedback and mentorship programs provide great ways to create a foundation for employees, giving them a mutually beneficial connection with the organisation.

The traditional annual or bi-annual appraisal is no longer fit for purpose. From a performance management perspective, this was considered the norm – sporadic, infrequent appraisals with little opportunity for timely feedback. Now, modern digital tools are allowing organisations to give the workforce an official ‘pat on the back’ that will be remembered when it comes to their review. This is a form of on-going, public performance appraisal that is proving very effective for management.

Dedicated tools allow a colleague, mentor, manager or client to call out employees on a job well done – and that builds up a better, and much more realistic, picture of overall performance. It’s the ‘social media’ review – paralleling how people use apps outside of work – where each project, act or conversation can be ‘liked’ and saved for future review. In the new Digital Age, it makes no sense to maintain a Stone Age model of annual appraisals.

The influx of new generations into the workforce is seeing a shift in how HR departments are managing key processes. Onboarding, retention, benefits and appraisals are all gaining more importance. Those HR professionals that can meet these new challenges will be best positioned to navigate the changing industry landscape. Perhaps this is the big shake up that organisations need to become fully engaged with the whole workforce – new demands from a new, modern worker.