Oct 31 2014

Engaging the ‘overwhelmed’ employee


Leaders across the global are facing urgent leadership, talent and workforce issues, but their organisations are largely not ready to respond. So says new research by the professional services company, Deloitte. The research highlights 12 trends that it says embody ways the 21st century workforce is pushing organisations to innovate, transform and reengineer their human capital practices.

Called the Global Human Capital Trends 2014, the report found that as the economy is continuing to recover, organisations are increasingly wanting and needing to grow their businesses.

To do that, they need the right workforce in place, with the right skills and attitudes. Have they got that? Not according to Deloitte. Several key areas, encompassing those 12 trends, emerged as needing urgent attention across all of the 94 countries surveyed. These were leadership, retention and engagement, the reskilling of HR and talent acquisition and access.

With regards to leadership and development, the report says there is a pressing need to broaden, deepen and accelerate leadership at all levels. Organisations need to increase global workforce capabilities, re-energize corporate learning by putting employees in charge of it and fix performance management.

In terms of retention and engagement, there needs to be a far greater policy of attracting and engaging talent proactively. Companies need to attract, source, recruit and access talent and drive passion and engagement in their workforce. They need to use diversity and inclusion as a business strategy and help overwhelmed employees deal with the flood of information and distractions in the workplace.

Thirdly, HR needs to transform and reinvent itself. It needs to create a global HR platform that is robust and sufficiently flexible to adapt to local needs. HR teams need to reskill, take advantage of cloud-based HR technology and implement HR data analytics to achieve business goals.

As part of the report, Deloitte has included the Human Capital Trends Dashboard, an interactive tool that looks into the survey data and users can apply to their particular industry, geography and company size.

When looking at what the 21st century workforce looks like, Deloitte found that they are global, highly connected, tech-savvy and demanding. Millennials are on the rise and will account for 75% of the global workforce by 2025. However, increasing numbers of the older generation are working for longer, meaning that HR has to manage an increasingly diverse workforce, sometimes spanning four generations.

What also emerged is that today’s workforce is feeling the pressure. Deloitte uses the term ‘the overwhelmed employee’, a new human capital issue discussed in this report. As individuals are online 24/7 and are constantly flooded with information, messages and communications, the report says there is an increasing need for individuals and organisations to manage these stresses effectively.

It is something that the global consulting firm, Blessing White, touches upon in what it calls the ‘Virtuous Circle of Contribution and Satisfaction’. Blessing White talks about the fact that in today’s world organisations want maximum contribution from their employees, while employees want maximum satisfaction at work. Can the two desires be met at the same time? Yes, says Blessing White, and if you can achieve both simultaneously, then you have an engaged workforce and a thriving business.

Put another way, companies that focus on enabling and empowering employees to contribute with work that is meaningful will increase satisfaction and therefore, business results. To tap into this virtuous circle of employee contribution and satisfaction, Blessing White says employees have to have a keen sense of business goals, how their contribution fits in with that and what to focus on.

According to Fraser Marlow, head of research at Blessing White, a lot of managers still think that an organisation’s needs are separate from employees’ needs and that contribution and satisfaction are two separate entities. Some of those managers believe that demanding more productivity from employees will reduce satisfaction. However, if employee is fulfilled at work and keen to be more productive – producing greater business results does not have to mean longer hours – then productivity and satisfaction are linked.

For some time now, employees have been saying that they want to have a definite sense of purpose at work and for it to be meaningful. This is particularly important for the ‘overwhelmed employee’ as it can help reduce internal pressures. A career study carried out by Blessing White this year found that people’s three top priorities at work are: that their work is interesting, meaningful and that they have a good work-life balance.

To find out more about the Deloitte research, click here.

Photo Credit: Marc_Smith via Compfight cc

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