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Friday, November 25, 2016

What Do Workers Want?

Written by  Richard Finger

So often there is a disconnection between what employees are looking for from a prospective employer, and what employers think they are offering.  A brief article in the latest edition of HR Magazine cites a recent study by Willis Towers Watson that touches on this subject.  According to the article, the top three factors people consider when deciding which organizations to work for are fair pay, career advancement, and job security.  This is based on surveys conducted around the world.  From a global perspective, it is quite fascinating to see that the rest of the world has caught up to the United States, as job security was, until recently, a given. The global economy has certainly changed the landscape.

The interesting aspect of the article talks about how managers often don’t either fully understand how much employees value these elements or have differing perceptions about whether the employer is adequately providing them. For example, more than one-third of workers surveyed cited opportunities to advance as a key reason to join a company, but only 4 in 10 indicated that their own companies do a good job of providing such prospects.  Almost half of respondents answered that they would need to leave their organizations to progress their careers.  Yet, almost 7 of 10 company representatives believe their organizations are effective in providing career advancement opportunities. This implies a clear disconnect.

As far as job security, it is always tough for any employer to promise guaranteed employment, but there are some tactics company leaders and human resource management can take to help alleviate employee concerns.   I have often written about “employability”, which challenges workers to remain relevant through continuous training and learning. If companies are willing to share with their employees the direction the business is heading, the idea of determining marketable capabilities and skills of the future can be used as a platform for which employees can develop themselves.  Another idea is to use performance management conversations to help employees adapt to changing workplace needs.

Related to the three factors cited above, there was also some research that identified strong senior leadership as the top driver of sustained employee engagement.  However, the study also uncovered that nearly half of employees do not trust their leaders.  Building trust within leadership and the employee base is most essential for survival of the organization. I have always found that when leaders deliver on commitments made, and speak authentically to their employees, these are key ingredients to building that trust.

In recent articles, I have touched on the subject of the multi-generational workforce.  This article seemed to have represented all generations of workers.  A secondary finding of the study shows that physical work environment and ability to manage work-related stress are also important factors in determining what makes workers stay.  Generally speaking, one can conclude the influence of the younger worker creeping into these results.  It will be most interesting to conduct a similar study in twenty years to see what, if any, of these factors will change. Only time will tell.

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