HR management is changing fast and facing multiple challenges. By merely looking at the learning and development side we have already identified some changes that can have a great impact. Knowledge retention within companies is becoming an issue, with aging on one hand, and higher employee rotation among the younger generation on the other. In addition to this, new technologies have given people access to knowledge anywhere and at any time. This can make employees tend to disregard information handed down by their companies, even if the purpose is to help them improve their job efficiency.
More than ever, human resources executives across companies have to take these changes into consideration in order to keep employees motivated and company performance high. This is especially true with younger generations gradually entering the job market.
A glance at the new workforce
With the rise of automation, the job market has become uncertain and more difficult to enter for Generation X and the Millennials (or Gen Y). These generations are experiencing the multiplication of low quality jobs, now commonly referred to as McJobs. Jobs from the gig economy offer almost no advancement opportunities.
To survive these changes, the younger generations have developed a much higher sense of awareness and greater agility than their older counterparts. They accept these uncertainties as a fact of life, adapt faster, and are more flexible when facing new job opportunities. But here lies a problem, and a major one: they are also more easily distracted, get bored faster, and change jobs more often. They still want meaningful jobs even if a McJob is better than no job in the short term. Unfortunately, with time, all generations will likely be affected by the same “pain”.
Even more today than in the past, HR needs to work on improving work conditions of their new recruits and existing workforce in order to make them more engaged and improve retention. Old reward and punishment systems don’t work anymore.
More control? It starts with empowerment...
Studies have shown that engagement and retention rates increase when more autonomy is given to people and bonds are created between them. That happens by allowing your employees to:
- Work from a distance or work in inspiring workspaces
- Benefit from customized, flexible schedules
- Learn whenever they want to, autonomously
- Build stronger relationships with colleagues, some of whom they wouldn’t meet otherwise
- Share ideas about the future of the company and be listened to
- Have FUN together ;-)
This is what Jeanne Meister calls consumerization of HR. With Gen X and Millennials looking for a better work/life balance and for inspiring and meaningful jobs, trust and letting go are must do’s for companies. The notion of employee autonomy is key, since it contributes directly to the creation of a positive feeling about the work environment.
Trusting and giving a higher level of autonomy to employees is obviously not easy in our culture, but it’s becoming more and more popular following successful experiments which show positive influence on both employees’ motivation and company performance at the same time. Back in 2010, Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh published the book “Delivering Happiness” which is about how they created a Zappos company culture based on strong company values. Among other things, he pointed out that happiness is affected by an environment in which employees can pursue growth and learning opportunities, build stronger social connections, and communicate openly with colleagues. More recently, studies showed the growing importance of empowerment and work/life balance over the financial package for Gen Y, and a recent article published in the International Journal of Psychology reinforced the link between autonomy and motivation
Does employee empowerment mean losing control as an HR executive? Probably a little, yes. But what if you could contribute to building that type of positive environment within your company?
You are convinced by the fact that empowering your people is the way to go. So where do you start?
As mentioned above, flexible schedules are already perceived as a positive sign (managers clearly have to avoid micromanagement and tight schedule control) but it won’t create change if not well organized. Start by putting tools in place that empower people, encourage them to share information, collaborate, and work as cross-functional elements within the company. Then set up a measurement system to gather insights that will help you better evaluate where improvement opportunities are. As an example, organizing learning and development opportunities around a dedicated platform will contribute directly to two key motivators and positively impact company performance:
- Skills improvement leads to a job done more efficiently and a positive feeling about one’s impact on the company's goals achievement.
- Social connections building stimulates internal communication and increases motivation, even for introverted people. It ultimately improves talents retention.