As societies evolve, so do our ways of doing business. In the past, large companies were often very hierarchical, with hundreds – if not thousands – of people working together in the same place, at the same time. Times have changed, and today’s focus is very much on flexibility, with working patterns becoming increasingly catered to the needs of employees. In a competitive market for attracting and retaining 21st century talent, new trends in the workplace are emerging all the time. Here are four key trends that HR managers and SME leaders need to be aware of:
1. Remote Working
The rise in remote working by employees and the increase in the number of freelance workers is one of the clearest signs that the “9-to-5” office routine is becoming a thing of the past. A study by Lancaster University predicts that 70% of all UK organizations will adopt remote working by 2020, attracted by “increased productivity, improved employee well-being, talent attraction and retention, and reduction in accommodation costs.” American collaboration software firm Basecamp is a standard-bearer for this flexibility, with 50 total employees based in 32 cities around the United States.
“You can be more flexible, especially if you’re a startup,” says Sissel Hansen, CEO and founder of the Startup Guide. “Before, new businesses would have to factor in pension and other benefits and costs. Most startups initially failed because of these costs. Now, flexible arrangements let startups scale up—or down—much more efficiently.”
As flexibility becomes a driving force, service providers around the world are now rushing to house this new, mobile army. In France, Sodexo offers more than 600 co-working areas across the country in partnership with a remote working specialist, Néo-Nomade. Coupled with the rise of the ‘gig economy’ and its Uber-styled business models, it is hardly surprising that 20-30% of the EU and US labor force are now self-employed or in temporary work.
2. Upskilling Employees
We may live in an era of technological growth, but too few employees are equipped with the skills needed to pursue more rewarding careers or to meet their country’s needs for growth. Some 40% of German and US firms have difficulty filling vacancies, while in emerging economies such as India and Brazil those figures are 64% and 63% respectively. And we will need even more skilled workers in the future. Research by Georgetown University predicts that 65% of jobs created in the US by 2020 will require some form of degree qualification.
As a result, a growing number of major firms, such as McDonald’s, Walmart, Starbucks and Gap, are investing in courses to upskill their employees with individualized programs, especially as hiring and onboarding new staff can cost up to twice their salary. Developing skills is also popular with employees, lifting morale and increasing retention. A global survey conducted by consultants at PWC found that 74% of respondents are ready to learn a new skill or completely retrain to stay employable. In terms of delivery, the three most popular methods are classroom courses, online learning and coaching/mentoring. Sodexo’s Spirit of Mentoring program offers employees precisely this chance – to help people achieve their potential through a process of collaboration.
3. Empowering People with Technology
In leading companies around the world, HR departments are using technology to lead an agenda for change. As new tools and platforms emerge, HR teams are deploying new services to improve the employee experience and enhance productivity. The Internet of Things (IoT), with its wide range of connected devices, is among the technologies being harnessed by HR experts to deliver these improvements.
Virtual assistants can search and fetch information from typed or spoken commands, while ‘smart buildings’ enable lighting and heating/cooling to be managed seamlessly, lowering utility bills by up to 20% and reducing building security costs by up to 50%.
Wearable technology is another valuable IoT asset. Acting as a beacon, wearables can help companies design facilities and services that are more conveniently located for staff. In industry and construction, they can act as safety monitors. Australian firm SmartCap Technologies has developed a headband that fits inside a cap or hard hat to monitor brain waves, alerting the wearer to fatigue and the onset of potentially dangerous micro-sleeps. Employees are clearly open to wearable tech, with 58% of respondents in a US survey saying they would wear a device if it enabled them to do their job better.
In the workplace, IoT’s value lies in bringing together these different employee touchpoints. “By digitizing the workplace, we are able to enhance the overall employee experience,” says Belen Moscoso del Prado, Sodexo’s Group Chief Digital and Innovation Officer. “This is because of the ability of IoT technologies to act in a way where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Each sensor helps us gather a holistic view and then we can understand the benefits that are seen when we modify a workplace touchpoint.”
4. Employee Experience and Human Capital Management 3.0
This willingness of employees to adopt technology such as IoT is important at a time when two-thirds of them are not engaged. To address this issue, HR departments are using technology to introduce a new approach to engagement, known as Human Capital Management. HCM 3.0, its latest form, aims to maximize the value of a company’s employees by developing strategies for them in five key areas: recognition programs, learning, health & well-being, community involvement, and staff surveys/analytics.
Naturally, digital platforms have an important role to play in HCM’s efforts to bring out the best of a firm’s employees. In Latin America, a survey found that some 40% of companies are using technology to drive their three main HR priorities: productivity, engagement and corporate culture. That usage figure rose above 70% for firms with more than 10,000 employees.
Echoing that trend, another study found that 70% of office employees felt digital engagement software would help them perform better, and 54% said they would be more likely to perform a task if it incorporated game elements. Similarly, 90% of companies in a US survey said that health tech, from forums and mobile apps to competitions and tracking devices, has helped increase employee engagement in their health. Learning is also becoming more accessible with the latest tech, with Samsung using augmented reality headsets to train production line employees.
However, HR specialists are also using technology to drive engagement by improving quality of life. Boundless is a Sodexo solution for healthy eating, stress management, sleep, and financial well-being, where employees are free to choose a wellness program for their specific needs and health condition. “Engagement is about bringing communities together,” explains Mia Mends, CEO of Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services/Inspirus in North America. “That’s why we are taking an uncommon approach to well-being by enabling employees to configure the well-being program based on their motivations, preferences and challenges.”