How is the world of work changing? Perhaps more importantly, how do staff perceive it to be changing? ADP president Don McGuire shares the software company’s large-scale annual research findings of employees’ attitudes to work.
Massive advances in technology, the erosion of international barriers and evolving employee expectations are all disrupting the way we work. Change is happening so rapidly that many believe the workplace will soon be unrecognisable from how it looks today.
While it is undoubtedly an exciting time, it can also be disquieting for employees, who may be unsure how their future role and prospects will be affected. HR’s role is paramount – it’s vital to stay on the front foot and prepare the workforce for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
ADP recently undertook its Workforce View, an annual study of nearly 10,000 individuals in eight countries across Europe. The research looks at workers’ feelings, expectations and concerns about their daily working lives, highlighting key trends that will significantly impact the workplace of tomorrow.
Our insights also give HR teams a valuable blueprint on the areas that will require their attention in the coming months and years. Here is a snapshot of what we found.
Rethinking career progression
HR teams across Europe face a conundrum when it comes to balancing conflicting forces in employee development and talent management. On the one hand, employees are crying out for more career development, with almost one-third (31%) of respondents saying that their employer doesn’t support their progression very well, or does not support it at all.
On the other hand, employees are moving jobs more frequently than ever, with only a quarter of workers saying they expect to be with their employer until the end of their career and 13% expecting to leave within a year. The job for life is now a relic of the past.
Add to this the rise of the gig economy. Two-thirds (68%) of European employees would consider self-employment and/or freelance work, and more than a quarter (26%) are actively planning a move in this direction. A more flexible lifestyle is even more attractive to the millennial generation, with 37% of 16- to 24-year-olds and 36% of 25- to 34-year-olds actively considering making the shift to self-employment.
23% of workers say they are frustrated by outdated technology”
These two issues leave HR leaders with a big challenge on their hands, as they attempt to simultaneously address the needs of those employees who expect more career support, while also managing the constant flux of short-term talent going in and out the organisation.
A new, strategic approach is needed, with a greater focus on work-life balance, more flexible career paths and more open and transparent conversations with staff about their goals, ambitions and development needs.
It can be argued that the popularity of freelancing and gig working is part of a broader trend towards a more flexible workplace and lifestyle for employees. Although 42% have flexible working hours, the same proportion suggests that they would like more flexibility.
This comes down to workers being able to control their own hours. For instance, while a “zero hours” contract technically offers flexible working hours, employees are often unable to control when and how long they work.
It is crucial for both employer and employee that flexibility goes both ways – so that an organisation does not find itself without enough staff, and so that employees are working the hours they feel financially comfortable with.
So, what can HR do to meet this desire for flexibility? Implementing the right technology and tools is a good start, yet many employees complain this is not happening. For example, 23% of workers say they are frustrated by outdated technology, suggesting that many organisations may be holding back productivity simply by failing to invest in technology.
Our study also found that one-third (32%) of workers are not provided with a company laptop. While in many cases a company may encourage employees to bring their own devices to work, companies need to ask themselves the question, is supplying portable technology a luxury, or a necessity enabling workers to be at their most efficient?
Technology is just one part of the equation, however. For flexible working to really take off, changing pre-existing attitudes and stereotypes is even more vital. That means it must be led from the top.
It has to be open to everybody and the whole workforce has to embrace greater flexibility. It may be a big transition, but failure to adapt will leave organisations at risk of losing the best talent to more forward-thinking competitors, or see them join the ranks of the growing freelance and gig economy.
Upskill or get left behind
Equipping employees with the right skills goes hand in hand with career development, engagement and maximising productivity. So, it’s concerning that 16% of employees have concerns over their skills level, up from 11% in last year’s study. Reflecting an increasingly connected and globalised world, language and advanced IT skills are currently the most sought after, with almost a quarter of workers (23%) saying they need help with these areas.
Looking to the future, IT skills continue to dominate, with just over two-fifths (41%) of employees anticipating a need for new technology and devices training in 10 years’ time, and 37% saying the same about IT skills training in general. The influence of the move towards self-employment is also evident, with skills such as self-motivation (22%), productivity (22%), creativity (21%) and self-management (21%) also seen as a primary focus for the years ahead.
When asked about their expectations of HR, the provision of training was the most popular response, named by one-third (32%) of respondents. It is therefore vital that organisations are proactive in providing training that is relevant to the evolving workplace, arming employees with the skills they need to succeed and achieve their potential in this new working world.
In a landscape that is constantly evolving, innovative HR and talent strategies are constantly needed if organisations want to stay ahead. The best way to start building these strategies is to understand what makes your people tick; what motivates them, engages them and what makes them anxious about the future of work.