The wants and needs of the modern workforce

By Nelson Sivalingam, CEO at HowNow

Gen-X. Millennials. Gen-Z. Housing a number of generations in one office has left employers with a difficult challenge to ensure each worker’s requirements are met, and that everyone has a way to keep learning and working effectively.

Consequently, it is now more important than ever that HR departments adapt their processes and approaches to successfully manage people in the digital age. 

There has been a significant shift in what employees look for from their place of work in the last five years. A recent report from Deloitte found that a good work-life balance is the most important thing for millennials when accepting a job. 

Alongside this change, the development of technology enabling employees to work regardless of geography means there has been a considerable shift in attitudes towards smarter ways of working; three-quarters of employees in the UK favour a job that provides flexible working options and are more likely to accept a role in an organisation offering such a schedule. 

This means that businesses seeking to attract and retain millennial talent must be willing to provide flexibility and good work-life balance within the workplace. Implementing clear flexible working policies is key so that employees can choose their own hours or access working from home opportunities.

There is also no need for business leaders to fear that an increasingly remote workforce will be detrimental to the company; according to CIPHR, those working at home rate their productivity as being higher than those in an open-plan office, while in 2017, a survey by HSBC found 91% believe the opportunity to work more flexibly would improve their motivation and productivity. Clearly, if workers are given flexibility over the way in which they carry out the demands of their job, then businesses will benefit from a happier and more productive workforce. 

Embracing digital tools

Millennials are digital-native, and with the rapid advancement of technology over the past decade, businesses must ensure they are taking advantage of new technology to upskill and better equip a workforce which will be more efficient and more productive as a consequence.

Poor or slow technology was cited as the most frustrating factor for nearly a third of Gen Z workers, according to recent research, reflecting just how important it is to embrace innovation in the workplace in order to maintain a diverse company culture and attract and retain talent. 

Encouraging the usage of online instant communication tools, or webinar and screen-sharing tech can help ensure that an increasingly flexible workforce is always able to communicate and feel connected  to colleagues, clients and managers.

Online learning platforms mean that employees can quickly and easily access knowledge they need and are able to share this knowledge digitally with others.

Adapting learning methods

In a business environment where technology is evolving at pace, one-time training sessions are no longer sufficient; new skills are being required and by 2030 nearly 380 million workers will need to have changed their skills in order to adapt to ongoing digital transformation.

This means that in order to manage modern workforces, it is crucial that businesses are efficiently upskilling their employees, and that they are providing workers with adequate opportunities to learn and develop. The old-fashioned one-size fits all training approach no longer meets the needs of the modern workforce, which is why advanced technology must be used to better inform L&D leaders on how to create the personalised training that workers now require.

This can be achieved through utilising integrated learning platforms, powered by AI, to empower workers to carry out self-directed learning, which allow employees to regularly grow their skills in both a personal and professional capacity.

These platforms can also be used to curate and suggest learning that is specifically appropriate for each individual, and for the achievement of set business goals. Online training suites are also effective for enabling employees to onboard information at a rate that suits them and to return to specific areas that need repeating, learning at the speed of need.

In addition, companies can leverage analytics to pinpoint skills gaps among the workforce and react by providing bespoke learning so employees can upskill appropriately in order to carry out the changing demands of their roles. 

These technologies are also useful in the onboarding process, creating a more comprehensive and efficient onboarding experience and enabling new hires to add value faster. For example, developing an onboarding agenda helped Google to improve the productivity of its new hires by as much as 15 percent. 

Rethinking traditional performance reviews

While traditionally performance reviews have been held yearly, employees are increasingly seeking feedback from their employers more frequently.

Given that, within the year, workers will collaborate with different colleagues, meet deadlines and finish projects, providing ongoing feedback is a more effective and accurate way of ensuring morale remains high and workers feel their needs are being addressed and their progress monitored. 

Today’s employees are looking for open communication and a culture of collaboration with their peers, which means that to maintain a satisfied workforce, businesses must provide weekly or monthly reviews, real-time feedback and solutions.

Deloitte recently found that companies reviewing employee performance on a quarterly basis, or more frequently, perform at a higher level than those providing feedback annually. 

Real-time analytics can also be used to allow employers to monitor learning and development progress within a workforce so that more accurate feedback in terms of the onboarding of new skills and the success of training programmes. 

The modern workplace is less rigid, and less restricted to physical places. Younger generations are looking for their employer to encourage a collaborative and responsive environment in which training, learning, support and communication all take place continuously and at pace.

To cater to the shifting demographics and demands of the workforce, HR departments must leverage digital learning platforms and innovative technologies to ensure that efficiency is boosted, employee engagement is improved, and day-to-day HR tasks are improved.