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Three major workplace trends identified from the world’s top employers

Androna Benadè of the Top Employers Institute looks at the shift towards respecting individuality, listening closely to employees and working with a powerful sense of purpose.

The Top Employers Institute World of Work Trends Report 2023 provides business leaders with a deeper understanding of how global developments will affect their people strategy in the coming months. The research, conducted among more than 2,000 certified top employers worldwide, identified three major trends.

The employee experience will become super-personalised

The Covid pandemic encouraged employees to reflect on what really matters to them, with the result that employers have had to work harder to attract, grow and retain their best people by appealing to their individual needs – what was previously “people centricity” now needs to become “person centricity”. Personalisation has been enabled by digital HR, with over three-quarters (78 per cent) of certified top employers now having a vision for the role of digital HR in the overall employee experience – a 10 per cent increase from two years ago.

But digital HR alone does not guarantee a quality, personalised employee experience. “Super-personalisation” of the employee experience can be further driven by:

  • Workplace flexibility. Nine out of 10 top employers worldwide offer forms of flexible working, and nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) offer employee journeys optimised for remote work.
  • Wellbeing and benefits. Wellbeing has remained a major priority for organisations since the pandemic, with 92 per cent of top employers embedding wellbeing in work design and 58 per cent addressing wellbeing in performance conversations.
  • Learning and career development. The most progressive top employers are putting more resources into this area, with 43 per cent now providing a career counsellor and 62 per cent already offering mentorship and coaching.

A great example of super-personalisation can be seen with UK top employer Bentley Motors’ Charge Forward Leadership Programme. Leaders complete a series of diagnostic tests, including 360-degree feedback, capability-based interviews, individual style profiles and logical reasoning. All leaders then receive an individual development report and have a 90-minute session with an external coach to discuss the results of their diagnostics, focusing specifically on their strengths and development areas. Following this, all leaders have development conversations with their line manager and create a personalised plan that comprises on-the-job learning opportunities and off-the-job development.

Leaders are listening to the heartbeat of the organisation

A key trend in the report has been the growth of “leadership listening” approaches. Specifically, the research shows that in 2023:

  • 44 per cent of top employers worldwide have an employee listening strategy in place
  • 55 per cent have an integrated approach to listening techniques

Certified top employer Securitas UK recognised the importance of creating an integrated listening approach at the firm, utilising everything from giving senior executive leadership facetime with frontline workers to using AI-powered chatbots and surveys to ensure they have as great an understanding as possible of how workers feel about the business’ direction and the reality of work.

To ensure that what the business was listening to was truly reflective of the reality of the workforce, Securitas focused on building important foundations of workplace culture, such as belonging and safety, and ensuring that employees could regularly ask questions of executives, such as at town halls.

An approach that utilises both technology and human facets – such as using sentiment analysis software that checks in with workers and, if necessary, allows for a follow up with a line manager – emphasises that the employee voice is heard, that the business wants to listen and that listening will be followed by action, too.

Positive impact – the new North Star

Finally, a clear commitment to a “positive impact” on the world will be the new North Star for everything that enlightened businesses do going forward. Positive impact among top employer organisations can be defined and achieved in three ways:

  • Nine in 10 (91 per cent) of top employers currently have a defined purpose. A truly “lived” purpose works best when it comes straight from the heart of all those who work there – and remains a constant in their everyday decisions.
  • The purpose for any organisation can only ever be as good as the views it allows itself to hear. This is why three-quarters (76 per cent) of top employers now say they ensure diverse representation through multiple levels of the organisation – a 15 per cent increase on 2022. Enlightened attitudes to D&I are not only imperative in their own right but also for the impetus for a wider positive impact on society.
  • Finally, sustainability is key to how organisations behave as good employers. Three in five (62 per cent) top employers in 2023 consistently have a dashboard that shows social and environmental performance.

Here in the UK, a clear commitment to “positive impact” can be seen at certified top employer Foster + Partners. The Foster + Partners Responsibility Framework (FRF) has been at the heart of its business since it was developed in 2014, informing work on masterplans, buildings, products and business operations and forming the platform for its corporate, social and environmental responsibility (strategy and annual reporting. The FRF is composed of 10 interconnected themes (Wellbeing, Community Impact, Social Equity, Energy and Carbon, Mobility and Connectivity, Resources, Water, Land and Ecology, Feedback and Planning for Change), allowing Foster + Partners to clearly articulate and apply its values and social purpose. Having a clear framework is also key to communicating its purpose and values with its employees, partners and clients.

The World of Work Trends Report reveals a strong feeling of humanity running through these three trends. Every organisation should evaluate how far they’ve taken personalisation in the everyday employee experience, whether their leaders are truly listening to their people and whether a clear commitment to a positive impact on society will be the North Star for everything they do.

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