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How Can Companies Compete in a Changing Workforce?

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Understanding what employees want from employers and offering unique programs and opportunities to match those wants will enable companies to compete in the changing workforce, but only if managers are properly trained to support company initiatives.

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Managing employees today is a daunting challenge for organizational leaders. In the last two years managers were addressing record-levels of employee quitting during the “Great Resignation.” More recently, managers are developing contingency plans for a potential recession that may require layoffs. Navigating these rapidly changing labor market conditions requires a careful balancing act – organizations must aim to both attract and retain top talent while simultaneously planning for high levels of employee mobility in and out of their roles. 

To adapt to adynamic and changing workforce, it is important for organizational leaders to gain a better understanding of what workers value and then adjust to changing needs. To support these efforts, we connected with Dr. Alison Dachner and Dr. Erin Makarius who conduct research in this area, and recently surveyed 202 working adults to learn more about the types of organizational career initiatives they are looking for and where their organizations fall short. Their survey focused on organizational features that enable, and even encourage, employee mobility, and they identified highly valued practices and policies as well as opportunities for organizations to improve. 

What Employees Want From Employers 

The respondents listed the following as desirable benefits of an employer: 

  1. career advancement opportunities within the organization
  2. support for matching skills with the role 
  3. help with identifying development opportunities  

However, only half of the respondents reported receiving these features in their current jobs. 

Five Powerful and Unique Employer Benefits Employees Seek 

It is critical for organizations to find ways to differentiate themselves from competitors in the labor market. According to the information gathered, the features below that support employee mobility were highly desired by employees, but less commonly provided by employers:  

  • Offering a formal alumni network 
  • Encouraging boomerang employment
  • Welcoming contract or temporary workers 
  • Creating job sharing opportunities 
  • Offering sabbaticals or leaves of absence 

Why Offering Mobility Helps Employers 

Although it may seem counterintuitive to offer practices that allow employees to move or leave during a tight labor market, the results suggest surprising outcomes. Many of the practices that support employee movement not only limited burnout, but they also seem to reduce employees’ desire to leave the organization.  

The changing workforce is also changing our understanding of retention.  In other words, it seems the practices that support employee mobility may ultimately help retain happy and healthy employees. Just by offering opportunities seemed to send a positive message and encourage a solid lifelong culture.  

Employers Must Implement and Train Managers to Maximize Benefits 

When offering practices that support employee mobility, organizations should also ensure that managers are carrying them out as intended. Practices that exist without management support limits the effectiveness. 

The data suggested that even when organizations offered practices that support mobility, employees still sometimes felt that their managers were guarding talent and trying to keep them in their current position. This suggests that organizations need to not only implement the practices, but also make sure managers throughout the organization support the practices that enable employee mobility. 

Overall, matching company benefits to what employees value most, especially in this changing workforce, will mutually benefit both the employer and the individual. When the wants align with the offerings, it is this crucial that companies work to completely embed these programs and services throughout the organization for awareness and adoption in order to fully realize the significant value.  

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