There are five elements to creating a work environment that attracts, excites and engages younger, ambitious and highly talented people, writes Josh Bersin
Businesses have gone through tremendous stress over the past few years… and so has the workforce. The Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2014 report shows that as the global economy recovers, retention and engagement (particularly among high performers) have become major issues.
Gallup’s 2014 research indicates that only 13 per cent of workers around the world are “actively engaged”, and in some countries the figure is lower. This is not to say that all companies have this problem, but our research seems to show that many companies today are struggling to build a work environment that attracts, excites and engages younger, more ambitious, highly talented people.
A big supermarket chain in the United States recently was having a difficult time hiring software engineers and IT professionals. Why? Because their company, as well known as it is in their industry, just doesn’t have the “glamour” or “excitement” of a young technology startup. Deloitte’s recent research on Millennials shows that 70 per cent of them want to run their own companies. So the question is: how can we build a work environment that drives that level of creativity and excitement? In researching this topic and talking with many clients, I discovered five major drivers that create this “irresistible organisation”.
1. Good work. The first, and a very important, part of building a highly engaged organisation is giving people great jobs. “Great” means jobs that pay a reasonable wage, give people autonomy to make decisions, include training and performance support, and give people time to complete their work well. Zeynep Ton, the MIT business professor, studied the difference between “good jobs” and “bad jobs” in her new book The Good Jobs Strategy. Her research shows that retailers who pay higher wages and provide more cross training deliver higher profitability per square foot than those who try to optimise cost by reducing wages.
2. Good management. We all know that management is one of the biggest drivers of employee satisfaction. There are hundreds of books and many elements to management, but our research shows that building the leadership pipeline continues to be the number one talent challenge companies face. The reason for this is simple: every time someone is promoted from individual contributor to first-line leader they take on a whole new career. And many people who take on these jobs may not really want them (or perhaps should not take them). So organisations have to focus heavily on training and supporting line leaders.
3. Flexibility and inclusion. People work long hours today and the borders between work and life have broken down. Highly rated employers (Google, SAS, Boston Consulting Group – all leaders on the Fortune Best Places to Work survey) give their people a flexible, open working environment that helps people relax, work together in an informal setting, exercise and take care of themselves.
We aren’t saying that all companies need to have yoga rooms and ping pong tables to perform well, but these work features appear to help people enjoy work, spend more productive time at work, and feel more at home. And part of this includes creating a work environment that feels inclusive and diverse. Deloitte Australia research on inclusion shows that “highly inclusive teams” outperform less inclusive and diverse teams by 80 per cent. When people don’t feel “included”, they hold back and don’t give their best.
4. Ability to grow. People demand (and expect) their employer to provide development, progression and the opportunities to advance. More than 70 per cent of Millennials (from Deloitte’s 2014 Millennial Survey) want to run their own companies – young people want responsibility, challenge and opportunity. In many companies this may not mean a promotion – but it probably does mean the opportunity for a new assignment, special projects or a job rotation. These elements of “talent mobility” are critically important to building a vibrant and engaged workforce, and this process is much harder than it seems.
5. Trust, mission and inspiration of leadership. Much research shows (Deloitte’s research on Corporate Purpose demonstrates this clearly) that people want to follow leaders they trust and admire. This research shows that companies that define their mission in terms of customer value (not only financial goals) deliver almost 40 per cent higher levels of innovation and have nearly twice the engagement level of others.
Time to move on from engagement
When you really think about “employee engagement”, you realise that in many ways this is the most important asset you have. Today, as the global economy recovers and people look for more flexible ways to work and contribute, organisations have to change. We call this the emergence of the “21st Century Workforce”. I encourage you to throw away your engagement survey and think holistically about how well your organisation implements the five elements of creating an irresistible organisation. Focus on these areas of your performance and watch your employee satisfaction grow.