It wasn’t long ago when employers faced a barrage of feedback from employees — and potential employees — about the critical importance of flexibility in the workplace. Interestingly, of the issues we asked about in this year’s “Authenticity in Action” study, that topic now registers dead last in importance with workers. It’s not because employees have changed their minds. It’s because flexibility today is considered table stakes.
Aided by a sturdy economy, booming job growth and the emergence of technologies that have made it possible for nearly everyone to do at least some part of their job remotely, workers made it abundantly clear that an organization’s ability to recruit and retain top talent hinged upon its willingness to let employees have more control balancing their professional and personal lives. Employers got the message quickly, finding ways to better accommodate today’s empowered workforce, which since has pivoted to new imperatives.
According to our Authenticity Gap findings, 75 percent of respondents rank skill and career development experiences as a top priority. This shift may be fueled by waning interest in the pursuit of academic degrees due to the prohibitively steep cost of higher education. Company-provided professional development opportunities also are an attractive path toward security and stability for younger workers who witnessed their parents struggle through the economic downturn of the previous decade. Either way, to remain competitive, companies need to take a close look at whether they’re putting enough energy into their learning-and-development and career-journey programs — not to mention the energy they’re putting into promoting these programs as part of their employer brand — so that both current and potential employees understand the organization’s employee value proposition and want to build careers there.
These efforts, just like the other top priorities for employees in this year’s study — fostering an equal and inclusive environment and delivering a comprehensive benefits package that addresses employees’ healthcare needs (a matching 75 percent of respondents believe these actions make a workplace great) — require close alignment between the company’s communications and HR teams, both of whom merit a seat at the table when the company’s next strategic plan is developed.
Josh Rogers leads the internal communications team at FleishmanHillard’s global headquarters in St. Louis. You can contact him here.