In the world of employee retention, two things matter: What employees want out of their job, and what the job is offering them. In the end, an extra pool table or snack bar won't matter if the employees feel that they aren't being listened to. That's why a recent report is so interesting: It covers the four most likely gaps between what the workers want and what the company offers.
The international research report, a collaboration between Universum, INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute, The HEAD Foundation and MIT Leadership Center, relies on 18,337 individual responses from 19 countries worldwide that had statistically relevant sample sizes. Here's what they found.
1: Digital Capabilities
Plenty of working professionals say that a company's digital capabilities are important. But less than half think that their employers are measuring up to their standards. Ironically, part of the problem is the workplace's attempt to quickly add new technologies, the study explains:
“More and more, employees expect work applications to function as effortlessly and effectively as the applications they use in their personal lives. To live up to this, companies are adopting new, specialized technologies at breakneck speed, leading to sizeable integration issues. The problem is particularly bad for workforce-facing applications (e.g. project management, messaging, time management, calendaring), many of which don’t speak to one another and share information.”
2: Virtual Reality
“Just three percent of working professionals currently use any type of VR applications in the workplace, but one in three say it’s poised to revolutionize their work in the coming decade. “
All generations in the study except the Gen X respondents — older Gen Y, younger Gen Y, and Gen Z — said that they were anticipating the arrival of VR the most. Gen Xers prefers elearning programs by a slim margin. No word on the popularity of VR elearning programs.
They may have a few years to wait.
3: A Flexible Workforce
“In San Jose,” research from the Brookings Institute shows, “gig work in ground transportation rose by 145 percent in two years.4 The rise of the sharing economy (e.g. Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit), and a parallel growth in technologies that support freelance work, means traditional, sit-at-your-desk work may not be the norm much longer when it comes to freelance work.”
4: Training and Development
One big myth that companies should get over: Younger generations of workers don't want online courses over in-person training.
“Stop assuming that younger generations prefer online training options,” the study says. “It’s a finding that’s often repeated, but Universum’s research doesn’t support the claim. All generations prefer in-person training over online options.”
But training programs need to be tweaked: Global companies, for example, spent an estimated $356 billion as of 2015, but studies have revealed that a quarter of the time, employee performance isn't improved, and a 2011 study even indicated 90 percent of new skills were lost within a year.
There's no easy answer to this one: Companies must simply re-evaluate their training courses with their specific employee demographic in mind.
In Short: The Nature of Work Is Changing
The impact of all these results is summed up in a quote provided by Vinika D. Rao, the Executive Director of INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute, who says:
“Given the rapid pace of change in workplace technology – from cloud-based collaboration tools and workplace messaging platforms to newer technologies like wearables – it’s clear the nature of work in 10 years will be vastly different from what we experience today.”
If companies hope to stay aware of their employees' needs, they should check in on the above four areas.