New research reveals the drivers and deterrents of employeeÂ productivityâand how employee benefits can help both.
By Susan Podlogar
Employee performance has been a main focus ofÂ organizations as the key ingredient for success. However,Â this is no longer enough. MetLifeâs 17th annual U.S.Â Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS) found thatÂ employees across all generations are looking for supportÂ from employers both in and out of the workplace. As aÂ result, if an organization wants to hit its potential, itsÂ employees must also be set up to hit their potentialâatÂ work and at home.
These shifting expectations have caused employersÂ to rethink the experiences they are creating forÂ all employees inside the office as well as how theyÂ are fostering success for workers at home. With aÂ multidimensional, multi-generational workforce,Â there is no single answer. Employees are looking forÂ differentiated experiences, and employers can no longerÂ lean on the old ways of doing things. It is time for toÂ reinvest, reimagine, and reinvigorate HR practices toÂ maximize the impact of the workforce. But where toÂ start?
Employers who demonstrate that they care holisticallyÂ about their employees find employees are driven to showÂ up and do their best work, experience less burnout, andÂ have more confidence in their overall ability to succeed.Â The EBTS found that 90 percent of happy employees sayÂ they are loyal to their employer.
In order to create an environment in which employeesÂ can reach their full potential, employers need toÂ understand the key drivers of productivity and happinessÂ at work. The study found the top five drivers include:
- Employeesâ trust in their companyâs leadership.
- Employersâ commitment to employees and theirÂ success.
- A culture where employees are encouraged to shareÂ ideas and individual opinions.
- Co-workers that feel like family or friends.
- Benefits customized to help meet employeesâ needs.
The most significant driver of maximizing potential atÂ work is trustâprimarily in an organizationâs leadershipÂ and its commitment to employeesâ success. By creatingÂ a trusting, caring culture that delivers on these drivers,Â employers can cultivate an environment in whichÂ their workforce thrives. However, the EBTS shows thatÂ employers may not recognize the important role thatÂ workplace culture can play: 90 percent of employees sayÂ that workplace culture is important when deciding toÂ accept a job or stay at a job, but a gap exists. Only 79Â percent of organizations feel that these programs areÂ important in attracting, developing, and retaining talent.
To address the importance employees place on workplaceÂ culture, employers can focus on making transparency,Â inclusion, and investments in employee success coreÂ elements of their organizationâs DNA. At the same time,Â itâs not enough to embed these elements. Employers canÂ do more to successfully communicate their commitmentÂ to employees.
Focusing on these drivers is a good start. But employersÂ can also dig a little deeper. There are some commonÂ barriers to employees reaching their full potential in theÂ workplace, and organizations must address these as well.Â The most common culprit is stress, both in employeesâÂ professional and personal lives. The study found that theÂ top stressors include:
- personal finances;
- work itself;
- personal and family health; and
- meeting personal commitments.
What can help? The EBTS found that half of allÂ employees feel that better benefits are the key toÂ addressing increasing stressors they face on a daily basis.Â A comprehensive benefits program can help employeesÂ address their main concerns, especially those aroundÂ personal finances, retirement, and their familyâs health,Â and give them the support they need to achieve bothÂ their personal and work-related goals.
Offering a mix of benefits that meet the varied needs ofÂ a diverse workforce and effectively communicating theirÂ value helps employees bridge key gaps between specificÂ stressors, such as unexpected out-of-pocket health costsÂ and accident insurance. Offering the right combinationÂ of benefits is a way employers can build trust andÂ demonstrate that they care about their employees.
Building the Workforce of the Future
Encouraging a commitment to ongoing education andÂ training can also have a significant impact in makingÂ workers feel appreciated. The EBTS found that anÂ overwhelming majority of employeesâ91 percentâsayÂ that career development and training are importantÂ factors when considering whether to accept or stay at aÂ job. According to the study, only 67 percent of employersÂ feel that these programs are important in attracting andÂ retaining employees. Employers looking to invest furtherÂ in their workforce may be underestimating the value ofÂ these efforts.
Technology will require employers to be intentional whenÂ it comes to training. More than half of organizations (55Â percent) believe the profile of the ideal job candidate isÂ changing as technology advances. With the growth ofÂ artificial intelligence, this means an increased demandÂ for power skillsâcreativity, leadership, and interpersonalÂ skills. Organizations report that their fourth highestÂ concern is ensuring that their workforce is trained onÂ more creative power skills, including leadership, conflictÂ resolution, and communication, yet only 37 percent ofÂ organizations offer this type of training today.
Training and development opportunities shouldnâtÂ be limited to select groups of workers within anÂ organizationâcreating a workforce of the future meansÂ engaging all employees. For example, MetLife recognizesÂ the need for all employees to help prepare for the futureÂ and does not take a top-down approach. It leverages theÂ diversity of all of its employees. The company is focusedÂ on understanding new and emerging ways of workingÂ to cultivate innovation, motivate employees, and expandÂ access to expertise. This means reskilling employees forÂ the jobs of tomorrow and fostering curiosity and learningÂ agility to create new ways of thinking. In fact, MetLifeÂ created learning pathways for all employees to learn suchÂ fundamental skills as digital analytics and tailored skillsÂ customized to employeesâ learning profiles.
Flexible Careers are Reshaping the Workplace
Rapidly changing technology can impact more than theÂ need to reskill employeesâit also affects how they work.Â Employees now have the ability to work anywhere at anyÂ time, giving workers a sense of autonomy.
However, while there are many advantages to flexibleÂ working arrangements, the ability to be âalways onâÂ can lead to blurred boundaries between work and lifeÂ and result in burnout. While a majority of employees (68Â percent) say that their employer provides the flexibilityÂ they need to manage both work and life, according toÂ the EBTS, 40 percent feel tired and/or stressed at leastÂ half the time. This is a top concern for employers whoÂ want to maximize productivity while helping employeesÂ thrive. The study found that 74 percent of employersÂ report that employee productivity is a concern and 37Â percent say that employee burnout is a challenge.
One way to prevent flexibility from becomingÂ overwhelming is for employers to also offer benefits thatÂ support employeesâ lives such as wellness programs andÂ mental health support programs. This type of supportÂ can be a good way to sustain long-term personal andÂ professional performance and wellness.
A successful workplace is no longer solely dependent onÂ employeesâ performance and productivity. As workersÂ bring their whole selves to work, employers must giveÂ them the tools to integrate their lives successfully bothÂ in and out of the office. This means taking a strategicÂ approach and offering a combination of comprehensiveÂ benefits, training, and experiences that addressÂ employeesâ needs as individuals. By doing so, employersÂ show a broad commitment to caring about theirÂ employees and will be rewarded with employees whoÂ are loyal, engaged, and care about the success of theÂ company.
Susan Podlogar is executive vice president and chief human resourcesÂ officer at MetLife.