10 easy approaches that can change your workforce for the better.
By Rachel Permuth-Levine
Regardless of industry, one common thread brings success to all organizations: people. Businesses are seeking to attract, retain, and harness the best talent in their industry. Sodexo’s 2012 Workplace Trends Report reveals what employees value the most when it comes to their careers. Sodexo’s experts believe that outcome-driven benchmarks are fundamental to creating workplace environments that enhance individual performance, foster collaboration, and increase employee engagement. Not surprisingly, health and wellness, inspirational workspace design, flexible work arrangements, inclusion, and the overall experience at work round out trends for engaging and retaining the workforce of 2012. Each of the top 10 findings is quantifiable and has been shown to drive business outcomes:
1. Integration of workplace solutions: creating higher value. Today’s workplace is hardly business as usual: There are four generations in the workforce, with different work and lifestyle demands; footprint consolidation is happening everywhere; focus remains on core business; and employers need to positively impact the environment, or they won’t be in business. While integration in the workplace has typically fallen to IT systems and functions, a new business model for it is emerging to include various types of workplace solutions to enhance human capital and to meet multiple business challenges. Integration now requires an employer to view the needs of its workforce and workplace services solutions in a way that delivers both the optimal employee experience with greatest operational value. As a result, we foresee a new business formula for success, which includes integrating the workplace with the work style and lifestyle needs of human capital, resulting in full engagement and maximized performance.
So, what do we mean when we say that the integration of workplace solutions can create higher value? Quite simply: one plus one equals three. We are inferring that the combined effect of different solutions within an organization have the ability to create a positive synergistic result if designed, managed, and delivered correctly. There are two key components of workplace solution integration that we believe bring multiple positive effects when implemented: engagement and productivity. These elements must be marshalled by leadership, funneled down to all levels, and espoused by the entire organization.
2. Sustainability. Water issues, the reduction of an organization’s
carbon intensity, and improved energy management continue to be critical issues in promoting a holistic culture of conservation. Sustainability is a driver of cost, savings, and public perception.
Job seekers place increased value on organizations whose corporate policies align with their own beliefs. Just as important, many consumers purchase the same way. Transparency and governance issues will put environmental transgressions at center stage.
3. Diversity and inclusiveness. Not only are the demographics of our country changing, but the value we place on having a diverse workforce is changing as well. Creating an inclusive culture and maximizing a diverse population is more important than ever. In fact, a 2005 study by Stefan Timmermans and Aaron Mauck links the adaptive culture of diversity and inclusion to higher rates of employee engagement and satisfaction.
As the definition of diversity expands, so will business opportunities. The inclusion of women, LGBT employees, persons with disabilities, and minorities are simply the foundation of what diverse programs look like. As 2012 approaches, look for more emphasis on diversity of occupational background, generations, and life experiences that allow more people to bring their whole selves to work.
4. Rewards and recognition. More than an employee benefit, recognition programs are used to engage employees, encourage repeat positive behavior, and execute the company’s goals and objectives, as well as support its mission, vision, and values. Top-performing organizations leverage a combination of companywide, grassroots, and department-level employee recognition programs.
The ways in which people are recognized and rewarded have significant impact on a company’s bottom line. Most managers falsely assume that rewards have to be big and expensive to get the point across. We will begin to see more programs that use peer-to-peer platforms, nonmonetary accolades, and innovative incentives to drive behavior.
5. Virtual workforces. As companies take a broader look at productivity as opposed to hours worked, we will continue to see many new work situations arise. Pay for performance and pay for productivity are compensation plans that align with deliverables versus time; these will become key areas of focus in the future.
While this is good news for employees wanting to work from home—or the local coffeehouse—companies must still address the implications of this emerging trend. Will employees be as productive, and can this shift happen if cultures are slow to adopt this trend? With strategies around virtual communication, training, and recognition, telecommuting can flourish. It requires effort, but it is very possible to have the same, if not greater, level of performance from a virtual team.
6. The built environment as a driver of employee engagement. Employees view the work setting and service they receive as an extension of the level of care by management. Prospective employees form impressions of their organization the minute that they step into the lobby. Service that is not in alignment with end-users’ expectations compounds the problem of perception. Employees perceive the level of attention given to soft benefits, such as wellness programs, on-site dining, and gyms as a direct reflection on senior leadership, and more important, their level of engagement.
7. Evidence-based design (EBD). EBD is neither novel nor surprising; however, its resurgence since the late 1980s is relevant due to the manner in which it has evolved, including a greater understanding and emphasis on environmental stewardship, economic impact, and the ever-changing dynamic of the workplace. Architects and engineers have long approached workplace design as a strict and rigorous science. However, what differs today is the input of various experts to create spaces that are beautiful, inspiring, and outcome-focused. In addition, corporate real estate executives must meet dual expectations of not only selecting economically feasible sites, but also delivering a results-driven service architecture.
8. Quantifiable employee health and wellness initiatives. Corporate wellness programs are becoming more and more prevalent. They are moving from nice-to-have to must-have. The breadth of programming continues to grow in scope and complexity. Corporations need to expand from only having fitness centers as a means to get their employees healthier. In fact, there will be a new emphasis this year on short programs encouraging small fitness or relaxation breaks; exercises employees can do at their desks; and renewed focus on meditation and mindfulness.
Further, the ability to match outcomes in terms of reduced healthcare costs means that increased productivity will be the new standard in measuring the effectiveness of such programs. Focus will shift away from traditional ROI calculations to value on investment (VOI), as organizations emphasize the importance of different outcomes. VOI is focused on intangible benefits, rather than the hard benefits ROI measures.
9. Psychological health. According to the American Psychological Association, a psychologically healthy workplace fosters employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance and productivity. Psychologically healthy workplace practices can be grouped into five categories: employee involvement, work-life balance, employee growth and development, health and safety, and employee recognition.
10. Flexible workplaces. Flexibility in the workplace is the wave of the future. There are numerous proven benefits to this growing trend, including reducing a company’s footprint (carbon and structural), providing employees with more autonomy when deciding how to produce results, and a greater work-life balance. The prospect of allowing more flex-work and flextime can be daunting to many organizations. In that case, it is best to form policy around flexible workplace arrangements and to reevaluate their effectiveness at periodic intervals to give flex strategies ample time to show their outcomes. As this trend continues to move mainstream, more emphasis will be placed on proving how to implement flexible workplace and workspace management strategies without adding additional capital expense.
Rachel Permuth-Levine is senior director of outcomes research and solutions for workplace strategy for Sodexo.