What it means to work is fundamentally changing. Only by embracing that change can we guarantee the future of our companies and employees. Because the true threat these days is standing still. How can we support employees and help them to best respond to this constant flow of new technologies and innovations?
POINTS OF ATTENTION
The success of the company depends above all on the question of whether there is a sufficient balance between technology, processes and the all-important human factor. But what do all these changes mean for employees who are confronted with a whole range of new requirements in terms of skills, new ways of working and the constant threat of automation? We are faced with employees who are losing confidence in their skill level. According to EU statistics, 28% of the European working population reports that they are concerned about the automation of their jobs. Moreover, this fear is the greatest among young people, who are still at the start of their careers.
Every company is the sum total of its employees. The employer must make a commitment to ensure that the employee is motivated to do his or her job well. There are multiple factors that contribute to making and keeping employees motivated: the work-life balance, salary, interaction with colleagues and opportunities for growth.
LABOUR PRODUCTIVITY AND INHIBITING FACTORS
For all companies, more than ever, labour productivity has become an important area for attention. Labour productivity has little if anything to do with workload, with working harder, with doing your best on the job. No, simply put, labour productivity is the value of the production per hour worked. It is the result of properly trained employees, the relationship between the invested capital and the workforce that is deployed in the production process, as well as the investment in technology. However, when you get down to it, our economy remains a human endeavour. Therefore, the key is to invest more in the knowledge and skills of employees, regardless of their starting level. This is still being done too little. According to a large-scale European study, less than a quarter of employees indicate that they are ‘always’ able to be productive in the workplace. Fewer than half of them report that they are ‘regularly’ productive and 22% say that they are ‘rarely or never’ productive. There are three reasons for this: poor management, inefficient systems and/or processes and slow and/or inefficient technology.
Mental well-being at work is a crucial factor for any company. Because a lack of mental well-being leads to costs, expressed in absenteeism, presenteeism and loss of productivity. Mental health influences the way people think, communicate, learn and grow. Perceived well-being strengthens people’s resilience and self-esteem. These components ensure successful engagement and higher labour productivity. The World Health Organization (WHO) points out that nearly half of all people suffer from some form of mental illness during their lifetime, while it is estimated that nearly 10% of the population at any given time suffers from depression and 2.6% experiences psychotic illness. Anxiety is also a major problem. In the European Union, it was found that 15% of people had sought help for a psychological or emotional problem, while 72% of people had taken antidepressants at some point in their lives.
Change is the hallmark of our age. Since the advent of the Internet and the smartphone, the world has entered a period of acceleration. We use the Internet for practically everything we do. Just think of simple things such as ordering a meal, checking the weather forecast, purchasing a product, sharing photos or filing your tax return. We are seeing the impact of far-reaching digitisation in all aspects of our economy and society. Internet technology launched a new industrial revolution in which data analysis plays an essential role. We have access to more and more accurate information. Information that makes it possible to have greater control over business processes, to provide better service and to implement a better strategy. And with the Internet of Things, more and more appliances are connected to the Internet, which are transmitting even more data. Data has thus become the new driver for every company in the digital age. Without digitisation our economy and society would simply shut down.
NEW LABOUR MARKET
Naturally, digitisation has an impact on our labour market. In addition to creating new jobs, certain jobs will completely change or disappear. These jobs will not be easy to fill. According to the study, ‘Shaping the future of Work’ by the employer organisation Agoria, if we do not take measures, by 2030 there will be no fewer than 584,000 unfilled job openings, resulting in a loss of economic growth. This means that huge numbers of employees will need retraining in order to remain employable on the labour market. This is known as upskilling and it is becoming the new focus for employers.
The upskilling (teaching new skills) of employees supports the potential of digitisation to increase productivity. Because a company that embraces digitisation, but does not invest in the skills of its personnel will be no more productive than before. Upskilling not only ensures that your employees are prepared for a new approach to their job, but also makes them less likely to leave and go work for another employer. Investing in your employees makes your company future proof.
THE DEMANDS OF THE NEW GENERATION
Companies need to adapt to the demands of a generation that is eager for more opportunities, more collaboration and a less formal hierarchical business model. The modern company looks for a balance between its own needs and those of the employees. This is not a question of trends such as ‘dress-down Friday’ or providing free fruit, it is about a long-term vision that supports the physical, mental and financial well-being of your employees, such as:
- Integrating sports and stress-reducing activities during working hours.
- Giving consideration to a comfortable and ergonomic working environment.
- Stimulating collaboration.
- A flexible approach to working hours.
- Showing understanding for family situations and personal preferences.
- Making continuing education, training and education available.
- Providing opportunities for growth.
UPSKILLING NEEDS TO BE A PART OF YOUR CORPORATE CULTURE
Make sure that upgrading skills and access to training/education is available to all employees. If it becomes difficult for employees to take advantage of the available learning resources, they will not use them. Discuss the opportunities for upskilling and expectations in this regard already during the onboarding phase. This will immediately make employees feel that they are supported. If upskilling becomes an integral part of your corporate culture, a focus on skills and additional training will be much easier to accept. Before starting with upskilling, evaluate current and future gaps in skills and discuss the different solutions with your employees.
WORK WITH INDIVIDUAL LEARNING PLANS
Everyone has their own learning preferences, so an individual approach is key. Some employees or teams will thrive in a digital learning environment (e-Learning), others will do better with classroom-based training. By allowing input from your employees, you will encourage self-reflection and your staff will be able to identify their personal needs and goals. This breaks down the resistance to learning and improves productivity. You should also clearly set the goal for the training ahead of time. Indicate what the future consequences would be without the training. The jobs of today are not always going to be the jobs of tomorrow, so the opportunity for an employee to learn something new that he or she can use on the job in the future is a win-win situation.
SET TIME ASIDE FOR UPSKILLING
Employees need to update their skills, but on their own time? Absolutely wrong! If you want employees to become more productive, you will first need to make time available for education/training during the workday. This investment will pay off quickly and reinforces the message that upskilling is part of the corporate culture. What’s more, your employees will appreciate the autonomy you allow them to manage their responsibilities and learning moments themselves. This benefits the sense of trust in the working relationship.
WORK WITH LEARNING SEGMENTS
Expecting employees to spend all day working on their skills is wishful thinking. Give them the chance to acquire new skills at a pace that is suited to their schedule and availability. By breaking up the learning plan into shorter segments, you can more effectively train skills.
ASK FOR FEEDBACK
Give your employees the opportunity to put what they have learned into practice. If possible, try to adapt their job to their new skills. That way, it will not remain mere theory and the upskilling will become truly meaningful. In addition, ask for feedback. This not only provides you with valuable information, but also shows them how valuable they are personally as members of your team and as links in the overall chain.