Are you ready for the Year of the Employee?

6 min read

When I talk to people outside of my generation (I’m a millennial) about the now common topics of company culture and employee engagement, they are thrilled for me that this kind of thinking is now on most savvy company’s radar. This was not the case a mere fifteen years ago; if you mentioned these terms you might get a blank stare, but thanks to the many innovative companies that realized promoting a meaningful, collaborative, and unique company culture is of utmost importance for attracting and retaining top talent, it’s now a major goal of most companies. It is also now a major challenge for HR professionals. As the economy has started to improve and more job positions have opened up, job hunters have more choices and options for employment. This means that the tables have turned; instead of staffers having the pick of whichever candidate they want, it’s now “the year of the employee,” according to Principal and Founder, Bersin by Deloitte, John Bersin. In his recent article, he describes a shift in company mentality that has created new challenges for HR professionals.

So what does this really mean for those in Human Resources, whose job description seems to keep getting longer?

They’re tasked with keeping employees engaged, staying compliant with state law, performing administrative tasks, solving disputes, handling calculations of Management by Objectives programs, and finding new talent, among many other things. Whew! I’m exhausted just listing half the tasks that fall on the HR Department. This ever-expanding “to-do” list speaks to the need to be prepared for the “year of the employee,” which is no simple task. Some of Bersin’s top conjectures about the new challenges to come include, “a redesign of performance management, redefining engagement with a focus on passion and the holistic work environment, and continued explosive growth in HR technology and content markets.” Your first thought might be I have enough on my plate as is without thinking about fulfilling additional goals. But being aware of these up-and-coming changes will actually simplify your life, make your job more enjoyable, and help employees feel satisfied on the job.

Let’s start with the idea of redesigning performance management.

Before now, what was the standard? Annual sales performance reviews. The very name might be enough to send chills down your spine, and that alone should tell you just how ineffective a practice it is. Fear is an easy crutch to use in place of motivation, but it is like sugar versus protein for your body - one is a flash in the pan that provides temporary gains at the expense of long-term wellbeing, the other provides lasting fuel for positive growth. So the annual performance review is fear based, and as ineffective as sugar in driving real activity. What you need to do is fuel your fires with continuous monitoring, to take the pressure off of one-time instances of communication. This kind of constant engagement creates a comfortable culture of growth, where feedback and development are a part of daily drive; not a frightful sentencing handed down yearly. New tools emerging in the HR sector are allowing for such engagement, and this kind of culture of self-improvement is vital to attracting millennials. The thing to take away is that to draw new talent, you have to create the kind of innovative work environment that would be appealing to a member of the new generation; “as one HR manager recently put it, ‘our employees are no longer looking for a career, they're looking for an experience.’ Your job in 2014 is to make sure that experience is rewarding, exciting, and empowering.” And this doesn’t just extend to exterior appearances or new hires; every department can benefit from new invigorating structures and reskilling efforts. Companies that don’t invest in HR are likely to fall behind, because without this crucial employee advocate running at peak performance, every other sector will feel that strain. You need your HR team at their best to do their best in creating engagement. You very much have to create trickle down engagement, because as these higher levels provide support and guiding experiences down the line, they will also pass on this infectious level of engagement, creating the experience so many millennials are looking for.

2014 is the year of the employee; not just the new employee, but all employees. If you work with them, they will drive business through the roof.