As one of the modern era’s most disastrous economies for employment wobbles back into growth, you would have thought the global workforce would be content with finding itself facing a 1950s-esque situation: long-term employment with predictable benefits and a retirement plan. Instead, people are defining their careers in terms of personal mobility and changing what it means to be professionally secure.
The results of the Kelly Global Workforce Index show that all over the world, people are incorporating new factors and metrics into their definitions of what makes for a successful career and an acceptable workplace. Chief among them is the motive to change jobs when skills and professional development are at stake.
Mercurial? Volatile? No. People are not abandoning practicality, they are broadening its meaning. People don’t seem to fear unemployment as much as they dread professional stagnation.
Confident? Prepared? Yes. All workers live in a small world. Knowledge workers especially are connected through information channels full of news about inventive products, process innovations and corporate communities that are emerging despite uncertain national infrastructures and political dissonance. Kelly asked workers about their aspirations and priorities, and they answered – overwhelmingly – that they are open to opportunities for deepening their skills and showcasing their abilities, not just increasing their paychecks. Knowledge workers in particular have the latitude to look not just for a livelihood but for fulfillment and meaning.
It’s obvious that as the economy comes back to life, companies will compete for talent who have the latitude to find the next right position for them. Companies also have to create work environments that inspire and challenge workers enough to entice them to stay. This kind of workplace is a level beyond a tight company culture that sets its own best performance practices and preferred methods of production and service. The workplace is already a connected community that includes past and future employees. Companies have to be relevant to workers even when they no longer employ them.
Relevance involves more than creating better compensation models and communicating through contemporary social channels. As with the needs and values of customers, companies must be, not just appear to be, conversant in workers’ ambitions and desires for personal growth.
Companies will have to determine how to be entities that cultivate employee knowledge as well as claim ownership of it. This particular quality is valued across employee generations and experience levels. It’s clear to Kelly that when a company achieves relevance, it gains an advantage over others.
Competitive advantage is one compelling reason to go deeper with employees. Another reason to concentrate on relevance to current and future employees is growth.
Bain Capital reported in June 2012 that over a seven-year period, “companies with highly engaged workers grew revenues two-and-a-half times as much as those with low engagement levels.” According to Ray Wang of Constellation Research, however, high engagement requires energy, focus and a strategic level of attention to values, communication and timing.
The relevant employer applies the company’s experience in staying close to customers and influences – in differentiating itself from others – and in leading its employees to define and chase their own possibilities. If the company is successful, it stands to benefit as much as the worker.