Forward-looking employers are starting to view their employees as consumers. This change is shifting the nature of the work experience and their ability to keep talent.
This was one of the conclusions that came out at a recent roundtable on the War for Talent. It was held in Sydney by the coworking group The Office Space.
Treating Employees as Consumers
Shane Currey, a partner in the Human Capital practice at Deloitte Australia, said that in recent times many young people had become “really disappointed with the workplace and what is on offer there.”
He noted that the younger generation wants more meaning in their work. And so the pressure is on employers.
“Once upon a time you would go into work because there was better internet there. But now it’s the other way around -- it is at home! So, the expectations employees have now is all consumer grade," Currey said.
"As a result, we have seen a shift towards looking at employees as consumers, and smart organizations are looking at their needs as they would a customer,” he added.
But for large organizations with legacy technology and cultures, this change is difficult to achieve.
At the same time, employees are asking about learning platforms at employers.
“People are having to pivot all the time into new roles. So, concepts like just-in-time learning are becoming really important," Currey said.
"That requires the organization to deliver a curated and individualized learning experience. And once again, these need to be totally accessible and consumer grade.”
The Hidden Entrepreneurs
Kate Messenger, who operates a Sydney based consultancy called Meme Partners, highlighted one big issue in the contemporary workplace was that many people were “leaving their best talents at home."
“So, many employees are engaging with so many things in their lives. But why isn’t any of that coming at the office?" she asked.
“They are just applying their main talents to the things they are interested in outside of work,” she added.
Messenger gave an example of her time with a major creative agency in New York, the U.S.
One of the most "disengaged and lazy" employees had, by mutual consent, departed the company. He then set up his own firm that became a significant success.
“It wasn’t that he didn’t have the talent; it’s just that we failed to get him to bring it to us,” Messenger said.
Part of this problem was that large organizations were investing “enormous energy” in bringing talents into the company. But the effort made on their positive employee experience and development was minimal.
“Many companies have been incredibly lazy in unleashing the talent they have,” Messenger said.
“But some of the clients we work with are being more thoughtful about their existing talent, and understand that their talent wants to be continually learning. It is because they know that the skills they have today are not the only ones they might need tomorrow.”
Shifting Nature of Work
The drive for continual learning is also driven by a change in the work nature. In Australia, work that can be done by computers is being done by computers. Repeatable, process-driven work is outsourced offshore.
“So the jobs we are looking to fill now are different kinds of jobs,” Messenger said. “They require creativity, emotional intelligence, judgment, and higher-order skills. The people coming through our education system (and that is a whole other story) is not a big enough group to fill the work we have. So, we are not equipping people well.”
The changing nature of work is also shaping what companies look for in candidates. "It went from IQ to EQ, as in emotional intelligence. For now, it's about AQ, and that is the adaptability quotient," Currey said.
"Work is changing so fast, and people are required to problem-solve in different environments. So, adaptability is critical because everything is up for grabs.”