For as long as the modern workplace has existed, people have tried to find meaning and purpose in their work. Over the past decade, this connection between work and purpose has strengthened, and today, it is crucial for many individuals to find value in their work and for it to be socially responsible. This concept of work ‘wellness’ hasn’t evolved by chance, but years of conscious efforts by employees and employers have resulted in our current workplace values.
Contextualising the changes and challenges of the talent landscape
Nature is a great leveler, and the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that our best-laid plans, processes, and ideas can sometimes go astray because of factors outside our control. In 2019, surveys showed that 50 percent of HR leaders were consciously preparing their workforce to be more digital, but their expected timeline was a few years or even a decade. And then, organisations had to expedite the process when faced with the challenges of the pandemic. According to one estimate, the pace of digital transformation increased to an extent wherein digitization activity and progress otherwise carried out in one year was conducted in just 11 days.
This sort of unpredictability is probably why in 2021, we aren’t talking about lay-offs and pink slips, but ‘The Great Resignation.’ There are plenty of opportunities to work, it’s just that organisations can’t find people fast enough. The challenges facing businesses today are not linear, known, or something they have experience in. These complex issues need more expertise, cross-functional collaboration, and for us to be imaginative in how we wish to see the future of work.
The World Economic Forum has predicted that 85 million existing jobs will disappear by 2025, and 97 million new roles based on new-age technologies will replace them. Furthermore, nearly 1 in 4 women are thinking of leaving the workforce - not just their current job - but leaving the workforce permanently. Also, 87 percent of millennials consider their job and personal development to be the same. But, 30 percent of the global workforce is somewhat unhappy or totally unhappy in their current job.
In this complex paradigm that requires organisations to reskill, engage, retain, motivate, and support their employees, are we limiting ourselves when we think of employee wellness only with regard to physical and mental health? Maybe it is time we incorporate the concept of career wellness and development into the definition of employee wellness as well. Because doing this can help us implement our rewards, policies, and programs much more effectively.
Career wellness and employee wellness
Career development can be the third crucial element of the employee wellness definition that can give a big fillip to how organisations hire, retain, and engage employees. But first, we need to recognize what our employees want and expect from their careers. If you look at the traditional hierarchy of needs, our most basic needs of sustenance and security have been taken care of. Today, many working professionals can leave jobs and look for new opportunities because they have the luxury to do so. And the last year has also strengthened our social relationships with our family and friends.
Thus, what employees seek today is self-actualization and creativity in their work. The purpose of their company and the motivations of their career are very important for employees, and there is an expectation of an alignment between the two. So, in essence, a job is no longer just a job, it serves a purpose in the life of the employee, and they want their career to also be purposeful for society and fulfill their personal values.
And the numbers seem to confirm this: one in three employees prefer to work in companies that show responsibility for all stakeholders they work with. What’s more, 68 percent of employees in high-performing companies say that their employers understand their unique skills, interests, and motivations, compared to just 26 percent of low-performing companies.
Career wellness as the third dimension of employee wellness: How to make it work?
Here are a few ways in which organisations can incorporate career wellness and development programs into their existing employee engagement models:
- Help employees find purpose in work: Create structures and systems that allow employees to work on ideas, projects, and concepts that go beyond commercial interests.
- Help employees find purpose beyond work: Understand their motivations and passions to organize social responsibility programs, projects, and initiatives that align with their personal values.
- Train leaders to set examples: Let younger employees get inspired by senior leaders on how to fuse passion and creativity in their work.
- Increase adaptability and resilience: Help employees become more flexible and responsive to challenges in their professional lives so that they can help the company adapt.
- Provide guidance and positive influences: Let employees clearly see their career paths in the company, right from the trainee level to that of an executive. Provide them challenging growth opportunities and support them in skill development.
- Redesign roles and careers: Unlike fixed pay grades in government enterprises, create flexible roles and job structures that allow employees to build new skills, take on new tasks, and move laterally.
Career wellness initiatives at TCS
Ensuring the career wellness of all employees is an integral part of TCS being an industry leader with more than 528,000 employees of 157 nationalities and an 88 percent retention rate. With more than 95 percent of the workforce working on its internal ‘Secure Borderless Workplace,’ the company had more than 417,000 next-gen tech-ready employees in 2020. This was a part of the company’s long-term vision to create a future-ready workforce with essential digital skills, even before the pandemic. Employees at TCS have recorded more than 43 million learning hours, and there have been 37,000 cases of contextual talent mobility within the company, which enabled employees to work in roles with entirely new or complementary skills.
All of this has been enabled by creating a purpose-driven career engagement culture and model that invests in the growth of employees. Here are the main pillars of this model:
- Aspirations: Helping employees make informed career decisions, understanding their motivation and aspirations to identify adjacent skills, and create futuristic yet realistic roles that align with business needs.
- Learning: Encouraging employees to undertake self-directed learning and flexible learning programs.
- Career builders: Ensuring agile skills development with projects, gigs, and assignments in new domains to promote a culture of experimentation. Recognize the performance, contextual experiences, accomplishments, impact, and values created by individuals.
- Pivoting careers: Providing employees access to global mentorship opportunities and networks to accelerate career growth and get clarity on short and long-term career decisions. Further, helping them find suitable roles if they wish to transition.
- Serving the community: Giving back to the community by using the company’s core competence and skills and working with employees to create meaningful purpose and change for local communities.
Thus, to help employees link their careers with purpose, development and meaningfulness have to be built into everyday tasks. By tapping into skill adjacency and guiding career trajectories consciously, at TCS, we can let employees experiment without the fear of failure and create personalized learning, development, and growth opportunities for employees.
(This article is based on the session, “Case Study: Pursuit of Purpose at Work: Prioritising Career Wellness in the new world of work,” by Vasumathi Parthasarathy, Head – Talent Transformation, APAC at TCS, at the People Matters Total Rewards & Wellness Conclave 2021 on 25th November 2021.)