Article: Employee priorities have changed; so have talent strategies

Employee Engagement

Employee priorities have changed; so have talent strategies

As employee expectations change, talent priorities must be incorporated into the business strategy so as to better attract and retain talent. Maria Zhang, Senior Director of Human Resources for Juniper Networks in the APAC region, tells us about what's changing and what companies can do to adapt.
Employee priorities have changed; so have talent strategies

Call it the Great Resignation, Great Attrition, or Great Redefinition – it amounts to the same thing, which is a very large-scale shift in the way employees view their jobs. Current and potential employees alike seek better quality of work-life; they consider factors such as flexibility and well-being to be essentials; they even scrutinise the mission and values of potential employers.

In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Maria Zhang, Senior Director, Human Resources, APAC, at network technology multinational Juniper Networks, talks about the changes she has observed in employee expectations and how companies can adjust their value proposition to keep up. Here's what she shared with us.

What do you see as the biggest changes in expectations – what are employees, consciously or not, demanding to see in their jobs these days?

The global pandemic, which has accelerated hybrid working, has shown organisations and employees that work can be equally, if not more productive, when done remotely. As a result, hybrid work arrangements have emerged as one of the top priorities of today's employees. 

In a recent IDC study, more than 56% of the employees in Asia Pacific want flexible work that allows them to work both in the office and remotely, even after the pandemic. It will be critical for organisations to ensure that a solid Return to Office strategy is in place for those who wish to return while also providing flexibility to those who prefer to work remotely. 

Aside from hybrid work arrangements, organisations are seeing an increase in demand for workplace cultures that prioritise employee well-being, which has expanded beyond physical well-being to include emotional, financial, social, and mental well-being as well. Organisations today are continuously put on the pedestal to establish initiatives that offer the best possible environment for employees. We have rolled out several wellness programs and initiatives including Global Wellness days where we encourage our people to take the time off to unplug, recharge and do the things that they enjoy.

Above all that, employees today want to be part of organisations that tackle mega cultural trends such as inclusion, diversity, and sustainability.

Studies have shown that organisations with advanced inclusion and diversity strategies produce more loyal employees who are engaged in their work and dedicated to top performance.

Also, nearly 40% of Millennials have reported taking a job because of a company’s environmental endeavours. Sustainability is also now a major part of corporate agendas and has evolved from a contributor to an indicator of business performance.

Can you tell us more about the expectations around today's mega socio-cultural trends? What do companies need to do to keep up?

The world is changing rapidly, from the future of work to geopolitical shifts. We are now at an opportune point of business where inflection points are abundant. Employees are expecting organisations to take over conversations on such matters – diversity and sustainability, for example – and for organisations to face these issues head-on. This also means business leaders need to show up and speak out.

Millennials and Gen Z employees are purpose-driven generations, and they hold organisations accountable – they will opt to work for companies with clear value systems and corresponding actions around inclusion, fairness and sustainable business practices.

This is also why many global companies, including Juniper, have made sustainability pledges to reaffirm our role in building a sustainable future in which our actions today will impact every employee, customer, and partner's future experience.

A company's employee value proposition would generally be able to articulate how it's meeting all the above expectations. How do you see the EVP evolving in response? What areas are being emphasised more?

Traditionally, an EVP is about defining the company to an employee – how it is unique and what it stands for. Today, EVPs ought to be directed to employees.

From employee satisfaction to workplace culture, EVPs should address concerns from employees, making them feel more included, heard, developed and cared for.

This could be achieved through offering flexibility – hybrid work arrangements; creating platforms for personal growth opportunities; enhancing collaboration and inclusion through collaboration tools or workplace and affinity communities; building trust between managers and employees through scheduled deeper and regular conversations; building holistic employee caring systems through competitive compensation and evolving employee benefits.

Over the past couple of years, the emphasis on employee benefits has evolved tremendously. It has been always reviewed, refreshed and even redesigned to support and lead workforce diversity culture, employee well-being and the hybrid working model. We can see many multinational companies including Juniper offer male employees extended paternity leave beyond the statutory. They have shifted their focus from paying medical bills to being more preventive. For example, offering employees and their family members health screening benefits, paying bills on some preventive check-ups. The benefits are packed and customised with flexibility to meet employee’s individual needs at different ages and life stages. Also, more and more benefits programmes are now being digitalised and cloud-based, making them globally applicable.

Flexibility and/or hybrid work has become a non-negotiable for many employees and also a major selling point for companies today. Can you share a bit about what works to set up a flexible model for existing and new employees, and how to communicate it?

For us, a good hybrid collaboration model strikes the best balance between the needs of our people and their preferences, and those of the company and their teams. We understand hybrid work will yield an engaged, motivated and innovative workforce that will generate desired stunning business results. 

This will influence how we operate our daily activities. One of the ways we are putting this into action is through the introduction of collaboration days when offices are allowed to fully reopen safely. Employees are encouraged to work closely with their managers to identify which days would make most sense for them and their team as collaboration days. These collaboration days can be seen as opportunities for employees to reconnect, strengthen bonds, and simply enjoy time with their teams.

We shall also relook at how offices are designed by introducing more collaboration spaces, flexible working zones and ergonomic office desks and chairs. During the pandemic, we called our home our “office”, and now we could be calling our office our “home” post-pandemic.

All in all, organisations must be genuine and consistent when communicating their commitment to flexibility during the transition back to in-person collaboration. Furthermore, while many countries move forward with post-pandemic recovery plans, it is vital that organisations continue to reaffirm safeguarding the health and safety of employees. 

In meeting employee expectations, there are plenty of longer-ranging implications for how work is done and how business priorities are decided. What is HR's role in this reconfiguration of conversations?

In today’s business landscape, HR has an elevated role to play in business strategy. HR ensures that talent priorities are defined as part of the business strategy by identifying areas of change, ways to attract and retain talent, as well as drive engagement and bolster employee growth.

The at-scale shift to remote work, acceleration of digitalisation and reallocation of business resources are major challenges faced by many organisations today.

The traditional management system – a hierarchy that solves for uniformity and control – has proven to be no longer effective.

HR teams must work alongside business leaders in reimagining the organisation of the future – where labour becomes talent and companies become more people-oriented, collaborative and focused on making the employee journey more fulfilling and meaningful.

Explore the future of technology, innovation and best practices at People Matters TechHR India conference (#TechHRIN) on 4-5th August 2022 and  TechHR SEA conference on 25-26th August 2022.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Talent Management, Strategic HR, #HRCommunity, #RedrawingEVP

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