The fact that employees are increasingly treated as consumers is old news. In today’s age, employers must go above and beyond their traditional role, and take into consideration how their employees think, behave and operate in their lives, to be able to truly and efficiently work with them. An operative and definitive concept tied to our existence is our social identity. Our values, expectations, and motivations from our society most often define our viewpoint and perspective. Hence, it becomes critical to understand these social expectations and motivations, in order to truly comprehend how the concept of ‘work’ is undergoing a transformation. Mark Stelzner from IA highlighted findings of the ‘Think Forward 2018’ report from ‘We Are Social’ and explained what employees expect and how the HR can meet expectations.
Here’s a look at the six social motivations that are reshaping employee expectations and key HR takeaways from them:
There is comfort in what is known. The notion of certainty, and by extension, safety, and control, is of paramount importance today. What enables certainty is hyper-transparency, and an understanding of the ethos, strategies, and priorities of an organization. Candidates and employees expect organizations to be hyper-transparent in what they believe in so that they can assess if they can be a right fit or not. Organisations must embrace who they are, clearly communicate their goals, be aware of their shortcomings, and must avoid being vague and cryptic.
HR Takeaway: Rightfully state what it is like to work at the organization. What might help is when leaders actually ‘live’ the experience first-hand, instead of just talking about it. Give employees the charge of their career, and know where they stand, and what they need to do to grow. Replace governance with ownership. Lastly, stop shouting from the rooftops about how you are different from other employers – but allow your employees/former employees to prove it. Create spaces where they can attest to your strengths and discuss your weaknesses.
The need to interact and stay connected to others is human. But the latest trend in being connected plays up the sentiment and emotion, rather than the action of staying connected. Amazon and Netflix, for example, have mastered the art of automated empathy; wherein based on your choices and behavior, they can predict what you are likely to feel and emote, and therefore need. Hence, selling an emotion, instead of promotion of a product, is the latest way to connect in today’s world. While organizations might be drawing the line between being predictive and invasive, machines are becoming smarter in building empathetic relationships and connections, thereby, cultivating consumer loyalty and need.
HR Takeaway: Hyper-personalize the entire employee lifecycle using every bit of accessible data. Define employees not by what they do, but who they are, what is important to them, and what they want to learn. Be smart enough to anticipate their needs, and provide them at a point in need by using data and information collected from them. Collect information using real-time and non-intrusive micro surveys and other creative processes to get a sense of how your employees are feeling. However, also be aware of the limitations here. Always seek permissions before collecting data, and explain how this data will be used. The end goal is to provide a value-added service to your employees when they need them the most and just that.
Staying connected is one thing – but having a sense of belonging is another crucial social concept. The need is a part of a community – professional or personal – and having the flexibility to join as many or few of them, is essential today. Communities inculcate a sense of trust and reward loyalty with responsibility. Organisations are focussing on building communities more than ever, and even partnering with them to develop products and strategies. Companies are betting on loyal communities to help them build sustainable and unshakable businesses.
HR Takeaway: Allow employees to connect amongst themselves and reach a goal by working together. These goals can be based on professional projects with value for all employees (say including employees in designing training modules and workshops) or can be based on interest-based communities. Be mindful of being less intrusive, and not imposing this as ‘another thing’ that must be done. If you want your employees to build an internal community based on common values and interests – initiate this change from the bottom-up, and not as a directive from the top. Bottom-line, do not define belongingness for your employees but create spaces for them to define it themselves.
Who we are, what we stand for, and what we believe in, are all based on an ever-increasing source of information. The days of being unduly influenced by opinion-makers are numbered, and the need for validation in the society is witnessing a change. Allowing micro-communities to advocate their interests, and saying what they want to say, is facilitating the simultaneous existence of alternative narratives.
HR Takeaway: To develop a feeling of trust and value, pay transparency is a must. Democratize the organization, and allow room to discuss revision of compensation and benefits policies, and remove biases, if needed. Deploy reverse-mentoring programs to bring executives to employees and indicate that learning is a two-way street and that new employees have as much to teach as they have to learn. An open door policy can do so much for a closed work culture, and hence, employees must be made to feel at ease about who they are, and what they bring to the table. Employees who leave must be wished the best and must be kept in touch through ‘alumni groups,’ in hopes of cultivating a loyal, true and fruitful professional network.
The need to grow, learn and develop is an undeniable part of today’s world. Big brands are betting on growing with the help of their audiences, and are adopting approaches that are culturally sensitive by engaging with locals. This is lending them universal appeal, and fostering a sense of much deeper connection. By showing that they are willing to learn, companies, individuals, and employees demonstrate a willingness to better themselves, and thus, proving their intent and value, even before it has been achieved.
HR Takeaway: Make room for acknowledgment of those who have been disenfranchised in the current work culture. Allow for employees to work and learn at their pace and in their comfort zone, by not shoving concepts of communication, collaboration or participation in company events. Make space for people who think and process things differently and do not impose textbook examples of employee learning. In other words, if you want your employees to progress, accept and embrace their complete diverse self. Allow them to separate their work and have outside experiences.
The undeniable need to do the ‘right thing’ is the other leading social motivation that we have today. Companies are increasingly admitting where they went wrong, and trying to do the right thing. Being inclusive and accommodating of another’s viewpoint is an asset in today’s world, and communicating with everyone – peers, competition, audience, consumers, employees – in an open and transparent manner is essential. To show that you care about others can make or break businesses, and making mindful choices, and being able to learn to learn from your errors, is more important than ever.
HR Takeaway: HR must play the role of the ‘civil facilitator,’ especially when communicating with employees/candidates on social channels. Don’t fight dirty, engage in a civil manner, even with your harshest critics. Take ownership of the good, and the bad, and be willing to mend your ways if someone points out you have erred. Advocate employee rights and facilitate employee activism wherever necessary, and show that you care.
The HR must defend its stance of being an employee advocate, and shake off the image that all it does is the bidding of the employer. By tapping into the social motivations of employees, HR has a unique opportunity to bond and create connections that are based on mutual trust and loyalty. The future of HR is exciting, and a lot depends on how leaders are able to understand and live up to the expectations of their employees.
(This article is based on the session ‘How Social Motivations are Reshaping Employee Expectations!’ at the People Matters Talent Tech Evolve Virtual Conference.)