The number of men taking paternity leave dropped to 31 percent in 2019, according to law firm EMW.
Despite the introduction of shared parental leave, figures marginally decreased from the 2018 figure of 32 percent. The question is: why are the numbers falling despite increasing legislation in support of working parents?
Debates have been sparked as to the type and receptiveness of employment rights held by working mothers and fathers in organisations. Therefore, this article aims to provide much-needed guidance on the differing employment rights for working parents.
Simple as it may seem, women have the right to not be dismissed because of pregnancy, maternity leave, or childbirth.
In fact, they are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave legally, with a two-week mandatory period post-birth. This breaks down further to two 26 week periods, where returning after the first 26 weeks ensures you return to the exact job you left.
After this first 26th week, the rules are slightly more lenient. Your employer may not offer you the exact same role after your maternity leave, but it must be a job with the same terms as those you had before. For example, the conditions and salary which you are offered must be on par with those you had before maternity. Therefore, if your employer does not abide by these rules, you are entitled to seek protection from the law.
To receive paternity leave, you must fulfil the following criteria:
Be the biological father of the baby and have (or expect to have) responsibility for the upbringing of the child; or
Including same-sex relationships, be the spouse/partner of the mother (but not the father of the child) the main responsibility (apart from any responsibility of the mother) for the upbringing of the child.
There are a few major differences between maternity and paternity rights. Starting with the length, men can receive one or two consecutive weeks off work. They cannot book this period until at least the due date and men are unable to physically start their leave until the day their baby is born. This, then, requires flexibility from their employer in terms of arranging cover for their leave.
Men also need to have worked with their employer for 26 weeks to be eligible for paternity leave, with the 15th week falling before their baby is due. In a similar manner to maternity, men have the right to return to their own job after leaving and can bring a claim if they feel they are being discriminated against upon returning.
Shared parental leave
Surprisingly, only six percent of working parents choose to take shared parental leave. This leave is designed to give parents greater flexibility in caring for their new-born children. With the ability to share 37 weeks’ pay and 50 weeks of leave, this right can be used at any point through the baby’s first year.
Shared parental leave involves fathers or partners sharing the mother’s maternity period, whereby women effectively lessen their time off so that their partner can have this leave. During this period a flat pay rate of £148.68 (or 90 percent of average earnings) is offered depending on which is lower. This pay lasts for 37 weeks.
Having an adapted work pattern to suit changing needs can be highly important for some working parents. Flexible working can take any of the following forms:
Part-time: less hours than the norm
Homeworking: working from your home
Compressed hours: completing the agreed hours over fewer days
Flexi-working: ability to change/adapt your hours
Term-time (applicable to the education sector): working purely in term time
Flexible working can be requested by employees and must be considered by an employer before an answer is given. Existing legislation gives most employees the legal right to inquire into flexible working. If you feel your employer has unfairly dismissed your request for flexible working, this should be discussed this with your HR department. If unsuccessful, then consider whether to take this matter further.
If your employer insists upon you working inflexible or long hours, despite your childcare responsibilities, this can be seen as discrimination. Being put at a disadvantage to men through imposed shifts or full-time work can be labelled as indirect sex discrimination and is against your working mothers’ rights. This type of employer’s behaviour is unacceptable, so if you believe you have experienced this type of offence, you can reach out for legal advice on your flexible working case.
Working fathers can also experience sex discrimination, most commonly through direct cases. If your request for flexible working was declined, where a woman in a similar job was allowed, you can go to a tribunal to claim discrimination against the disadvantage you were placed in.
In the face of declining paternity leave figures, it is crucial now more than ever for working parents to understand their rights.
With differing rules for paternity and maternity leave, there are options for mothers to share their maternity leave with their partner to ensure both parents are involved with the post-birth period. There are also several flexible working schemes offered by employers to aid parents in adjusting to childcare.
However, the road is not always smooth for working parents. After reading these rights, you may feel you have experienced discrimination from your company. If so, you can choose to firstly raise this with your employer or HR team. If the matter cannot be resolved this way, you should swiftly seek legal advice in order to find a solution and receive justice.
New research reveals that business leaders who thank their staff experience reduced staff turnover, improved staff retention, and more successful talent acquisition.
A study of 1,253 workers, carried out by workplace and incentives provider, One4all Rewards, and published in The Magic Word for Business Growth Report, surveyed workers on the impact their existing and potential employers and bosses have when they say thank you or express gratitude for a job well done.
The research revealed that 61 percent of UK workers said that a company which rewards their staff with an individual cash bonus or gift card at regular intervals is a more desirable place to work.
The same number (61 percent) of workers stated that they would be more likely to apply for a job with a company that gifts staff an annual cash bonus or gift card. Non-cash rewards such as treats, or gifts shared at regular intervals, would make a company a more desirable place to work for 56 percent of respondents.
Gratitude and appreciation expressed by business leaders is not only an effective tool to attract new talent but also for motivating and retaining existing staff.
The data found that 65 percent of UK workers would be motivated to work harder if they received an individual cash bonus or gift card at regular intervals from their employer. On the opposite end of the motivation scale, 40 percent of workers cited that they would feel less motivated to work hard if their employer did nothing to say ‘thank you’ or show gratitude for a job well done.
Reducing people’s propensity to leave is also key to reducing staff turnover and increasing business growth. Almost half (48 percent) of the UK workers surveyed said that rarely receiving any form of thanks or gratitude from their employer would make them want to leave the company.
Forty percent of UK adults also said they would be unlikely to apply for or accept a job offer from a company which did nothing to say ‘thank you’ to their staff.
Michael Dawson, CEO of One4all, said: “Recruitment issues are something that affect all UK businesses regardless of size, industry, or stage of business they may be. A simple thank you from business leaders can create a butterfly effect retaining existing staff, attracting new talent and motivating employees to be more productive. High staff turnovers can be costly when considering the recruitment fees and training costs and reducing these costs can ultimately result in business growth and success.
“It’s important that business leaders understand the accumulating effect two simple, yet effective words can have on their overall business success. Not only do employers need to make sure they express thanks to their staff for a job well done but the timing and delivery of that gratitude is also key.”
The workplace has evolved beyond recognition for many people in recent years, with one of the most significant changes being that more and more people are now offered the option of working remotely.
This incentive is a result of a combination of changing attitudes, enhanced technology, and software solutions, all of which have been transforming the way that businesses of all shapes and sizes are run and how customers interact with them, as well as allowing employees to work outside of the office.
The TUC estimated that the number of UK people working from home has increased by a fifth in the 10 years to 2016, and with everything becoming increasingly digitised and technology enhancing at such a rapid rate, we can safely assume that this trend will only continue to grow. In fact, it is expected that 50 percent of the UK workforce will work remotely by 2020.
For many businesses, the biggest apprehension around making the movement towards remote working is making sure staff remain streamlined and connected with colleagues and managers at all times, but one concern which is not being properly addressed is data security considerations.
While this incentive has been well received by employees, and it certainly makes a difference to that healthy work-life balance we are all searching for, it is vital to make your team members aware of the extra security risks that they face when working from home, on the train, or at a local coffee shop.
In this article, we are sharing actionable advice on certain risks that should be considered, and steps that employers should be taking, to ensure that they are educating employees on protecting company data from security threats.
Consider transfer risks
The way in which data can be moved around transferred is taken for granted by most people nowadays, as electronic communications are available on the go 24/7. When working remotely, it is likely that you will still be working with the same sensitive company information and customer data as you would be if you were on site – but without the digital privacy you are used to.
Transferring data can take many forms, whether it be over email via your domestic internet connection, through your mobile phone network, or on a physical medium such as a USB stick. Each of these methods have inherent risks that should be addressed:
Domestic internet, even with WPA2-PSK security, is vulnerable to various forms of hacking and malicious access
Mobile phone networks can be even more open to attack as information can be accessed without leaving a trail
Physical media can be lost or stolen (and could end up in the wrong hands)
Employers and remote workers should be working together to tackle this issue and potential cyber security threats; from enforcing security and implementing and remote working policy, to educating the importance of commitment to security best practises. Simple actions such as using a USB data blocker, encrypting sensitive data within emails and avoiding public Wi-Fi will make a huge difference.
Utilise the cloud to minimise risks
If your business take advantage of cloud hosting, then you are already one step ahead in avoiding potential security breaches. The ease of use that ‘anytime/anywhere’ password protected cloud access offers means that whatever device or platform your employees prefer, they can still connect with your work systems remotely.
The concept that digital information can be accessed instantly around the world actually becomes part of a security solution, rather than posing risks, meaning the cloud takes the flexibility of working from home to a totally new level.
In addition to being able to access files and documents and log into relevant systems safely, remote workers should also be encouraged to back up data frequently so that a lost device doesn’t mean lost data, and cloud storage solutions are a great solution for this. By migrating to the cloud, you can also ensure that applications are patched and updated regularly to maximise protection.
Whilst ensuring your remote workforce is protected and safe from security breaches is vital, your security policy shouldn’t add to employee’s workload; they should be simple and efficient. It is one of the most important investments you should make as the safety and security of your data and systems has to be a priority, and although it will take a bit of work, you will reap the benefits including reduced office costs, higher morale and increased staff retention as well as access to a wider talent pool.
With the ever-increasing number of tech start-ups, expanding global tech vendors, transformational businesses, and digital agencies, there is a finite number of people with the right skillset at any one time. So what can companies do to ensure they attract and retain the right people?
1. Build your brand from the inside out
Millennials and Gen Z are more focused than any generation before on the lifestyle that an employer can offer them. Flexible working, company culture, training and an organisation’s ethical and environmental stance are all subject to scrutiny. As Peter Drucker said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
That’s definitely true when it comes to hiring and keeping great talent!
Reinforcing company culture at the on-boarding stage and consistently within teams clearly defines how people treat each other and sets the scene for interaction and good communication. It may seem superfluous to the immediate problem of solving the talent gap but aligning the recruitment process with the day-to-day culture will make for better-engaged employees. These, in turn, are more likely to build stronger bonds from the outset and so, less likely to leave you at a crucial period of delivery.
2. Invest in knowledge
Faced with a lack of highly skilled knowledge around particular technologies, you’ll have to think differently about how you build teams. You won’t necessarily have all the players that you need in your workforce at any one time. At Cognifide, we realised long ago that we wouldn’t find the skills we needed easily in the market, so we doubled down on training and developing graduates or experienced engineers who were up for learning something new.
In fact, we take on around 50 graduates a year in our innovative Career Start Up programme at our engineering centre in Poznan, Poland. It pays off! Last year, 83 percent of them stayed on as permanent or part-time employees. And in London, our Digital Academy welcomes a regular stream of hugely talented graduates onto our staff.
3. Build hybrid teams
The best-case scenario we’ve found for our clients’ digital project teams is to build a hybrid team of full-time employees, specialist contractors, and partner agencies, supplemented by interns and recent graduates who can develop within the team and become those high-demand workers of the future. Finding the right specialist partners is absolutely key when upskilling your own team on new technologies.
4. Seek out great soft skills
Of course, a collection of highly skilled individuals does not guarantee a well-functioning team. Employing members of staff based solely on their technical skill set doesn’t guarantee that chemistry will create a cohesive team. At Cognifide, while we have some very technically competent people, it’s not our number one priority when hiring engineers.
A greater focus on soft skills and motivation is what helps us create teams with empathy, who care deeply about our company and customer success.
5. Attitude matters
Technical skills matter but a good recruiter knows that finding candidates with the right attitude and a desire to learn can be even more important. After all, some technical skills are transferable from system to system. It’s the hungry candidates, happy to put the hours in to teach themselves, who will stand out.
6. Share knowledge
A growing trend across digital is informal communities built for knowledge sharing and skills transfer. They are often small groups created for mentoring within the workplace or in the wider community. At Cognifide, we partner with local schools and universities, offering lectures and courses that support up and coming talent. And we host a bunch of different events including a Java User Group, a Testing and Quality Group, an AWS User Group and a HashiCorp User Group, amongst others.
7. Nurture happy
Keeping highly skilled employees means keeping them happy.
Happy colleagues are those that are challenged and respected. They’ll be supported, yet given enough independence to allow them to make a difference and their working environment will be diverse and welcoming to everyone. This is about far more than throwing in bean bags, a sleep pod and a Nespresso machine.
This is about wiring your DNA for a modern workforce that thrives on mutual respect, works to clearly defined goals, is flexible and open to change and embraces all that technology offers to improve their working lives.
It wasn’t that long ago that getting a “job for life” was the aspiration of those leaving school and college.
From gaining an apprenticeship to being part of the furniture, having a salary, a pension scheme, and the golden handshake – you were living the working dream.
We all know that the working world has changed and with technology acting as the enabler, those in employment are moving jobs more now than ever, with a LV report revealing that the average UK worker changes roles once every five years, equating to around 9.4 jobs a lifetime.
The ability to work “anywhere, anytime”, combined with many finding their roles made redundant by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and others wanting to opt out of the “9-to-5” means the likelihood is more temporary and less permanent roles emerging in the future workplace. A trend backed by the Office for National Statistics that estimates there is currently nearly 5 million self-employed in the UK (equating to around 15 percent of the workforce) up from 3.3 million (12 percent) in 2001.
So, what does this mean in terms of workplace? Is this the demise of the office? At Platform, where we help clients such as Vodafone, British Gas, and Centrica Business Solutions visualise their working world of the future – we think not. We think it means changing our ideas and beliefs of what the office means and building a space that can be wholly cooperative, that allows fluidity of working while giving flexibility yet function. In fact, this is what we have created working with Vodafone on its Digital Innovation Hub, a technology incubator for start-ups and entrepreneurs based in Manchester’s Media City.
The launch of the Digital Working Hub
Billed as the workplace of the future, the Vodafone Digital Innovation Hub will provide entrepreneurs with access to network experts, the latest technologies, including 5G, IoT, and high-speed fibre and a space to work together and exchange ideas.
Yet the creation of the Digital Innovation Hub and Media City are far more than just places for those wanting to work independently. They highlight a new beginning in the world of work where cities become more agile to accommodate those working within it. We helped Vodafone imagine just what this city might look like with V-City, a 3D visualisation created by Platform for Vodafone that usesIoT and 5G to show a snapshot of the future. Complete with smart, connected infrastructure, drone deliveries, driverless cars and 4k streaming video, it helps organisations to plan for the future and assess some of the challenges and opportunities ahead.
The launch of digital working hubs signifies the need for people to have face-to-face interaction with their colleagues, but not be confined to the traditional office environment. It creates a space for those moving through their working lives but not being constricted by it. The lifestyle, travel and hospitality platform Salina takes this one step further by blurring the lines between work and play by offering spaces you can travel to, yet live, work and co-exist for as long or as little as you want.
Collaborative hubs are not in themselves new. However, what if they were the office norm allowing workers to move from one city to the other? To travel while working and to use the power of the community, just maybe not their organisation’s community? It brings a new meaning to “working away from home” and a new way of thinking of the office space.
What does the future workspace look like?
So, what might this new office space look like?It goes without saying that tech will enable it allowing not only connectivity with colleagues working remotely, but those working in different continents across different time zones.
Taking learnings from those around you, language will no longer be a barrier as your virtual assistant translates in real-time allowing you to have conversations and meetings with those who have never spoken your native tongue.
Artificial Intelligence will take mundane, repetitive or highly complex, big data tasks and find meaningful patterns within them that help enhance decision making or deliver better insights into our business and our customers. Imagine VR and AR being seamlessly woven into the workplace to allow scenario planning, training via virtual visualisation and an enhanced sense of environment with VR/REAL bringing true immersive content that understands the user’s location.This kind of full immersive technology gives rise to a much more mobile and distributed workforce and a more freelance economy of specialists contracted to deliver specific tranches of work.
Teams will be virtual, organic and machine based but not all, not yet.
The social agenda creeps higher up the priority list
As our technology races ahead and machine learning permeates throughout the workforce we will still have the need for places that better serve our creative, communal desire for human contact and face to face interaction. The ‘social’ agenda will inevitably creep higher up the list as priority for keeping a productive, successful happy workforce and if we are to avoid the possible dystopian scenarios such as the emergence of the Useless Class (people that cannot find employment means they are unable to maintain or improve their standard of living) predicted by the likes of Yuval Harari, we need to be mindful of the need to create spaces for not just as workplace solutions but social solutions helping to boost interaction, creation, innovation and dialogue and really consider the isolation risk threatened by remote working.
As last decade saw the end of the “job for life”, this decade the end to the “9-to-5”, maybe the next decade will see the end of the office as we know it but open up a world of offices that we move fluidly through, collaborating and engaging with different communities. Giving workers the chance to move and change working environments as they feel fit, it could boost creativity, help share best practice and see us becoming a global workforce like never before.
Ranked in the global top 10 of the most desirable companies to work for, Netflix is an employer that clearly gives a great deal back to its employees in terms of salary, culture, and development opportunities.
However, it also expects a lot in return and is well-known for its unusual performance assessment method, the so called ‘Keeper Test’.
Instead of having traditional appraisals and annual reviews, Netflix has introduced a permanent evaluation process. Managers and team leaders are encouraged to ask themselves a simple question of colleagues: “If an employee told me he or she had found another job, would I do my best to keep him or her at Netflix?”
If the answer is “no”, the employee in question may be reviewed and eased out of the organisation.
That might be an extreme approach, but they are not alone. An ever-growing number of leading companies, especially those in the technology sectors, are moving away from traditional top down performance reviews and taking a continuous approach instead. Rather than highlighting room for improvement, often when it’s too late, their aim is to emphasise the positive, offering personal development and opportunities for growth.
One simple way companies can enable a continuous feedback approach is to introduce the concept of ‘good talks’. These are regular – but not necessarily informal – conversations, intended to engage, motivate, inspire, and improve employee productivity.
They replace the need for expensive formal assessment interviews conducted twice a year and mean that any issues can be addressed more quickly, before they become serious problems. This is an important factor.
More people leave their employer because of a poor relationship with the line manager and a dearth of development opportunities than for any other reason, including salary.Millennials in particular find that a non-hierarchical working relationship, with opportunities for continuous feedback, is very important, according to research conducted by Careerwise.
Five key ingredients for ‘good talks’
1. Flat hierarchy: Before the good conversations approach can be introduced, there needs to be equality in the relationship between a manager and their team members and an open company culture. There needs to be a feeling that people can speak openly and be listened to, without facing negative consequences.
2. Being well prepared: To be able to give your employees continuous feedback, it’s important to have a clear end goal and ask relevant questions. You also need to understand what motivates the person involved. Is it money, flexibility, autonomy, status or social interaction for instance? And offer them appropriate development opportunities.
Preparation should also include spending time observing their behaviour before any conversations start. This way you can go into depth during your talks and offer opportunities that will motivate them to achieve the best for themselves.
3. Introduce measurable changes: To ensure that routine conversations can become viable replacements for an annual review, implement the following measurable changes…
Increase the number of talks held per year. This can vary from once a month to having one every three months. It’s up to the manager and employee to agree the most worthwhile frequency to suit their goals.
Hand over ownership of these conversations to employees and make them more involved. Let them take the lead when preparing and handling mutual conversations and give them the opportunity to influence the right outcomes.
4. Ask the right questions: When preparing for good conversations, managers can consider the following questions as a starting point for a useful discussion.
What do changes in market/technology/society/politics require of my team, now and in the long term?
What influence do internal developments have on the expertise and skills of my team within the next three years?
How do I see the future of my team?
What are the three most important goals for my team in the coming years?
Which competences and skills are already available for this, and which are not?
How do I facilitate and stimulate a culture where learning and development are common?
To what extent am I an example when it comes to (career) development?
Who, or what, do I need to keep my team up to date?
5. Encourage employees to ask questions like these:
What developments do I see in my field and in the environment in the coming years?
Do I expect my position to change in the future?
How do I view this expected change?
Are other requirements set for me to continue to function well in the future?
What questions do I have about this with my supervisor?
What changes in the personal sphere do I experience and what does this mean for my development?
What do I need to keep functioning well and to keep work that suits me?
The best companies are moving away from formal review meetings held once or twice a year, and introducing continuous feedback loops instead. Rather than let poor performance and dissatisfaction or insecurity set in, informal discussions highlight any issues quickly, employees gain more insight into how current performance impacts strategic goals and have the chance to adjust as necessary.
Employees who receive regular feedback on their performance in an informal way enjoy their work more. When people feel listened to and have a say in work processes, their motivation gets a boost and this is always good for business.
A new report from customer engagement software firm Freshworks Inc has cast light on a staggering number of hours wasted annually by sales and service agents who struggle to navigate software they are forced to use, despite having no say in its implementation.
The Voice in the Choice survey, which was released at Freshworks’ user conference, Refresh ‘19, shows that US-based sales staff waste a combined 516 million hours a year as a result of top-down ‘software dictatorship’. The report shows that having no say in the choice of software, and using it despite the problems it creates, is costing firms time, money, and morale.
It is also affecting firms’ ability to control customer retention and satisfaction. It is estimated that in the US, the wasted hours amount to an incredible $8.3 billion in lost productivity every year.
The survey, which questioned 400 frontline customer service and success employees, showed that respondents feel powerless to determine which software they use, with 96 percent having little or no influence into its selection. Likewise, 57 percent have no clue who chooses the software they use, and 43 percent don’t know why the software was chosen. In fact, respondents indicated that they have greater control over snack selection at their offices than they do regarding the software that they use day in and day out.
Employee’s influence in decisions affecting their work life
Personal work schedule (28 percent)
Seat or desk assignment (20 percent)
Office snack selection (17 percent)
Software they use (7 percent)
Conversely, when it comes to the biggest impact on end users’ ability to do their jobs well, software becomes the top factor. Forty-seven percent say the software they use has a major or complete impact on their ability to do their jobs well.
Work life factors that improve employee performance
Software they use (47 percent)
Work schedule (41 percent)
Seat or desk assignment (16 percent)
Office snack selection (6 percent)
The report shows that the pain of software dictatorship has both quantitative and qualitative ramifications. Half (50 percent) of respondents say that when they have to use software they hate, it is harder for them to satisfy their customers. One-in-five report that when they are frustrated with software, they are more likely to be rude to customers.
Exclusion from their organisations’ software decision-making also impacts overall employee morale and, ultimately, employee retention. Nearly one-in-four end users (24 percent) say that using software they hate makes them want to quit their jobs. This flight risk is more acute with millennials, with 30 percent reporting that handcuffing them to bad software makes them want to pack up and leave.
Tellingly, using ‘hated’ software brings frustration and unhappiness at work to more people (26 percent) than the drudgery of long hours and working overtime (23 percent).
The survey revealed that increased user involvement not only increases productivity but increases their job satisfaction as well. End users report that if management involved them in deciding what software to use, it would make them feel respected (60 percent) and empowered (40 percent) while boosting employee morale (43 percent).
The survey revealed that increased user involvement not only increases productivity but increases their job satisfaction as well. End users report that if management involved them in deciding what software to use, it would make them feel respected (60 percent) and empowered (40 percent) while boosting employee morale (43 percent).
Enlightened managers are adopting a more democratic approach to selecting software for net positive gains. Over half of end users say that helping to choose the software their company uses to engage with customers would result in happier customers (53 percent) and higher employee productivity (52 percent). In fact, over half of millennials (52 percent) report that they’d be at least 25 percent better at their job if they could choose the software they use.
Freshworks CEO and founder Girish Mathrubootham, said: “This lack of employee involvement is an outrage for those on the frontlines of the customer relationship and should be a wake-up call for companies who are looking to increase both employee productivity and customer satisfaction. Organisations have a responsibility – to their employees, their customers and themselves – to bring the voice of their workers into the technology-buying process. The happiness of their employees and customers depends on it, as does the health of their business.
“As our productivity and happiness at work becomes more closely tied to the technology we use, executives and managers have a true opportunity to make better software choices by giving a voice to their employees. Organisations can enact a more democratic selection process through a number of best practices, including employee surveys, pilot programs, employee committees and many other tactics to ensure worker voices are heard and can be as productive as possible.”
Luxury hotel group Calcot Collection has enlisted a guest experience management firm to help monitor staff happiness through the company’s employee survey function, in order to motivate and retain its team.
The move follows the sacking of a senior chef and launch of an investigation into a scalding incident in the kitchen of one of the group’s venues in Gloucestershire, the Calcot & Spa (pictured).
The agreement with guest experience management firm HGEM serves 575 employees across five venues, and will provide Calcot Collection with in-depth reports to track employee engagement at all stages of the career process, and identify opportunities for development and improvement. The reports will enable Calcot to establish and reinforce best practice, while The Hub (HGEM’s innovative reporting platform) will give the company access to e-learning modules for ongoing improvement.
Pat Sparkes, HR Manager, Calcot Collection said: “We are pleased to be working with HGEM to monitor employee engagement and identify any areas for improvement. The company’s detailed analysis in this area will help to inform our ongoing strategy and ensure we create the best possible culture for our employees.”
Forty percent of UK employees would consider working in a temporary, interim, or contract position, according to a new poll, in order to enjoy benefits including a better lifestyle.
Research undertaken by staffing business Walters People found that for those who would take on such positions, 47 percent said the motive would be an improved lifestyle, 29 percent cited higher hourly pay, 26 percent said more flexibility, and 19 percent said they would accept a temp post in order to be exposed to new skills.
Regions where the ambition to contract is most prevalent include Wales (47 percent), Yorkshire & Humber (44 percent), East Midlands (42 percent), and London (40 percent).
Further analysis shows that for the first time in 18 months, contracting vacancies in the UK has seen a significant boost – increasing by 29 percent in Q2 of this year.
Regions which have seen the biggest increase in contract or interim vacancies over the past three months are Birmingham, Manchester, London, Bristol, and Leeds.
Director of Walters People London, Phill Westcott said: “There are almost 5 million self-employed people in the UK – ten years ago, this number would have been in the tens of thousands. This shift is not down to any one generation but is an indicator of where the mindset of the UK workforce is moving.
“Work life balance, reticence to be part of corporate structures, lack of training or progression, unpaid overtime, exposure to new industries, and the desire to seek out interesting project type work are just a few of the common reasons we often hear professionals who have made the contract-role switch or would like too.”
The desire to contract is most prevalent for professionals in Technology & IT (48 percent), Procurement & Supply Chain (46 percent), and Banking & Financial Services (45 percent).
In fact, anyone who has braved the world of CVs and cover letters, impersonal correspondence, and the apparent disappearance of all jobs that sound appealing will be hard-pressed not to reach that conclusion.
But the UK’s lagging productivity furnishes us with yet more proof. In April, Richard Hays of the Office for National Statistics told the BBC that “it has taken the UK a decade to deliver two percent growth, which historically was achieved in a single year”.
The headline of the article refers to the ‘lost decade’. This loss in productivity points to mass disengagement among the workforce, and the recruitment industry has to take its share of the blame. When the wrong people are in the wrong jobs, they switch off or become unhappy, neither of which is conducive to efficiency.
It would be easier not to criticise traditional recruitment if it were not such a vast and wealthy sector whose actions play an important role in the lives of individual people and the health of the economy. I was one of those graduates who spent days perusing job boards, speaking to recruiters and refining cover letters and CVs, and it was an experience that was frustrating and demotivating. I’ve heard countless stories of recent graduates who came out of university full of enthusiasm and ready to throw themselves wholeheartedly into a career only to find themselves in exactly the same position – regardless of grades or experience.
Especially damaging is the inexorable trend towards the commodification of candidates. These – we should remember – are young people at a very important and stressful time in their lives. In their eyes, the job they take next could define their entire career. And although those who’ve had several jobs would be quick to point out that a misfire (or two) doesn’t preclude you from a fulfilling career, that’s not the way you see it when you’ve just come out of university.
And yet the traditional recruitment industry has come to see graduates as units rather than people, and always puts the business first at their expense. Without understanding the candidate as an individual person with a unique set of skills and characteristics, it’s impossible to know in which jobs they’ll thrive – and this is as much to the detriment of businesses looking for people as it is to candidates.
Then there’s the CV and cover letter, which has its origins with Leonardo da Vinci 500 years ago. That might be proof enough that change is overdue, but we see more proof in the industrialisation of the CV-and-cover-letter-writing process in many fee-paying schools. Young people at these schools are far more likely to have interview practice and training in finding a job, and this not only creates a lopsided world of work, with privileged candidates more likely to take privileged jobs, but breeds homogeneity: supposedly individual documents which somehow look the same for different people, and convey little of the personality and attitude that is so vital to work.
What we have is an entire industry that hasn’t caught up with the changes taking place in the world of work. Millennials and Generation Z are emerging into a post-recession digital world in which ‘disruption’ is always around the corner. Tech has overtaken finance as the most exciting sector, and the familiar promises of money and security ring hollow: those who watched the collapse of household-name companies from Lehman Brothers to Blockbuster are rightly suspicious of these kinds of appeals.
A gap has opened up between the recruiting industry, the candidates, and the companies, and we see evidence of that in a disengaged workforce and a trend towards ‘going it alone’ in the form of entrepreneurship.
As it is, the candidates are losing out and the companies are losing out. And in the long-term that’s bad news for everyone, not solely the companies or people losing out directly. What we should adopt instead is something 21st century and tech-powered. Most important of all, we should adopt something that puts the candidate first.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has become engrained in our day-to-day lives without us even noticing.
From basic voice assistants that can play music by just saying one word, to self-driving cars – there’s no turning back from the world of AI. Today’s tech-savvy consumers have grown to love AI so much due to its ability to improve overall Customer Experience and resolve issues in a timely way. As a result, businesses are jumping on board the AI journey at an unprecedented pace. There is little doubt in AI’s ability to dramatically transform CX, so why isn’t the same attention being given to the Employee Experience?
Today’s workforce has changed dramatically compared to that of previous generations. More employees are working remotely than in traditional offices, and recent research shows that by the year 2020 more than 50 percent of employees will enjoy the benefits of working someplace other than a traditional office.
In addition to where we work, how we work is also changing. While millennials have had access to cell phones and the internet for virtually their entire lives, even generations that have not grown up with this technology are embracing well-designed, easy-to-use applications. Employees across industries expect technology to make jobs easier and more productive, however, the bar for what companies believe is user-friendly technology is often far too low.
Even companies that are forward-thinking and want to move beyond antiquated systems, are struggling to implement technology that is as easy to use as Alexa, but also seamlessly fits into the current processes and workflow – and it’s having an impact on retention and employee satisfaction. Research suggests that a majority of employees that are looking for new jobs are doing so because of broken company processes, including being able to connect with support departments like IT and HR.
A direct correlation
One wrong Customer Experience can create a lasting impression. Therefore, businesses are now so focused on providing exceptional CX that Employee Experience becomes an afterthought. Businesses know that if they want to compete with the Amazons of the world, they need to go above and beyond to ensure a superior CX.
They have done this by pulling out all the stops and implementing new technologies that allow consumers to do things like virtually design homes with furniture they’re considering buying or try on clothing in a virtual dressing room.These innovations have changed the game when it comes to Customer Experience.But behind the curtain, employees are under constant pressure to provide this experience and are not equipped with the same flashy technologies to help them do their jobs.
In fact, the technologies designed to support the modern workforce often times do the opposite – they hinder employees’ productivity, efficiency, and, as some would claim, even the ability to produce meaningful work.
In a business-driven world where time is money, no-one should struggle to figure out technologies that are supposed to ‘support’ them and make their lives easier. The reality is that many existing support solutions today are outdated and actually work against the employee, inhibiting the ability to help them and the business thrive.
The workplace of the future
In what ways can businesses improve Employee Experience whilst also giving their employees the freedom to do the best work? We already know that workplaces of the future are likely to be increasingly more remote, as more companies choose to run their businesses from co-working spaces or have no office space at all. With the workplace becoming more fluid and dynamic, and employees working out of home offices or coffee shops, in varying locations, businesses need to be prepared to support employees across state lines and time zones.
We also know that future of the workplace will be increasingly more digital, as the technical innovations that alter the way we live outside the office will become expected in the professional environment as well.
Businesses need to reimagine the workplace the way they’ve reimagined the customer journey.Emerging technologies like AI-powered chatbots, for example, are helping with everything from onboarding and training, to providing assistance during meetings, to helping solve common employee questions that often plague IT, HR, facilities and other support teams at organisations.AI is helping businesses save time and energy – while still ensuring employees have help every step of the way.
Inundations of Help Tickets
A great example of AI in the workplace is in IT, which isn’t surprising with IT being the backbone of technology exploration and vetting at organisations.These teams spend a good majority of their days working through cluttered support queues full of repetitive tickets – whether its password resets, email access or printer setups. These are questions that can often be found in knowledge management systems or intranets, but when employees have questions – especially if those issues are hindering them from getting work done – they would much rather ask their IT buddy than go searching through a sea of URLs and documents to find the answer.
This endless onslaught of requests cuts down on the amount of time the IT team can devote to higher-value problem solving or long-term strategic initiatives. Not to mention, it must be incredibly frustrating when ten people in one day ask you how to access a remote server – copy and paste at its finest. IT teams, which are already stretched thin,are drowning in these requests day in and day out, and it becomes a problem for the entire business operation.
And IT isn’t the only one affected by this cyclical support queue. While the help desk team is busy working its way through tickets or dealing with an unexpected ‘fire drills’, employees who are waiting for support grow frustrated with resolution time.
Sometimes they even turn to unauthorised solutions that bring their own security implications. Employing an AI-powered support partner to help answer these questions removes the pain of searching through outdated and hard-to-read knowledge articles, empowers employees to self-serve and opens up the IT team to work with the employees who need them the most. Thanks to Google, today’s workforce is programmed to take a DIY-approach to problem solving and often prefers self-service, so organisations need to embrace and capitalise on this – and AI is one of the ways to help bring it to the workplace.
Time is money
The famous saying, “time is money”, must be remembered. However, if businesses don’t focus on Employee Experience, they will be diminishing their success in the long-run, creating lasting inefficiencies for the bottom line. Now is the time to start removing friction from the day-to-day by using tools that will enable employees to do their best work. Ultimately, these efforts will allow businesses to thrive as employees will feel motivated to become more productive and simultaneously more satisfied.
A petition by UK employees is calling for workers to be allowed “bereavement leave” in the event of a pet’s death.
The campaign began after 18-year-old sandwich shop worker Emma McNulty, of Baillieston in Scotland, was fired after missing a day following the death of her Yorkshire terrier Milly.
Despite having the dog in her life from the age of four, Emma was sacked the day after informing bosses she was unable to attend because she lost her “best friend”.
A petition calling for the allowance of bereavement leave following the death of a pet has nearly reached 10,000 signatures. Emma started the petition in the hopes that other employees facing similar circumstances can take compassionate leave and not place their job at risk.
In the UK, all employees have the right to take time off to deal with an emergency concerning a dependant. This can apply to spouses, parents, grandparents, children, or someone who depends on you for care.
However, more employees than ever consider pets as family, with 85 percent of millennials agreeing pets should be treated as loved ones. Fifty-three percent of millennials also believe employers should allow for a period of ‘pet-ernity leave’ to spend time with newly arrived pets.
The survey revealed that 46 percent of millennials see themselves as a ‘pet parent’ rather than a pet owner.
Dr Steph Wenban, Front of The Pack’s vet and pet wellbeing expert, said: “For many homes, pets constitute as family members and are treated with the same love and care as a relative. Therefore, the loss of a pet is extremely saddening and can affect the owners ability to function just as the bereavement of a normal family member. Employers should recognise this, compassionate leave should be granted on emotional attachment and subsequent loss, not black and white guidelines that are hugely subjective from person to person as to what constitutes as loss.”
Fellow EX visionary, author, and Employee Experience Masterclass leader, Ben Whitter, has offered his seal of approval to Gethin’s book, describing it as “a great read and a great message to the world”.
Gethin, who is Director of Employee Wellbeing at Benefex, spoke with Customer Experience Magazine to discuss A World of Good, his inspirations, and why Employee Experience continues to be of vital importance for business.
Hi Gethin, tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional background
After graduating with a psychology degree, I worked in television for a few years for the BBC, Channel 4, and a stint in local radio (even racking up some production credits on IMDB). Struggling to get work in the media, I got a job working in pensions at Legal and General. Five years later I was managing the key accounts team and had developed some strong pensions knowledge as well as CII and ILM qualifications.
After leaving L&G, I moved to Barclays, where I started working in employee benefits technology for clients like GSK, Coca Cola, and British American Tobacco. Fast forward a few years later and I set up the employee benefits department for (at the time) one of Europe’s largest insurance brokers.
I then moved to Benefex, where I have been for eight years as part of the senior management team. My time at Benefex is when my interest in Employee Experience really took off. As well as working closely with organisations like EY and PwC, I started writing and speaking publicly to share my growing knowledge of ways to improve EX.
Benefex has given me the opportunity to help some of the worlds biggest brands to develop their employee engagement, experience, and wellbeing strategies. It’s also give my own best Employee Experience to date.
What led you towards the world of Employee Experience? Did your own previous experiences influence you positively or negatively?
For years I was passionate about improving engagement at work and was lucky enough to help great employers do amazing things to get their people more engaged. But while all of this was going on, there was a growing trend for employers to take a different view of engagement – that it was a psychological product of how we designed employees’ experiences.
In the same way organisations had focussed on how great Customer Experience led to better sales and loyalty, the most progressive ones had now realised that a carefully designed Employee Experience was the best way to boost employee engagement. At the time, Jacob Morgan’s book, The Employee Experience Advantage, really opened my eyes to how the most experimental organisations were achieving this.
When I started to think about my own experiences, I started to realise that historically, when I had been disengaged at work, it was as a result of lots of things – difficult commutes, poor technology, uncomfortable offices, lack of autonomy, etc. I’ve had some of the best and worst experiences that both had an impact on my wellbeing. I wanted to make sure that I could help as many employees as possible have a great experience at work and this started by writing my thoughts down in a book.
Tell us about the book and your inspirations/influences in writing it.
Aside from my own experiences, I became really taken with the idea that employment in general has a significant effect on humans. Work has become a big part of our lives and rightly or wrongly, plays a part in how we identify ourselves and how we define success. The lines between home and work life rarely exist anymore, which means the way we feel about our experiences at work have a big effect on how we feel about our lives.
The more I read, researched and wrote about people’s experiences at work, the more I found the growing body of evidence for how treating employees well leads to business growth. I also found that the more time I spent with employers, the more I realised that lots of this knowledge wasn’t well known.
In 2017, many employers were still treating employees unfairly. However, what did start to happen at that time was that the media was paying close attention. As whistle-blowers started to expose poor employment practices, we saw well known brands dragged through the mud.
This started to have a big impact on consumer behaviour for those brands and so suddenly, lots of organisations really started to see that they had to treat employees better if they were going to deliver the kind of Customer Experience they needed to. At the time though, the big issue seemed to be that many organisations didn’t know how to improve the Employee Experience. Most organisations couldn’t afford to be as experimental as the likes of Google, so I saw an opportunity to help these employers improve the experience easily and with little investment.
As I started writing the book, I realised that so many of the new and progressive EX practices companies were using were actually really old. In some countries, they were hundreds of years old!
That’s when the format came to me – I could use lessons from different countries and cultures all over the world as a way of telling a story I could then back up with academic research. Where possible, these would be stories that could help organisations take a different view of their employees’ experiences and the impact old ways of thinking were having.
Since its publication, the book has hit the Amazon HR bestseller list and won an award. But the most rewarding achievements come from the messages I receive from the people managers who tell me they’ve changed their EX after reading the book. In some cases, decades old HR policies have been binned in favour of ones that improve the lives of their employees. I never expected that would happen!
Employee Experience is now a deciding factor for job seekers. Can you tell us where many firms are going wrong when it comes to attracting and retaining talent?
One of the most popular reasons employees give for leaving a new job is that the experience didn’t match up with the expectation. Many employers spend huge amounts of effort developing an employer brand and an employee value proposition, but if the reality is that their employees are struggling at work, it becomes wasted effort.
We live in a world where your employment practices can be publicly discussed. Organisations can now analyse your employer brand to see how ex-employees talk about you online. Employees can also rate and review their employers.
We have never had transparency like this before!
Add that to low unemployment and a shortage of talent and suddenly, the job is the product and the employee is the consumer. The employee now has the choice and ease to decide who they want to work with. This means employers have never had to work harder to recruit and retain employees.
Where lots of organisations are now going wrong is that they aren’t thinking about how their experiences are being designed. Your EX shouldn’t be something that just happens; it should be something you have carefully designed.
This begins with empathising with your employees. Take something like changing jobs: when an employee has signed a contract with you and quit their old job, they are an engaged employee in their prime. They are excited, but they are also nervous. Changing jobs is stressful and ridden with anxiety, yet many organisations don’t empathise with these feelings.
We make potential employees wait weeks to hear from us after an interview and then after we’ve signed their contract, we don’t speak to them again until their first day. Then we give them lots of paperwork to do and so rather than a fun, exciting first day, it’s usually full of admin that could have been done weeks before.
On a more positive note, what are your experiences of interacting with organisations that are getting Employee Experience right?
Its probably the question I get asked most: “Who is doing Employee Experience well?”, but it’s not the question employers should be asking.
We are obsessed with wanting to know what other companies are doing in a desire to do it better than them. When it comes to EX, every employee has different wants and needs and what employers should be concentrating on is developing the best experience they can for them. A unique experience that you can deliver will be your USP. A potential employees’ best experience to date will be their benchmark, so you should be focussed on making an experience that is better than that, rather than a competitor. Every company is unique, so the kind of experience you can offer should be too.
Where I see organisations with great employee experiences, there is trust. I believe its at the heart of any great experience at work. When real trust exists, employers can get the employees to design their own experiences. When we trust employees to make the right decisions, great things happen.
Employee Experience naturally leads to better Customer Experience. Can you tell explain why this is the case to any organisations that might not yet realise this?
When I come across organisations that are doing the experience right, I can really feel it. I notice this more as a consumer than I do as someone working in the industry. We can’t expect employees to deliver the best CX unless they are cared for and treated well themselves. You can follow a great Customer Experience backwards and find a great Employee Experience. The best CX will always start with Employee Experience!
There are some really good examples of where great EX has enabled employees to do great things for customers. A UK bank gives employees a discretionary budget each to empower them to make their customers’ day great. I’ve seen them buy pizza for a hungry customer visiting the bank on their lunch break, and deliver flowers to a customer that was having a difficult day. As humans, we love to do things for other people and when we make others happy, it makes us happy.
We are also seeing how some major brands are now using their EX to market themselves. When John Lewis re-branded as ‘John Lewis and Partners’, it was to reflect the key role their staff play in the company’s success. An expensive advert campaign declared ‘When you’re part of it, you put your heart into it’. Brands now know that the way they treat their staff will play a part in whether you want to buy their products or services. When organisations have struggled to realise that, they’ve felt the damage. We’ve seen this with Uber, Amazon, and Sports Direct.
As I write in the preface of the book – more than ever, a company’s front line affects their bottom line. Improving the lives of employees should be a priority for every employer. Nowhere is this more important than with those who deal directly with your customers.
At its best, science fiction taps into our contemporary anxieties to predict the fate of humanity.
An episode of Doctor Who, for example, featured robotised mega-corporations, human irrelevance, and despair. The Doctor may be sci-fi fantasy, but the issues are real.
Artificial intelligence (AI) technology is reshaping many sectors – for both good and ill. Gartner predicted that artificial intelligence would generate $1.2 trillion in business value in 2018 – an increase of 70 percent from 2017. But on the negative side, it creates much anxiety about the elimination of jobs, and prolonged focus on the cost and job-cutting aspects of AI has overshadowed how the technology can help human employees.
The CX example: how tools can hinder trade
In the customer service sector the rise in AI, decision-support, automation, and chatbots has exploded across the industry, driving multi-channel customer experience (CX). But adoption of these technologies for employee engagement has been slow. Contact centres have some of the highest employee turnover rates in the world, and there’s been troubling analysis suggesting new technology is inhibiting employee performance, engagement, and satisfaction.
Gartner analysis reveals service representatives use the mindboggling average of 8.2 different systems and tools during a customer interaction. Small wonder, then, that talk-time is up nearly 14 percent while call volume has remained the same.
We have amazing systems driving less-than-amazing experiences for the people charged with using them. A primary source of the problem stems from something obvious. We’re measuring the wrong things.
Just exactly what should we measure?
In our rush to capitalise on AI technologies, we’re failing to evaluate the way they ultimately integrate into human workflows. In the customer service sector, technology is better at handling many discrete tasks but does not replace human representatives.
It’s becoming standard practice, for example, for companies to host automated, largely self-service interaction options for customers that are always available. Digital account portals supply constant access and handy personalisation capabilities, while well-designed chatbots and virtual assistants are excellent at taking orders, payment processing, status checks, or informational queries.
But for more complex requests that require human nuance and context, technology-enhanced services can complicate the situation. When dealing with the customer, human agents are at a loss without access to what transpired during those digital interactions. And even when human agents can access those systems, they shouldn’t be flipping back and forth between applications and databases while attempting to deliver proper support to a customer.
This problem is perfect for AI solutions. Analytics engines that deliver historical and/or relevant customer information to support agents automatically and in real time can speed rather than delay productive conversation. Natural Language Processing (NLP) systems recognise spoken keywords and supply agents with useful prompts or notes, sparing them from app fatigue and task-switching. Virtualised on-demand training systems can keep them stimulated and engaged.
This employee-centric AI deserves more study and development. Systems that aren’t generating a positive Employee Experience will negatively affect the Customer Experience they deliver. Exploring ways AI can better serve employees is the solution. And measuring how employees view these tools should be the first metric for success, not an afterthought.
Collaborate to work out what best to measure
Applying AI to better serve the employee is crucial, but should be measured and managed with caution, given the enormous amount of data available.
One of the greatest struggles from an AI development perspective is determining how often a system should prompt the employee and whether there should be a trigger. Can such a mechanism be ranked? Do we allow the employee to turn off certain notifications because they’re annoying?
There’s a risk of overdoing AI assistance for Employee Experience. It could get very frustrating, very quickly. The only way to arrive at balanced employee-centric AI application is through collaboration. The people using the technology should have representation at the development table, which is also an excellent way to increase job satisfaction.
The future will require us to adapt what we measure
As AI technology becomes integrated into the enterprise, we must adapt how we gauge human performance. In CX management, technological innovation dictates that businesses restructure how they view customer contacts and the human staff who perform those jobs.
Contact centre positions will no longer be entry-level or outsourceable roles. With automation handling all the basic contact tasks, human customer service becomes a more specialised profession. Savvy and emotionally intelligent customer service employees with thorough understanding of a business and its technology will be a necessity. They’ll be managing only the most important, complex, or delicate customer concerns.
Today’s metrics, such as talk-time or calls-per-hour, provide little quantification under such circumstances – but the quality of this work will largely determine a company’s reputation among human beings.
Data harvested from Google Images has revealed the extent to which women around the world appear to be underrepresented in senior management roles, compared to the actual number of women holding these posts in real life.
Global data provider Creditsafe replicated a standard first impression for a search engine results page and looked at the top 25 Google Image results for the search term ‘CEO’ in 15 countries to see how many times women were shown.
According to statistics from the International Labour Organisation, women represent an average of 31.3 percent of the world’s senior business leaders. However, just 11.9 percent of Google Images results for the search ‘CEO’ were of women.
In the Creditsafe research, Colombia was revealed to be the country with the largest discrepancy between Google’s results (zero percent) with the country’s actual percentage of women in managerial roles (53.1 percent). Russia, Norway, Mexico, and Japan were the only other countries to have no female representation in their respective top 25 Google Images results.
The UK was found to have a negative discrepancy of just over 15 percent. With 34 percent of the nation’s business leaders being female, just 19 percent of search results showcased women in these types of leadership roles.
Meanwhile, Canada was the only country in this analysis to have a higher percentage of women in its Google Images than in real life (up by 2.68 percent). The United Arab Emirates (UAE) depicted the truest representation out of all countries referenced in the research, however, this was reliant on the country only having 10 percent of women in senior managerial positions.
Commenting on the results, Carys Hughes, CFO at Creditsafe, said: “Google collects images from sites across the web and shows an aggregation to users. If we want to change this, we need to ensure women are being represented accurately in our media, as well as our boardrooms.
“Data accuracy is crucial to our performance as an international business intelligence supplier. It allows our customers to make informed decisions to help grow their organisations and we think it’s astounding that the statistics are so far from reality in most countries around the world. Our analysis has revealed that once again a source such as Google is not always the most accurate and whatever we are researching always needs to be backed up with accurate and up-to-date information.”
British Airways is among firms taking part in a new initiative to boost productivity by having staff go on a week-long “workation” to Lithuania.
The Workstation Vilinius programme offers firms the chance to send staff to the Lithuanian capital to work, with the change in environment believed to stimulate employee engagement. The scheme reflects a rise in remote working that could see as much as 50 percent of the global workforce not tied to offices by 2020.
Three international companies – Monese, British Airways, and Siemens – won this year’s Workstation Vilinius places, and three teams of up to 10 employees from each firm will travel to Vilinius in September for a week of working against an inspiring new backdrop. They will be welcomed by Go Vilinius, the official development agency of the city.
General Manager of Go Vilnius, Inga Romanovskienė, said: “During the first Workation Vilnius programme that took place last year, we welcomed teams from British Telecom, Expedia, and OrderYoyo.
“By having such high-calibre applicants for the second year in a row, we believe that Vilnius is able to position itself amongst Europe’s top capitals for doing business. This is not only due to the international mindset which is adopted by our city’s business sector. It is also a result of our emphasis on the establishment of a healthy work-life balance for our professionals.”
A British Airways spokesperson said: “As a global organisation, we seek to enhance our cross-market working environments. Having the opportunity to work from Vilnius would strengthen our teams’ relationships and empower our employees.”
A majority of UK adults are worried for the future of their jobs due to the growth of artificial intelligence (AI), a new report has revealed.
According to the findings of think tank Fountech.ai, 67 percent of 2,000 adults polled are worried AI will result in machines taking people’s jobs. Meanwhile, the survey also shows that 58 percent find the use of AI tools such as those used by Amazon and Netflix to recommend products to us “creepy”, and 59 percent are nervous about the way their personal data is collected and used since the rise of AI tech.
However, according to the poll, 62 percent believe AI will do more good than harm to the world, while 37 percent admit they do not fully understand what AI means.
Furthermore, only 30 percent claim to regularly use technologies powered by AI. This is despite the fact that popular tools such as Google’s search engine, Siri, most major email providers, and Facebook – as well as the aforementioned Amazon and Netflix platforms – all use AI.
One-in-three (31 percent) respondents said they do not think AI will ever be able to truly replicate the cognitive ability of humans. Nevertheless, three quarters (74 percent) want to see the UK government do more to govern the way AI technologies are developed and used.
Nikolas Kairinos, CEO and founder of Fountech, said: “People tend to fear what they don’t understand, and today’s research is an example of this. For decades, AI has been misrepresented in sci-fi movies and literary fiction, but we should not let this blinker our view of how this amazing technology can enhance the world around us.
“AI can solve problems and achieve tasks that we previously considered impossible – it will undoubtedly open doors to countless opportunities so we can make the world a better place. Importantly, as this study shows, the technology must be harnessed and used in the right way – the ethical questions surrounding the development of AI will rightly remain until both governments and businesses show they are applying it in responsible, safe ways.”
Described as a ‘generation disrupted’, millennials are a pivotal talking point in every sphere.
Deloitte’s most recent millennial survey uncovers the impact continuous change and instability has had on younger generations. Their lack of trust towards employers and business leaders has bred cynicism and dissatisfaction towards their financial situations and jobs.
The rapidly changing world of business, where an increasing number of organisations are determined to grow quickly and become more profitable with fewer resources, could be a contributing factor to this view. It’s unsurprising that millennial cynicism is breeding a new set of workplace standards that’s forcing businesses to revaluate the way they address engagement to attract and retain millennial talent.
But why is engaging this particular generation so important? In years to come millennials and Gen Ys will make up the bulk of the workforce and whilst they won’t completely rule the roost, they’re already shaping and influencing business and workforce landscapes. There’s an increasing need to build their trust and inspire loyalty.
So, what do these insights mean for organisations and the way they engage with this particular workforce?
Alongside millennials, technology and digitisation are rapidly shaping the business landscape. We’re in the midst of a transition into a new working world also known as ‘Industry 4.0’. With artificial intelligence taking on more roles in the workplace and widening industries providing the ability to define new jobs, shifts and subsequent challenges are rocking the employment world.
The impact on workers is clear and although this new industry 4.0 is a work in progress, there will be a change in demand of skills required. A significant proportion of millennials and Gen Zs feel they aren’t fully equipped with these skills, and expect they’ll have to evolve their own capabilities to increase their value to employers.
The debate over how these skills will be acquired and who’s primarily responsible for preparing workers for the future is interesting. Millennials put the onus on employers. However, a separate 2019 Deloitte global survey focussing on Industry 4.0, found that leaders were more likely to say the responsibility fell on government and schools rather than businesses.
This shows a significant disconnect between employers and young employees on who should take responsibility for preparing them for future skills requirements that will result from Industry 4.0. It’s within the company’s best interests to support and invest in their employees otherwise they’re just adding minimal value or actively working against the organisation.
The temptation to go alone
The report also found that nearly half of millennials would, given the choice, quit their current jobs in the next two years. Their reasons for this revolve around pay, and lack of both opportunities to advance and learning development. Although it’s easier to pretend that retention isn’t an issue, it is. Not only is recruitment expensive and time consuming, a high employee turnover rate doesn’t exactly enhance morale and makes it much harder for other remaining employees to maintain productivity.
We also can’t ignore the fact it’s an employee’s job market. If your workplace culture doesn’t meet millennials needs, it shouldn’t come as any surprise if they leave – even if they don’t have a job lined up. The rise of the ‘gig economy’ is a big contributing factor to this. This mainly refers to freelance or contract work and 84 percent of millennials said they would consider joining it. Although it brings uncertainty there are clear advantages such as the opportunity to earn more money, work the hours they want and achieve a better work/life balance.
We’re already beginning to see how some of these millennial attitudes are impacting and shaping the workplace. The number of companies offering flexible working arrangements and other ‘gig-like’ features such as sabbatical programmes is a clear sign of these impacts. Giving employees a break every five years can give them something additional to work towards. It’s a reward that offers invaluable opportunities such as travelling, studying or spending time with family.
These programmes vary from employer to employer. Nando’s offers a paid four-week sabbatical for every five years of continual service. Similarly, EY in Australia has introduced a number of new flexible work initiatives, including the option for employees to take up to 12 weeks of ‘Life Leave’. Although these initiatives can just be seen as another retention tool, they do come with their benefits. In a talent market where a lot of employers are saying the same thing, the only way to truly differentiate yourself is to create policies that support your claims.
Offering flexible working, autonomy, opportunities to make an impact and sabbatical programmes demonstrate trust in employees and shows that you respect their professional and personal lives as well as their general wellbeing. This is a huge differentiator when it comes to marketing yourself as a good employer. Free lunches, beanbags, and gym memberships are all well and good, but nothing can compete with time for personal growth or time spent with family.
What should organisations do differently?
Millennials and Gen Zs who responded to this report want all of the talk organisations gives to their purpose, culture, and values to become meaningful action, and to serve as agents for positive change. To inspire trust and loyalty, businesses need to demonstrate how they’re supporting their younger workforce and do so in a way that’s meaningful and authentic.
For millennials to have such an appetite and expectations for organisations to be enhancing lives, it’s no surprise they’re distrusting and cynical when they don’t see enough businesses taking responsibility for investing in their people. When this generation are going to make up the bulk of the workforce and become the main influencers of your organisation, they’ll be the first to call out when you stray from your purpose and values.
All of this means that investing in and showing genuine support towards your employees shouldn’t be limited generationally. The world of work is changing, and companies can no longer turn a blind eye to how much they rely on the energy, loyalty and engagement of all of their employees to survive.
There isn’t a lot that Ben Whitter doesn’t know about when it comes to employee engagement and getting the best out of a workforce.
Known throughout the UK and further afield as Mr Employee Experience, the founder and Chief Experience Officer at the World Employee Experience Institute (WEEI) also shares his expert knowledge at the Employee Experience Masterclass, the next of which is taking place in London this October.
Now Ben (pictured left) plans to reach an even wider audience with the publication of his debut book – a text certain to become required reading for HR staff, CEOs, and more across the land as ever more firms switch on to the benefits of providing an exceptional Employee Experience – for the benefit of both staff and the company’s bottom line.
Succinctly titled Employee Experience, the book is described as a guide to developing a “happy, productive and supported workforce for exceptional individual and business performance”. As the author outlines, Employee Experience (EX) is “every experience and interaction an employee has with a business”.
It is a broad, strategic approach that is challenging every support function to define what really matters to a brand and ensure this is reflected in its how its employees interact with the business. If this is optimised, people can perform to the best of their abilities.
Ben’s new book is a practical guide to achieving this through embedding EX in your organisation’s processes and culture, from the moment an employee sees a job advert until the moment they leave the company.
Full of tools, tips, and advice to help HR professionals and business leaders motivate, support, and develop their staff, Employee Experienceincludes a foreword by Global Industry Analyst Josh Bersin and case studies from companies including Airbnb, Starbucks, and Sky.
Praise for the book has been forthcoming from business figures including Bruce Daisley, Vice-President of social media behemoth Twitter.
“Navigating the complexities of Employee Experience has become the biggest differentiator of great workplaces. At last, a book that gives us a routemap,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ben himself told CXM of his hopes for the book as it reaches a global audience.
“After being immersed in EX for so long, I thought it was about time I put pen to paper for my first book,” he said.
“This is an outcome of an intense and lengthy period of focus working with brands and colleagues worldwide to determine how EX is being successfully applied and scaled in practice. As a result, I present a new model and lens, the holistic employee experience (HEX), that can be used by all business and HR leaders to deliver exceptional human and business outcomes.
“It’s based on the evidence I have been exposed to across many countries and cultures, and the book shares the key elements of EX and how they can be connected to powerfully shape and drive business growth. My concept of the HEX helps companies and colleagues to successfully establish, sustain, and scale a positive Employee Experience.
“Now in book form, I do hope that HEX goes on to inspire many more people and leaders around the world, at every level of the economy, to fully embrace EX as part of their core business strategy. This is great for business, humans, and society as a whole.”
Employee Experience by Ben Whitter is out now, published by Kogan Page.
A digital skills shortage is preventing employers from filling vacancies, new research warns.
The UK Consumer Digital Index, fromLloyds Bank, has been examined by Reboot Online Digital Marketing Company, which discovered that while more than half of the UK uses the internet in their roles, 53 percent of employees do not have the essential digital skills needed for work.
According to the report, since last year 1.8 million more people have the highest digital capability. However 37 percent of the UK are still at risk of being left behind as we continue to advance technologically.
Revealing the most significant digital skills gaps within the workplace, the report highlights h0w 38 percent cannot ‘use the internet to find information that helps solve problems’; 40 percent cannot ‘recognise and avoid suspicious links and pop-ups’; and 44 percent cannot ‘set privacy settings on work-related social media and other accounts.
Martin Calvert, a Director at digital marketing agency Blueclaw, spoke with Reboot and suggests that the digital skills gap is visible in different ways across different generations:
“We work in a very technical industry, with a lot of specialist software and tools so we don’t expect new team members to know everything,” he said.
“Even so, when bringing early-career employees on board, there can be some surprising gaps. At the other end of the age spectrum, we’ve worked with some phenomenally experienced professionals but sometimes they need support to be pointed towards the best tools and technology available in 2019 – even if they’re extremely savvy and capable when using more ‘industry standard’ technologies that have been established for years.
“We always need to be looking for new ways to get better at what we do, so regardless of where the team member is in their career, it’s vital that we’re open and honest about how we can help them to work more effectively with the right technology. In that sense the most important digital skills is more of a trait – openness to new ways of working, a willingness to learn, and a willingness to teach us too.”