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What is your employee’s journey?

It's important to understand each employee in the new talent pool and mold the workplace experience accordingly
human resources
The biggest phenomenon hitting the workplace today is that individualizing the employee experience is becoming more important to attract younger people and keep them motivated.Shutterstock

By Suanne Nielsen

The biggest phenomenon hitting the workplace today is that individualizing the employee experience is becoming more important to attract younger people and keep them motivated.

The emerging workforce is armed with skills that didn’t exist five years ago. According to the World Economic forum, roles like community manager, social media manager, content manager, virtual reality consultant, data analyst, user experience manager, cloud computing specialist, millennial generational expert etc. have emerged only over the last five to 10 years. And they are in high demand.

HR is leveraging social media platforms for recruitment – something it didn’t do a decade ago. We are working on our employee brand. HR is being marketing savvy in the language used to attract the work force.

At Foresters, we recently moved an experienced corporate marketing executive over to a digital marketing executive position because of a new need in our organization today.

In the current state of flux and gig economy, HR’s new role is to create catered work experiences and unpack the standard employee benefit packages and workplace practices to attract younger talent to these emerging jobs that the existing skills force in the organization are unable to perform.

When Jeanne Meister, founder of HR advisory firm Future Workplace and author of The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules for Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees, spoke at an SCNetwork event in 2016, she said “You need to make sure that (employees) understand automation and AI and what (its) impact will be.”

A February 2018 survey by the Workforce Institute at Kronos reported that three out of every five organizations have yet to discuss AI’s impact on the workforce with employees.

HR needs data scientists to understand people analytics, we need digital marketers to reach the various forms of online media and talent platforms. These roles might exist in marketing or PR, but they don’t in HR. Rather than replicating those roles for HR, HR needs to step out of its silo and work with marketing to determine how these skills, used for external consumers, can be applied to help market internally and entice new talent. Understanding one’s own analytics is critical to be able to market your own employment offer.

HR’s competitive difference lies in the talent it brings to the organization. To hire the best people, you must put on your marketing hat. Walk a mile in your customer’s shoes. And HR’s customer is a vastly diverse and volatile talent pool.

Marketing departments focus on customer journeys. Similarly, HR needs to focus on employee journeys. We need to look at the moments in an employee’s tenure that mean the most to them. And we need to make each of those moments count.

Those moments could be to pay them for the work they do using public transport’s Wi-Fi, during long and ever-growing commute times. Those moments could be accommodating flexible work hours, flexible work boundaries, or work from home options. Those moments could be to provide child care, or even pet care options.

Foresters has its office in north Toronto, but we are finding talent that wants to work in downtown Toronto. We don’t know what’s important to new talent. And that’s where the challenge lies for HR - to be able to understand each employee in the new talent pool and mold the workplace experience, accordingly.

This can be done affordably. Employers get nervous thinking that providing a customised employee experience entails heavy expenses.  If we are spending 17 to 18 per cent on traditional employee benefits, all it takes is to unpack that offering and give employees a choice in how they would prefer to receive those benefits. They might want it all in cash.

We’ve tended to run HR like a one size fits all operation. The reality is that one size doesn’t fit all.

HR needs to help people build resilience around learning. Five years from now, there will be jobs that we haven’t heard of yet. As leaders, how do we prepare ourselves to deal with those roles? How do we prepare today’s emerging talent for jobs that don’t exist?

According to Career Builder’s 2018 Hiring Forecast, “Forty-five per cent of HR managers say they have been unable to fill open positions because they cannot find qualified talent, while 58 per cent report they have jobs that stay open for 12 weeks or longer.” Clearly, there is a skills gap. HR has to be committed to blending life long learning with the employee experience.

“We need to take a step back and address the educational challenges more holistically, including the issues of access and affordability, as well as readiness to meet the needs of a constantly evolving future,” said Farnam Jahanianpresident of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

In November, Linda Nazareth, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, and author of Work Is Not a Place: Our Lives and Our Organizations in the Post Jobs Economy to be published in November, will be visiting SCNetwork to address how companies that are increasingly hiring from the gig economy are managing the myriad needs of their workforce.

© Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Suanne Nielsen

Suanne Nielsen is president of the Strategic Capability Network and global chief administration officer at Foresters Financial in Toronto. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Suanne and do not necessarily reflect the official position(s) or opinion(s) of SCNetwork members or Foresters. For more information about the SCNetwork, visit www.scnetwork.ca.
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