The American worker is brimming with self-assurance and there are a host of good reasons. Opportunities continue to grow as technological advancements and a global economy open new doors.
The most recent Employee Confidence Index released by recruiting and staffing agency Spherion showed that the majority of U.S. workers remained confident in their personal job situations. Coupled with a solid economy, workplace trends in most sectors have tended to favor the American worker, who has seen increased demand and competition for their services.
That said, employees still face stumbling blocks through the rest of the year. A potential slow down in the economy and rising health care costs are two storm clouds that continue to encircle and threaten the workforce.
As employees continue to benefit from favorable conditions, employee survey research indicates that there are four major trends expected to continue.
Flex Your Power
If employers want to increase employee retention, they need to be flexible. Once a perk only offered by the most innovative and cutting-edge companies, work-life balance is a major trend that many employees not only want, but expect from employers these days.
In many cases, offering flexibility in scheduling and job sharing helps employers as well. But it’s the employees who are behind the trend of flexible work arrangements, classifying it as more important than pay in many employee surveys.
“Cash still talks, but it’s a very short-lived advantage and certainly not a unique advantage for a given industry,” said Barry L. Brown, president of a Florida-based consulting firm. “Employers this year are looking at flexible work schedules and better work-life balance. Being able to enjoy time with the family or pursuing a favorite hobby is a powerful consideration for job seekers. From the employer’s side, it’s a good, cost-effective tool to attract and retain good employees.”
Adaptable work environments have been made possible in many cases by the rise in technology. Employees who are connected to the office via the Internet, PDAs and web-based software can be productive from just about anywhere in the world now, and technological evolution will only make the process easier 10 years down the road.
“If someone working for me needs to stay home to take care of the kids, the dog, whatever, and they want to work from there, they can access most of the information and files they need and actually work on their office computers from home” said Charles Cowan, Ph.D. “I think you’ll continue to see more people telecommuting – technology has made it much easier to do. And in the future, you’ll see more networked firms – firms that are five or 10 individuals in different cities who want to be united in their approach to a sale and can look like a larger centralized company.”
Show Me the Money
Money talks, and it’s still a great motivating tool for employees. A 3-5 percent gain in compensation packages and higher starting salaries are expected to continue as a method of retaining the top employees.
“One of the biggest trends will result from the talent shortages many have predicted in certain industries for some time,” said Heidi O’Gorman of a Chicago based consulting firm. “These will start to be felt more acutely. The implications are companies will need to pay more to keep their best people. In addition to paying the best performers more, companies will also have to offer more non-salary perks to employees. These will need to be tailored to employees’ needs. For example, not everyone will value flexible work hours equally. Some may actually prefer more vacation days or company-paid daycare.”
The Diverse Office
In the 1970s, diversity in the workplace was typically associated with government mandates regarding affirmative action, or the plight of women dealing with sexism and glass ceilings. Now, the majority of businesses understand that expanding the demographics of their staff is necessary to survive, as the U.S. population changes rapidly and the global economy takes hold.
As the Hispanic population continues to outpace other ethnic groups in the U.S., employers are making a huge push to hire bilingual employees. African-Americans, women and older workers are high-value targets for recruiters as well.
“Companies will need to tailor their programs for attracting, hiring and rewarding people to a much more diverse group of employees than ever before,” said O’Gorman. “And diversity will no longer be defined as just race and gender but also by age (there are four generations in the workforce right now with very different generational attitudes towards work) and culture (more and more, workers in the U.S. are foreign-born).”
Take This Job …and Fill It
As much as employers will respond to fulfilling the needs of their employees, there will still be plenty of workers looking for greener pastures. Job-hopping will become a major trend, especially among younger workers, who didn’t grow up with the same perception of attachment to a company that was instituted in a previous generation of workers. This trend will provide a significant competitive advantage to those companies that can attract and retain talented employees.