With the new year underway, it's the perfect time to assess the current work environment for themes, tips and trends. To this end, who better to ask than China Gorman, U.S. and Global CEO of Great Place to Work Institute?
Gorman provides an exclusive interview that offers a sneak peek into the 2014 FORTUNE 100 Best Places to Work list, which launches January 16. In doing so, she addresses the top 10 workplace trends for this year, of which every employee and employer should take note:
1. Millennials make their mark. Some shifts have been on the horizon for the past few years and are now in full force, Gorman suggests while also noting that companies that have not yet made the changes that allow them to thrive going forward will certainly rush to do so.
One of these shifts is in employee population, which now features a solid representation by millennials (those in their 20s and early 30s). "Despite high unemployment rates, millennials now comprise 11 percent of the employee population at the companies on our 100 Best list," Gorman says. "If the influx of millennials has not already hit your company, you may be behind in developing the next generation of talent."
2. Global goes global. The global workplace has become an undeniable reality and behaviors need to change to accommodate global teams, Gorman says. While some companies have a jump-start on leveraging technology, creating opportunities for global teams to interact and sporting a single, global company culture, others will need to rapidly adapt to this new reality. "The ultimate goal is to create one workplace environment despite employees being on the road, working from home or even in foreign locations," she says. "Business process and the pace of innovation will improve through enhanced relationships and collaboration as facilitated by technology."
3. Talent. Talent. Talent. This year's winners of the 100 Best Places to Work are obsessed with talent. Gorman reports that there was an abundance of new practices added around hiring, developing and retaining talent, from interns to executives. Specifically, the list's consulting and IT firms added new internship, apprenticeship and college-recruiting programs.
"These companies are building relationships with their next generation of employees as early as their freshman year by sponsoring competitions, inviting candidates on service trips and providing interns with lush perks and opportunities to meet and interact with company leadership," Gorman says. "The best are recruiting top talent before they are even looking for jobs."
4. Investing in development. In addition to pulling out the stops to lure newbies, top companies also added many programs around career development and career management for existing employees. These include more job shadowing programs, more mentoring and more regular check-ins with managers rather than annual reviews. "The best companies realize that continued development and opportunity is key to retention and they are investing heavily in retaining their existing talent," Gorman says.
5. Values training. Another notable trend for 2014 is new energy around executive hiring, on-boarding and succession planning, including some novel programs for indoctrinating new leaders in company values. "A great workplace culture is often preserved by the behaviors exhibited by those at the top," Gorman says. "More and more companies are coming up with leadership standards and behavior and values training for executives, recognizing the critical role leaders play in maintaining a great workplace."
6. Wellness matters. For the third year in a row, companies on the list are focused on employee wellness. "Grappling with extreme increases in health care costs and having to pass more and more of those costs on to employees and their families, has led to an increased emphasis on preventative care and programs that can encourage a healthier diet and lifestyle," Gorman says. "Healthy employees are more productive and present at work, but also more productive and present in their personal lives as well."
Employees should expect to see their companies do more to make them well, at least physically - on-site Zumba, meditation breaks, break rooms with more apples and water and less chips and soda. Employees can be rewarded for undergoing biometric screenings, losing weight or quitting smoking.
7. Employers up the ante. With stiffer competition for talent, top employers are doing whatever it takes to attract new talent and retain existing talent. Gorman notes that many employers have focused on hiring for culture fit and beefing up recruiting teams over the last few years. "Job growth at the best companies to work for is currently at 6 percent and rising," she says. "Employers who have prepared for the economic rebound and their companies' particular talent needs are slated to succeed."
In terms of tangibles, "whatever it takes" often translates to strong health coverage for employees and their families, free snacks and an on-site gym or off-site gym subsidy. Intangibles might mean driving a positive workplace culture through opportunity, inspiration and involvement. "Regardless of age, employees want to feel like their careers are going somewhere," Gorman says. "The best continue to offer employees stretch assignments, opportunities to move laterally into new departments, tuition reimbursement and other on-site learning opportunities."
8. Always on work environments. Regardless of their industry, companies on the list are focused on improving their mastery of technologies that will facilitate innovation, collaboration and employee mobility. Gorman adds that while technology facilitates working on global teams and creating flexibility, it also creates an always on work environment. "Technology will continue to impact work environments in good ways and in not so good ways," she says. "Key for employees will be working with their individual managers to set boundaries and standards for their work." Gorman adds that while some workplaces are instituting practices that help to preserve work-life balance, it has largely become the responsibility of employees to advocate for themselves in this arena.
9. Using inspiration to motivate. Employees today want to feel like their work makes a difference. Top workplaces go the extra mile in letting employees know that what they do matters. "Whether sharing stories of how the drugs a company makes save lives, broadcasting testimonials from happy customers or keeping a running ticker on the number of people influenced by the work the company does, employers are keeping employees engaged by keeping them inspired," Gorman says.
10. Forward thinking. Several of the list's best companies are also focused on understanding what the future holds for their employees. Gorman says that these companies are staying ahead of the curve by actively contemplating how they will accommodate the expectations of their employees down the road. They're asking questions like:
-- How will technology continue to change how we work?
-- How do our physical workspaces need to function to accommodate that?
-- What does work-life balance mean in a 24/7 communication environment?
-- How will future regulations impact how our business functions?
-- What will customers expect of the brick-and-mortar retail experience in the future?
"It has yet to be seen if these answers will be universal or company or industry specific," Gorman says.
A final thought for employers as we start the new year: "In the era of information, employees want to be kept abreast of what is going on at your company and in your competitive marketplace, and great workplaces have created some great practices for involving staff in strategic planning and innovation," Gorman says. "To stay competitive, keep employees involved in the corporate strategy, keep goals front of mind and invite employees to be a part of your solutions and successes."
A tip for employees: "Be prepared to continue working leaner, harder and faster than you did before the downturn," Gorman says. "While job growth is up, even among the best companies, it is off pace with revenue growth, suggesting that companies are doing more with less."
Robin Madell has spent over two decades as a corporate writer, business journalist, literary agent, and author on business, leadership, career, health, finance, technology, and public-interest issues. She serves as a speechwriter, ghostwriter, and communications consultant for executives and entrepreneurs across diverse industries. Robin has interviewed more than 200 thought leaders around the globe, and has won 20 awards for editorial excellence. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association in both New York and San Francisco, and contributed to the book Be Your Own Mentor: Strategies from Top Women on the Secrets of Success, published by Random House. Robin is also the author of Surviving Your Thirties: Americans Talk About Life After 30 and co-author of The Strong Principles: Career Success. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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