Creating an Engaged Future Workforce

August 28, 2020

By: Stephanie Neal, Chief Human Resources Officer

Is our workforce concerned about caregiving, especially during COVID-19? In what ways will our workforce be impacted when in 2050, over large percentage of the world’s population will be over 65 years of age? How will these new requirements fit within the context of employee wellness?

As a Human Resources Officer, these are questions I think about often. With the global pandemic driving more virtual work and the multiple generations that now span our talent pool, more consideration needs to be taken for employee needs and wellness. Our employee’s needs are highly individualized, and traditional generational assumptions no longer hold true. We now have employees of every generation facing complex caregiving responsibilities – some employees are looking at retirement while raising grandchildren, and young workers are caring for aging parents. Employers need to take this into consideration when thinking about things like culture, values, flexibility and benefits.

We must also acknowledge personal worries, distractions and stressors will have an impact on how our employees show up for work – virtual or in the office. Financial, caregiving or healthcare burdens won’t be “left at the door” and the employers who can demonstrate care and support will have the best performing and loyal workforce.

Talent Strategies

As human resource professionals and businesses, we must continue to seek ways to innovate, engage, recruit and retain talent of all generations. This experience should have us taking a critical look at all of our people strategies and questioning ourselves to continually improve. How are we viewing our employee experience and what role we, the employer, have in our employees’ financial, physical and mental well-being? How do we promote equity and opportunity for all our employees?

In response to challenges from a generational perspective, training and benefits programing play a significant role particularly in a virtual work environment. Training and communication is critical. At Cherry Bekaert, our firm has a strong learning orientation and we have been able to leverage this to support our people. We financially support associates through direct tuition reimbursement, educational loan refinancing, professional certification preparation and testing bonuses. Providing, in some cases, paid time off to prepare or test which is critical for an accounting and consulting firm.

We are strong believers in continuous personal development as a way to support our people’s success, now and in the future. We offer a number of all-access learning libraries, like LinkedIn Learning, for self-improvement when and where the employee wants it. In addition, we have created an evolving training design that incorporates supportive individual coaching, as well as various virtual learning tools like simulation, lecture, and small-group discussion so it reaches farther.

In our benefits programming, we challenge ourselves to make sure there is ample mix of:

  • Practical Tools – providing financial calculators or personal assessments
  • Educational Tools – covering cover various life-events to meet our people where they are
  • Personal Guidance – connecting our people to the right resources inside the Firm and through our vendor partners, so they can take the next step

We have also been looking at how work gets done:

  • Creating modified and flexible work arrangements meaning the time and day work gets done or a reduced hours and goals which commiserate with the pay schedule
  • Using technology and process improvement to centralize or streamline processes to improve workflows and positively impact the work we are asking of our people
  • Enhancing our Paid Leave program to support all caregivers, and continue to explore other supportive benefits offerings give associates more flexibility

It is becoming more evident is that we must broaden our idea of how work gets done and explore ‘non-traditional’ ways that employees can work with our organization successfully. This may include increased contingent workers to more flexible work relationships. Our leaders will need to lead differently.

Upskilling Talent

Lastly, we need to examine the critical competencies needed to support our business, not just the collection of roles and jobs. When we focus on how we help our workforce develop the critical skills, we open up opportunity for us and support them in their career. All of this, however, will require us to adjust how we assess and reward the contributions and abilities of our people.

We believe we can use this time to advance our people practices, becoming more inclusive and open, despite the uncertainty. If we are learning anything, it is how to think more nimbly and the value of really listening to our people. We are looking at future ready-skills that are multi-generational and training for capabilities of today and tomorrow. Overall, the needs of our employees and workforce are becoming increasingly different and multidimensional – with that, human resources needs to continue to evolve their thinking around employee benefits.

For more on how to optimize your employees’ benefits program, our Compensation Advisory team can help your company maximize dollars spent on compensation and benefits, while taking advantage of tax savings.