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Time for HR to focus on employees

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I recently read an article that in France it is now illegal for an employer to email an employee after working hours. The idea seems cripplingly parochial to me. Apart from the fact that if I cannot email a colleague I will just WhatsApp or dropbox them, it appears to align to the 9 to 5 mentality where employees are treated as all having the same disposition and needs.

Blog by Marieke Heikens, Dicitas Consulting.

In marketing it has long been recognized that customers have very different needs and dispositions. The shift from product and service based transactional marketing to customer focused individualized relationship marketing is continuing, and the goal of marketing has moved to focus on customer engagement.

Is it not odd then that the importance of individualism and engagement of customers has fully permeated business, but this has not been translated to employees? A simple google search will show that estimated numbers of employee disengagement hover around 70%. Many HR departments offer the choice to opt in or opt out of the company healthcare plan, but that about covers the extent of customization. This means that while businesses are investing in building great relationships with their customers they neglect to do so with their own employees.

This neglect seems astonishing when considering companies recognize that their biggest challenge for the future is the attraction and retention of top talent. A 2013 survey of 636 C-level and senior executives by The Economist Intelligence Unit, showed that people management is cited to be by far the most substantial challenge facing companies over the next five to ten years.

Employee profiles and demographics have shifted dramatically, and with the upcoming exodus of baby boomers out of the workforce this shift will only speed up. Millennials know their worth and have a loyalty to themselves rather than to an employer. With websites like glassdoor they actively look for information about their potential employers and decide whether they want to work for them or not. They are used to having their individual needs met, and they are used to doing things themselves, fast, online, and when it suits them. As a result companies are scrambling to attract and retain top talent. Following good American tradition this has been dubbed the war for talent.

But, where marketing departments are successfully employing digital to attract, retain, and engage customers, HR departments have so far largely failed to harness the potential of digital in recognizing differences between employees and employing varying means to reach, attract, retain, and engage future, current, and past employees.

Thankfully this is changing too. More and more companies are now embracing the consumerization of HR and employing new digital capabilities to both exhibit and implement an attractive company culture and providing (potential) employees with a diversified but consistently great experience.

This varies from getting to know their employees better by collecting and analyzing data, listening and engaging with them on and through social media, creating working environments that seamlessly merge digital with non-digital and encourage collaboration, replacing annual paper-based performance reviews with apps that allow continuous feedback, and using gamification to attract and assess talent.

And, of course, allowing work to be done anywhere, through any sort of communication, at any time – reducing stress by putting the focus on individual differences rather than forcing conformation to arbitrary policies that should have long been relegated to the past – like ‘fixed working hours’.

Marieke Heikens works in the human performance practice of Dicitas Consulting.

 

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