Diving into important talent strategy trends for 2024, one theme surfaces again and again. What many call “The Great Work Reset” isn’t over. Far from it. Employers still have more work ahead in resetting relationships with employees. Here’s one powerful way to move the needle — commit to ongoing employee growth. In other words, build your new working agreement around meaningful learning and development for all.
What’s Happening With The Great Work Reset?
In the spirit of learning, let’s dive into some context. The connection between employers and employees continues to be weakened by multiple factors. It’s still easy to find unrealistic attendance policies, unsustainable performance requirements, and unnecessary expectations for how long an employee should stay in a particular role.
What do the numbers tell us? According to Gartner, only 26% of companies report compliance with on-site attendance rules. Nearly 50% of employees doubt they can continue performing at their current level. And only 50% say they trust their employer.
These are just a few key data points. But they aren’t engagement stats. They’re the stats underneath engagement. These factors drive engagement as well as retention. And if you read between the lines, you’ll find a persistent disconnect between employer expectations and employee reality.
Here’s the kicker: People don’t see a reason to commute to work, or keep working at a torrid pace, or believe in the credibility and integrity of their leaders. Clearly, The Great Work Reset is still a work in process.
Other Factors: Liquid Labor and a New View of Loyalty
Even more issues are looming over this bleak picture. For example, as TalentCulture contributor Matt Poepsel recently noted, today’s labor market is increasingly fluid. This means recruiters, talent management practitioners, and employers everywhere must adjust to new career path norms.
We can credit technology for making the job search process easier than ever and enabling remote work. Despite many employer RTO plans, we are indeed experiencing a new normal. And as a rule, we don’t give ourselves enough credit for acing the pandemic’s massive remote work challenge.
People prefer to build on victory, not loss. And now, workers are spending 30% less time at the office, which they tend to embrace as a good thing. But that taste of freedom and flexibility isn’t easy for employers to swallow – particularly in today’s economic crunch.
I recall talking not too long ago about why and how employers need to weigh the risks and rewards of a global workplace. One big risk is that competition for talent has spread globally, thanks to the rise of remote and hybrid work. If you’re a smaller employer who once recruited promising next-generation employees from nearby colleges, your talent acquisition strategy is much more complex and challenging.
Add yet another compounding factor to the mix — younger employees no longer stick around just because it looks good on their resume. Remember this classic hiring wisdom? Look for candidates who’ve shown loyalty to past employers by staying at their jobs for at least two years.
No more. This standard is quickly becoming obsolete. 70% of Gen Zers see nothing wrong with constantly job hopping. What’s more, 21% of Millennials have left a job within the first year. The apparent lack of loyalty is further fueled by massive, ongoing layoffs from organizations of all sizes. The tech layoffs of 2023 are continuing even as 2024 begins. Case in point: Unity Software is already making headlines after slashing nearly 25% of its workforce, and Google is warning of additional cuts ahead. What goes around comes around.
Why Learning Matters in The Great Work Reset
This leads to the one thing employees want most from employers (besides reasonable compensation and benefits). They want opportunities to grow. Why? A sense of confidence, competence, and certainty no longer comes from a pension and a daily work routine. It comes from knowing your job involves continuous learning, development, and the ability to gain new skills that will serve you well now and in the future.
We don’t need to talk here about the complexities of selecting the right platform for formal training delivery or cherry-picking the ideal curriculum for job roles from entry-level to C-Suite. Instead, let’s focus on three clear advantages — the why, not the what.
1. Learning is Loyalty
First, nothing says you value employees more than investing in their growth. Providing a broad-reaching, personalized L&D program makes it clear you don’t view people merely as seat fillers or headcount. You see them as individuals with trajectories of their own — probably beyond your organization. You see them as employees with potential and promise you want to optimize while they’re with you, not just because they’re with you. That’s a new kind of loyalty from employer to employee. And again, what goes around comes around.
2. Learning is Wellness
Recently, I’ve been paying attention to a variety of insightful discussions on employee wellbeing. For example, at TalentCulture, we acknowledge contributors who hit the mark with a monthly Content Impact Award. One recent recipient, Erin Rouble, explored the work-at-all-costs mindset that has worn down so many people. She notes that “grind culture” takes a serious toll on mental and physical health at all levels (for more on that, see this Deloitte study). And this is creating a startling perceptual gap between employers and employees.
As Erin writes, “While only 56% of employees think executives care about their wellbeing, a whopping 91% of leaders say employees know they care.” Not a stretch to say that 11-hour days and toxic performance expectations are a poor way to say you care about your workforce. No wonder loyalty is slipping.
So, what does boost wellness? It reaches beyond the usual answers. Yes, fitness, mindfulness, stress reduction. All of these play a role. But again, wellness must now look beyond daily habits. The opportunity to learn new skills empowers people. Pathways that encourage people to face the future with more knowledge, competence, and confidence can make a lasting difference. This kind of learning boosts engagement, reduces stress, and helps people flourish.
Cultivating a positive professional mindset means people gain a sense of forward momentum and potential to succeed. No inspirational break room poster or recognition emoji can match that kind of validation (Although of course, both of these can play meaningful roles in a supportive work culture.)
3. Learning is Strategy
The Matt Poepsel labor market article points to a fascinating LinkedIn study on internal mobility and employee skills. Over the past year, organizations whose employees excelled at developing skills saw a 15% higher internal mobility rate than employers where learning lagged.
There’s no question that internal mobility is a potentially viable remedy in today’s difficult labor market. If you can develop and upskill employees so they’re qualified candidates for successive roles, you can build a super workplace dynamic that drives engagement and certainly stronger retention rates.
Further, offering a range of learning experiences and resources that employees can choose and complete on-demand is a not-so-subtle way to promote employee agency. It may even offset the perception that RTO and other new policies are undermining that agency.
This isn’t about manipulating attitudes. Rather, it’s about easing them. Work is inherently a transactional phenomenon. When employees are encouraged to develop valuable skills and credentials that prepare them for the future, they’re less likely to push back on requests to spend time at the office. They see an added benefit that will pay off over time. Plus, if Company X is hiring for a job requiring 3 days on-site, it’s much easier for recruiters to sell along with free, unlimited access to upskilling in a candidate’s professional specialty.
Learning and The Great Work Reset: A Final Note
In these hyper-digital times, we strive to rely on data and absolutes when forging talent acquisition and management strategies. But sometimes it’s the intangibles that matter most. As employers seek a stronger sense of purpose and meaning in their work experiences, it may be worth resetting your priorities so you can step into your employees’ shoes.
I’ve seen organizations do incredible (and expensive) communications gymnastics to come up with seemingly inspiring mission statements and slogans. But nothing taps into hearts and minds like the potential for personal and professional advancement. When an employer demonstrates a sincere, ongoing commitment to mutual growth, great things can happen.