Director Sodexo Engage
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Employee experience: has a ‘job for life’ become a thing of the past?

With people retiring later than ever before, switching paths mid-way through your career is increasingly common. Organisations that want to motivate and retain the best employees should foster a culture of continuous learning to allow people to explore their talents. 

4th Oct 2019
Director Sodexo Engage
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Vector illustration - Businesswoman At Crossroads Path
iStock/akindo

Sir Bradley Wiggins recently announced that he’s swapping sport for social work, as he looks to carve out a new career at age 39. While not many of us can claim to have won an Olympic gold medal, that feeling of wondering what it would be like to try something new is one we can all relate to.

Research has shown that nearly half (47%) of employees are unsatisfied in their current job, with as many as four in ten wanting to change careers completely.

It’s not just the younger generations getting itchy feet. The research showed that over 55s were the most likely to want to switch paths – proof that age is no barrier when it comes to a big career move.

Just because employees may have years of experience or be great at their job, that doesn’t mean they don’t fancy a change in their career journey. Even the happiest, most successful employees may have different dreams they eventually want to follow.

Businesses are much more likely to hold on to their employees and attract and retain the best talent if they encourage them to grow and try new things.

Take Kim Kardashian, who after years of being the world’s most famous reality star is now studying to become a lawyer. Or Arnold Schwarzenegger, who went from being a professional bodybuilder to world-famous actor to governor of California at age 56.

The reality is that not everyone has it all figured out from the moment they leave school. Lots of different life events can change people’s motivations, interests and ambitions.

It’s taken Bradley Wiggins until nearly 40 to pursue his passion for helping people. Interestingly, research has shown that, like Wiggins, money often isn’t the number one reason people change careers. Many just want to learn new skills or do a job they find more personally satisfying.

Get the culture right

Unfortunately, organisations can lose sight of the fact that employees have a life outside the four walls of the office. Companies that want a happy workforce, however, need to shift their thinking. They need to listen to their staff, understand what makes them tick and give them the opportunity to explore their interests and ambitions.

Of course, the idea of staff looking elsewhere may have some bosses quaking in their boots – after all, what happens to the business if their best people jump ship?

The truth though, is that businesses are much more likely to hold on to their employees and attract and retain the best talent if they encourage them to grow and try new things.

Investing in employees and showing them that you want them to succeed will give them a greater sense of self-worth. It’s that kind of employee engagement that attracts and retains staff like bees to honey.

People want to work for a company that values its staff, and this means building a culture that focuses on professional and personal development.

A positive workplace culture isn’t something you get at the click of a finger through gimmicks or empty words. It takes time and it’s about creating an environment that supports and cares for its workforce.

Great workplaces that have nailed a positive culture are ones that go that extra mile to keep their staff motivated and engaged. It’s important that employees don’t feel trapped or uninspired at work. If they start to feel like they’re stuck in a rut, chances are productivity and engagement levels will take a nosedive.

So, when it comes to making sure employees are happy where they are, the ball is firmly in the employers’ court.

Mix it up

Managers should put employee training high on their agenda, giving everyone the chance to learn something new. If someone is keen to improve their public speaking, or learn a new language, businesses should see if those skills can be gained through workshops or training courses.

Investing in employees and showing them that you want them to succeed will give them a greater sense of self-worth. It’s that kind of employee engagement that attracts and retains staff like bees to honey.

It’s a win-win for the top brass too; not only will new skills help motivate staff, but they can benefit the business.

Google hit the nail on the head with its 20% playtime rule, allowing employees to spend a fifth of their working week on their own projects they think will benefit the company. People get the chance to shine, while the company shows it values its employees’ thoughts and ideas - some of which could prove to be a money-spinner.  

Flexibility is the name of the game

Let’s be honest, working a 40 hour+ week, often juggling loads of other responsibilities, can make it hard for people to find the time for other interests. While some bosses may hear the term ‘flexible working' and alarm bells start ringing, it’s not about letting people breeze in and out when they please. It’s about coming up with an arrangement that suits everyone, and a little bit of trust can often go a long way.

Encouraging employees to pursue their passions through part-time study or voluntary work can be a great way to let them have the best of both worlds. Striking a good work/life balance and giving people time to focus on their personal development can help boost the bottom line too.

A report by Vodafone showed that of the 75% of companies worldwide that introduced flexible working, a massive 61% saw their profits increase.

As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. New skills and talents broaden horizons and make people feel happier, which will have a knock-on effect on their work.

When people feel satisfied and motivated, they’re better at their job. The numbers speak for themselves – according to a Gallup study, companies that have highly engaged employees saw a huge 41% decrease in absenteeism and a 17% boost in productivity levels.

In a nutshell, if employees become bored or disengaged, the grass can soon seem greener elsewhere.

Businesses need to focus on allowing their staff to be the best they can possibly be and go that extra mile to help them realise their skills and passions if they want to hold on to them.

Otherwise, much like Roy Hodgson when England was knocked out of the world cup in the group stages, businesses will be left wondering what happened to all their talent.

Interested in this topic? Read Why adult learning is so good for wellbeing.

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