Human Capital

by Lucy Standing, Vice Chair, The Association for Business Psychology

Industry View from

Is your organisation ready for what employees now expect from their employer?

Workplaces are evolving, not just in terms of the technology and digital platforms being used, but also in terms of what employees are growing to expect and demand from their employers. The reality of the “no job for life” mindset will have a significant effect on the traditional employer-employee contract. The benefits and rewards offered to employees which were once desired and sought after are now no longer the incentives they once were. This short article aims to outline some of these changes.

 

The career revolution is being driven by a number of factors: our rising life expectancy and the need to work for longer; the rise of the digital technology enabled by the fourth industrial revolution, and finally, the social norms that start to exist once change starts to gather pace and reach a tipping point.  Humans, whether you want to debate it or not, are greatly influenced by social norms – in short, what everyone else is doing. It won’t be consultants or articles which change the mindset – it’s the rise of the industry disruptors who, with their game-changing technology, passion and innovation, are changing the expectations of employees and who are shifting the social norms of the new psychological contract.

 

Monzo Bank is a rising star in the banking world. With over a million customers, it is scaling rapidly. One of Monzo’s main employee benefits, on top of its 28 days holiday, is an additional 30 days off every year (unpaid) for employees to study or pursue whatever form of learning is felt would be most beneficial. They (sensibly) want to create a culture where people understand it is their responsibility to prepare and develop themselves for their next job. 

 

At Airbnb, the culture of learning is flagged up as one of the main benefits, with the company offering supported and paid volunteer time, enhanced maternity/paternity benefits and the promise of “personal time off”. The message is clear: we’re flexible and we understand you need your own time and support to do what is important to you as your needs change.  

 

Before you see any mention or money or pensions, Google is keen to point out its “generous parental leave policies”, the chance to take time off to volunteer (Google matches any donations made), and the encouragement to take “personal time off” (in addition to holiday allowances). But most importantly, Google encourages employees to learn for themselves. It will offer support – even with things which superficially appear unrelated to the work employees will be doing. The examples Google gives include learning to play the guitar or taking cookery classes. The message? You won’t be here forever, so we support your need to develop interests and skills outside of your current role.

 

If the main drivers 15 years ago were security and stability, the new drivers are flexibility, autonomy and trust, as you take time to explore what your future job might be beyond the one you are doing now. The main change we are witnessing now isn’t specific – it’s a sea change. Everything an organisation does needs to move away from being the adult to the child, and move towards being a trusted partner. Here are some examples of how we’ll see these changes have an impact:

We are at the tip of the iceberg – but the good news is, nothing in the table above calls for deep pockets. If anything, the burden of providing a long-term career path is lifted both psychologically and financially from organisations.

 

In an era where peoples’ working careers will more frequently last longer than (in many cases) the longevity of the companies they work for, it starts to become obvious that acknowledging and supporting this new reality isn’t just a good idea – it’s a moral obligation.


Lucy Standing is Vice Chair of the Association for Business Psychology, she runs a social enterprise (ViewVo), and is advisor to Capital Pilot.  She is a chartered psychologist by background and has worked in the investment banking and strategy consulting sectors.  

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