workforceAs 2016 ends it is worth looking ahead to next year and what may be in store for workplaces. As we expect shifts in policy, many are wondering if we should be changing directions or lean in and stay the course to maintain a competitive workforce? My advice is to lean in and stay the course and to be prepared with strategies that will allow for your workforce to be competitive and successful in the New Year.

Staying the Course 

When we reverse a strategy, it tends to send unintentional shockwaves. Our new worlds of work are interconnected and therefore I believe that we need to stay the course. How we work was not legislated, it was innovated. It also emerged through shifting populations, such as the millennials and this will continue as Gen Z enters the workforce. Cultures and functions are intertwined. Employees will continue to expect a workplace that maintains a human-centered culture, prioritizes the employee experience, enables work to be conducted anywhere and anytime, as well as empowers their workforce towards additional learning and advancement opportunities.

Part of staying the course to maintain a competitive workforce includes diversity and inclusion. Employees will continue to search for diverse workplaces and it is a proven business strategy. Executives believe that diversity helps in driving innovation, particularly for larger companies. Studies have also linked diversity to more competitive recruiting. More and more executives are pledging to make diversity a priority. Consumers have shown that they will not spend money at a business that does not prioritize their employees and prefer diversity. 

What Are Human-Centered Workplaces? 

We live in an age where it is becomingly increasingly difficult to separate our “work selves” and our “home selves”. More and more employees are bringing work home, which means that they are also feeling like they bring more of themselves to the office. So, what exactly does this mean? It means that not feeling like you have a “work self” and a “home self” who are different people, but feeling like place in which you spend eight hours a day or more, five days a week must care about your entire self. Being employed by an organization by that sees you as more than an employee who does a job but also as a parent, caregiver, a volunteer, an individual with a purpose and goals, and possibly as a veteran as well. Moreover, your employer views you as an individual who has needs and interests outside of work.

Companies are progressively looking for ways to support their employees as an entire human and not solely providing benefits for a “work self”. So, how are they adapting their benefits or creating new ones to take care of their employees and to produce the gold standard of workplaces and becomes the way of moving forward? 

By Prioritizing Your Health- Including Your Mental Health 

Most of us have undergone late, sleepless nights to complete a project by its deadline, experienced the aches and pains from spending too many hours at your desk, or just felt mentally unable to go on after weeks of going nonstop, you don’t need science to tell you that work takes a lot out of an individual. As we know, sitting all day has negative effects on our overall physical health and staring at our computer screens can harm our vision and our sleep. Stress also has many additional negative effects.

Employers are waking up to the fact that they need to take care of their workforce to avoid declining productivity and an increased turnover rate. Many employers offer health insurance; however, an increasing amount are taking pro-active steps towards the prevention of illnesses. Numerous companies are now offering on-site corporate fitness classes or programs. It is also not uncommon for large companies to have a gym on site. Some companies are using their creativity in these measures. Capital One offers free bikes that associates can borrow to ride around campus so they can get some fresh and exercise throughout their work days. Wellness programs are also effective for employees and their employers. Program participants typically report improved happiness and well-being. For employers, this translates into higher levels of employee engagement. Mental health and wellness is also becoming a priority as more and more workers are feeling burnt out. Offering weekly mediation sessions to dedicated mediation rooms, mindfulness trainings, and day long retreats are all further methods of wellness that improve happiness, well-being, engagement, and productivity.

Giving You Time When You Need It 

It is not a secret that it is extremely complex to fit your entire life into nights and weekends. According to surveys conducted by FlexJobs, 85 percent of Millennials would like to have flexible work options in order to have improved levels of work-life balance. The majority of working parents see flexible working opportunities as the key to meeting the demands of their work and personal lives.

A growing number of businesses are altering their policies to offer more flexibility in work hours or location. This can be done in all different ways; by allowing employees to choose their start and end times and setting core hours in the middle of the day, allowing employees to work from home a few days a week, and offering a sabbatical. The most generous and flexible policy is to allow your employees to come and go as they please if their work is completed. Some companies are going as far as helping you to get your chores completed by offering on-site medical care and pharmacies.

Supporting Different Backgrounds…And Different Futures 

The most powerful way companies can maintain a competitive workforce is to step away from the one size fits all model of benefits and search for diverse ways to be supportive of the unique needs of their workforce. This includes mentorship programs or employee resource groups, which are valuable by providing a venue for individuals with similar experiences or backgrounds to share ideas, bond, and help each other with challenges. It can also go far beyond that and be quite impactful.

It also means allowing time off for things that are important to each employee. It also means broadening the benefits package to beyond the basics. This can be done by including services such as transgender-inclusive healthcare, with mental health counseling, hormone therapy, medical visits, surgical procedures, and other treatments related to gender transition or sex reassignment. It not only means actively recruiting and hiring veterans but ensuring that their unique career development needs are supported.

As we know, a consistent focus on diversity is good for business. However, companies with the most diversity are likely to perform above the industry standard. It is also great for the morale of each employee with a significant connection between workers’ perception of their organization’s diversity policies and employee engagement. When an organization maintains a true appreciation, values, and is supportive of differences it is not difficult to feel like an empowered, engaged, and competitive member of the workforce.

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