Quickly and quietly we have found ourselves in the midst of a workplace revolution. Alongside the general challenges of shortening tenures and the increasing numbers of generations sharing the workspace, there is a noticeable shift in how people perceive their careers. People are placing more value on developing a portfolio of experiences rather than focussing purely on attainment and climbing the corporate ladder.
Organisations are finding themselves having to keep up with these shifting priorities and perspectives, and adapt to ensure they are providing what their current and future workforce are looking for in their careers.
How can organisations do this? How can they set themselves apart, continue to attract and retain talent, and appeal to this new mindset?
Put simply, organisations need to offer and facilitate a choice of experience, as well as providing the space and support required to enable their people to actively fulfil them.
Progression over promotion
One of the most important things an organisation can do to embrace this culture of ‘experience over attainment’ is to move away from a focus on linear progression. To recognise that people are putting less value on moving up pre-defined career ladders, organisations should encourage and endorse other forms of success and progression. Your people need to trust that their development isn’t tied to ‘stepping up’ or getting a promotion, and that there are opportunities for them to progress and succeed in a variety of different ways.
For some this will be what is traditionally known as a ‘sideways move’, happening already in many organisations, where they choose to tackle new challenges and learn new skills rather than stepping up in a current position. For others it will simply be continuing to do a great job in the area they are comfortable in, or shifting their focus to personal goals and achievements.
The key is to develop a culture where adaptability and potential is valued as much as capability and achievement. In today’s rapidly changing world of work people must be able to evolve and flex to future requirements with ease, rather than focusing purely on a clear upward trajectory. Give your people the opportunity to steer and evolve their own career path, and allow them the space to determine the pace and way they move through and with your organisation depending on their individual needs and choices.
Motivation over incentivisation
Pay is rapidly becoming a hygiene factor. Therefore to stay competitive, organisations must offer more than the traditional set of rewards and benefits. Rather than providing incentives which reward increased effort or achievement, often in a pre-determined way, organisations should focus on offering motivation, and encourage their people to continually develop and seek out new experiences. In a culture where success is valued individually, the method of rewarding success should be equally diverse.
This could be as simple as offering increased space and flexibility, recognising the different ways in which people apply and stimulate themselves. Or to take this up a notch, by directly offering opportunities to gain experience of things outside of their day-to-day role either in other areas of the business, or outside of the organisation all together.
This requires a culture which actively motivates people to continually progress by building experience both within and outside of their roles, whilst also providing opportunities for them to do so. Today’s workforce both want and expect their organisation to provide more than just a benefits package, so organisations must actively facilitate this search for experience and development.
Curating experience over creating experts
Finally, organisations should take steps to both repurpose and expand their L&D offer. Rather than stipulating a traditional set of qualifications or ‘core’ transferable and soft skills, organisations should focus on nurturing wider talent and interest. Development opportunities should match the desire to broaden horizons and open minds, rather than simply providing professional qualifications and credentials.
This can include offering more varied learning experiences such as academic subjects or a language, or providing wider development opportunities through sessions or social clubs around a specific topic or interest. Investing in the skills of your people remains a priority, but focus should be on expanding expertise outside of day-to-day roles rather than limiting it to ‘relevant’ vocational courses.
Your organisation should foster a culture which encourages development opportunities that expand understanding and experience, rather than simply to improve skills and techniques or train people for their next step or role. With a growing emphasis on ‘skills for life’ there is a need to invest in individual talents and interests, as your workforce will demand more than to be shaped and prepared to follow the established career path.
It is not enough to understand or react to the shifting priorities of the workforce. To set yourselves apart and continue to attract and retain talent, organisations must offer and encourage different experiences, motivation and development opportunities.
By building a culture that values and actively encourages change, exploration and development, organisations can adapt to provide the employee experience that today’s workforce is both looking for and starting to expect.
So, move away from the focus on stepping up, and instead encourage your workforce to continually step out, develop themselves and expand their portfolio of experiences.
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