In the give and take of the employee relationship economy, what do we hold on to and what do we let go of?
RiseSmart uses the term ‘Employee Relationship Economy’ in response to the evolving concepts of how work is done, by whom, for how long and who’s in charge. The employer – employee relationship is increasingly fluid, requiring agility and trust on both sides of the equation.
By nature, it challenges long-held paradigms such as permanent employment contracts (job security), employee benefits (who gets what) and essential job skills (what labour is required to deliver outcomes). Organisations must reframe the employer-employee relationship to one that transcends the norms and boundaries of finite employment and focuses on long-term relationships based on trust and transparency.
Our careers are made up of many transitions; we go from beginning to beginning. The relationship with our employer can be infinite, changing over time in an ad-hoc cycle of employee, contractor, brand advocate, customer, supplier, recruiter and cheerleader.
What are the global mega-trends driving the Employee Relationship Economy?
Megatrends, according to the term’s founder, John Naisbitt, in his 1982 book Mega Trends, are large, transformative processes with global reach, broad scope, and a fundamental and dramatic impact’. Of course, they are also interconnected.
The three global mega-trends driving the Employee Relationship Economy are demographic change, digitisation and the rise of the contingent workforce.
The three interact – a cause and effect that varies in intensity across industry. For some industries, digitisation can cause employee displacement, creating a supply of knowledgeable employees in late-career who may be seeking a portfolio of work, responding to contingent work opportunities like contracting and specific projects. For other industries, like insurance and banking, it’s important to retain older workers to reflect their customer base, but these employees may need to develop new skills that respond to increased digitisation.
This video from Pearson shows how mega-trends interact to change how we think about future skills for 2030. Follow the link for research about demographic change and digitisation.
The World Economic Forum suggest 10 skills you’ll need to survive the rise of automation – prioritising complex problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity.
Discussing the Employee Relationship Economy
We’ve spent some time over the last month in Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore with over 50 HR and people leaders from multi-national companies, talking about the impact of these three global trends.
We asked which global trend was their priority. In Australia, digitisation has the most focus. In Singapore – it is demographic change. Interestingly, the contingent workforce has the least focus as a priority. Yet – when we think about how our workforce policies, employment contracts and benefits are structured, one of the biggest challenges is developing an inclusive, values-based approach to every worker – regardless of the way they are employed. Think about your existing HR policies. How do they apply to your current contingent workforce? What responsibility should an employer have to their contingent workers to support them with carer’s leave or skills development or transitioning to their next role? It’s not an easy answer – but the rise of the contingent worker gives us cause to examine what we currently have in place as organisations. How hard-wired is your organisation to workforce policies and agreements derived from the industrial age?
The focus on digitisation is partly driven by the unknown. We are no strangers to change – but it is the pace of change that has us focus on what we might become. What skills are important? What does work look like in ten to twenty years’ time?
Alison Monroe talks about demographic change.
Alison Monroe talks about digitisation.
Alison Monroe talks about contingent workforce.
28 winning attributes of a global best employer
In the RiseSmart employer forums where we discussed the employee relationship economy and change, we challenged participants to submit a winning entry for the hypothetical prize of Best Global Employer. Creativity prevailed, yet none of these ideas could be considered ‘out of the question’. Here’s the output, assembled in a checklist that you might like to challenge your organisation with.
- Redesign and revamp benefits in line with the current needs of the employee
- Create flexibility around leave provisions eg no cap on sick leave
- More employee benefits available regardless of employee contract
- Coaching leadership style
- Flat organisational structure – less hierarchy
- Leaders demonstrate flexibility and manage flexibility
- 4-day week for all employees
- No fixed hours -paid for the outcomes
- Use technology to connect available talent (think a Tinder app for alumni or across industry)
- Include a KPI for all leaders on ability to manage flexibility
- Ensure seamless connectivity – wherever you choose to work
- Implement flexible work-stations
- Create strong partnerships with educational institutions to mobilise talent
- Removal of contract and restraint clauses
- Zero pay gap
- Alumni groups and avenues for experts in late-career
- Support a ‘pick your own adventure’ scheme
- Put the onus on individual development and thriving plans
- Reskilling plan for future roles – regardless of age or stage
- Let the individual design their work portfolio
- Provide opportunity to self-select projects ie internal crowd sourcing
- Support a holistic approach – fostering passion and purpose
- Foster digital intelligence
- Coaching for mental health first aid
- Assistance for managing caring responsibilities
- Have a ‘care’ centre in every office / work site
Support for life transitions
- Unequivocal support for late-career employees for transition to retirement
- Career transition support for every person who works for the company – regardless of employment contract
How you can support your people in the new Employee Relationship Economy
As employers, we may not be able to implement everything on the lists above. At RiseSmart, however, we are seeing more employers proactively supporting their people through organisational and demographic change. Providing frameworks and resources for career mobility and life transitions sends a strong signal to people who work within your organisation. Not only do you sure up a workforce for the future, but you create brand ambassadors along the way.