Want Happy Employees You Gotta Work at It

Want Happy Employees? You Gotta Work at It

5 minute read
Kelly Bilodeau avatar

Your workforce is changing. But most businesses still don't understand how to motivate, satisfy and retain this increasingly global, diverse and, yes, demanding employee base.

That's one of the findings from a new study by SAP SE, a German software company that has invested in a number human resources-related companies over the last few years. Conducted by Oxford Economics on behalf of SAP, the study shows too many companies are still stuck in the stone age when it comes to everything fro salaries, flexibility and overall abilities to keep top talent.

Get to Work

The report was based on a two-part survey rolled out to individuals in27 countries. Researchers polled more than 2,700 executives in onesurvey and more than 2,700 employees in the second. 

Not surprisingly, the research showed employer/employeerelationships today are more flexible than ever. Some 83 percent ofcompany heads say that they use consultants, intermittent employees orcontingent workers, and this trend is likely to continue.

“These new relationships require companies to manage workers in newways,” the report noted. It can also create regulatory challengeswhen these newly-defined relationships butt up against more traditionallabor laws.

And this isn’t the only challenge the evolvingworkforce will bring. Businesses will also likely have issues when itcomes to helping employees grow, learn and remain satisfied.

HumanResources professionals are in the best position to help businesses navigate these changes. But in many cases, company executives fail to give HR sufficient resources or decision-making powers.

Managing Change

Tohead off some of these potential issues, businesses should have acomprehensive strategy in place to manage workforce changes, the report suggests. 

Get to know millennials. Thegood news is that there are a lot of myths about millennials, said Sameer Patel, senior vice president and general manager, Products and Go-to-Market at SAP. “They aremotivated just like the rest of us – there’s an element ofcompensation, quality, work and job satisfaction and a desire to achievework-life balance,” he said. “These findings are especially importantbecause we need to go back to holistically looking at workforceproductivity and cross-generational engagement and learning instead oflooking at separate initiatives for millennials versus the rest.”


Adapt to the use of non-employees. “Organizationshave spent the last two decades outsourcing their demand and supplychains for low-cost options. Now we have a situation: thepeople who know most about our products and interact most frequentlywith our customers don’t work for us,” said Patel. “Any real HRsolution must take into account contract and contingent talent andinclude this pool set in its larger talent strategy to be competitive.”

Learning Opportunities

Create a learning culture. “Learning is not aone-time effort given the pace of change, so creating a learning cultureis the priority,” said Patel. “The study shows why this isimportant – employees believe that "obsolescence is a bigger concernthan layoffs" and firms “invest little in developing their own people." Change the story at your organization by spreading out yourefforts. Don’t just focus on technology or millennials. Rather, open thedoor to formal instruction, promote sharing between peers and fosterbetter interaction between the people build, assemble and sell products. 

Listen carefully. Theemployees of the future may be motivated and rewarded by differentincentives and benefits than in the past. It’s important to listen andstay in tune with what they want to keep them satisfied and engaged.

Give HR the right tools. “Onebig problem is a lack of metrics and tools, which holds HR back fromdeveloping strategies for building the workforce of the future,” the report stated. “While more than half of executives say workforcedevelopment is a key differentiator for their firms, they do not havethe technology and organization to back it up.”

Organizationsneed to establish a big-picture view that takes them from opportunitiesto goal setting to performance. That means an integrated experiencebetween your systems of record, workforce analytics, learning, goals andperformance systems and your collaboration applications. This ensures not only strategic follow through but also constantmeasurement of who is good at what and how to deploy the best resourcesfor the task at hand.

Accommodate Diversity. “The 2020 workforcewill be made up of a wider group of ages and nationalities than everbefore, so companies will need to have a broader understanding of theirpeople and the markets in which they operate,” the report stated. HRwill need to adjust by managing people using more strategic,evidence-based methods.

Companies that get the formula rightcan harness the power of a strong workforce and reap rewards.“We haveto ready the organization to surf on this growth wave — to be sure that wehave the systems, the people, the infrastructure, and the processes inplace to grab a big share of this growth,” Alessandra Ginante, vicepresident of human resources at Avon Brazil, notes in the report.

Title image by Jaime Fearer  (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.