Homepage

Touchpoint - Company Characteristics

Similar to the job or role, the company is made up of a number of touchpoints that affect engagement. These factors include the following: -

The Human Touch

The human touch must be at the heart of the employee experience. In this age of increasing automation and artificial intelligence, relationships are the glue that holds a team together. Consider the needs and wants of employees, how they feel, what challenges them, what their fears and passions are, and how they relate to their peers; human interaction and an empathic approach is essential to engage them.

This can be as simple as a verbal thank you, or recognition of a job well done in front of their peers. A positive reaction to their performance will instil a sense of pride and accomplishment in the employee.

The 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report (Deloitte, 2018) highlights ten trends in the ‘emergence of the social enterprise as a response to heightened societal expectations and rapid technological change – and the human capital implications for organisations’: - 1. The Symphonic C-Suite: teams leading teams 2. The Workforce Ecosystem: managing beyond the enterprise 3. New Rewards: personalised, agile, holistic 4. From careers to experiences: new pathways 5. The longevity dividend: work in an era of 100-year lives 6. Citizenship and social impact: society holds the mirror 7. Well-being: a strategy and a responsibility 8. AI, robotics, and automation: put humans in the loop 9. The hyper-connect workplace: will productivity reign? 10. People data: how far is too far?

All these trends need to be considered when looking at the human touch in the company, particularly as the workforce changes in the future.

Environment

The environment where the employee works needs to be appealing to engage the employee. They need to know that they will be safe, both physically and emotionally, while at work. Physically their workspace needs to be set-up ergonomically, and contain the necessary resources required to complete the job. On a different level, the environment surrounding the employee needs to be positive, open and relaxed to engage them. By creating a friendly and supportive atmosphere the employee will feel secure, stress-free and comfortable at work and therefore more productive and engaged.

Diversity and Inclusion

Describing diversity in broad terms it includes age, physical ability, gender preference, sexual orientation, race, identity, religion and societal status. Employers need to embrace the diversity and uniqueness of every one of their employees and ensure they do not discriminate on any basis. Employers need to be aware of any unconscious bias they may have. They need to be inclusive of every employee irrespective of their beliefs, etc. Larger companies have specific diversity and inclusion groups to ensure everyone has a voice in the company and is respected for their opinions. An employee that feels included will be more inclined to be engaged and be more innovative and creative in their approach and communication without fear of reprisal or exclusion.

Social Responsibility

CSR or Corporate and Social Responsibility is becoming increasingly important as newer generations enter the workforce. These new employees want to see that the company they are working for is responsible in its approach to the environment and community. However, it needs to be a genuine responsibility and clearly visible otherwise potential employees will quickly come to see it as fake and not ‘walking the talk’. A 2016 study notes that ‘CSR plays an important role in engaging employees’ (Gupta et al, 2016, pp. 59-75). It goes on to suggest that companies can ‘improve the engagement level by identifying the needs of societies and serving them, working for better environment, employee welfare, quality products, fulfilling customer needs, abiding by legal compliances and government rules and regulations. All these practices significantly effect engagement with employee and organization, which enhances organizational performance.’ Newer generations joining the workforce look at a company to see if they are socially responsible and genuinely so. Does the company ‘walk the talk’ when it says it is socially responsible? Do companies allow its employees to volunteer during work hours? Or are the employees ‘voluntold’ to get involved? This can be equally damaging as every employee has their own causes they want to support and being told to support a particular charity over others can lead to resentment, and disengagement by the employee.

Learning and Development

A continuous learning environment is essential in a company. Employees look for opportunities to develop themselves and their career. Leaders need to develop a culture of continuous learning that will assist the employee in this desire. There is also an opportunity for leaders to upskill their workforce to prepare them for emerging and new technology such as artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality and augmented reality. New and emerging technology has made learning more important than ever. ‘Historically, technological advances have not resulted in fewer jobs available to humans, but rather have led to the creation of new opportunities.’ (Staley, 2018). Some jobs may disappear because of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence but these will be replaced with new, different jobs, such as robotics technicians or artificial intelligence programmers.

Multiple skills gaps exist across multiple industries, and whoever is best at developing talent intelligence will be the winner at hiring the best talent. Employees who can add value through creativity and influential interpersonal skills will thrive in the future. (Lobo, 2018). Learning and development is very important to an employee’s career, and development should be both personal and professional. The introduction of new technology, in particular artificial intelligence, internet of things and automation, gives leadership the opportunity to upskill their existing workforce instead of replacing staff with new employees. The new technology can be used to augment human capabilities rather than replacing the humans. Employees will also appreciate the addition of new skills to their development. Applications of these emerging technologies will only increase in the coming years. As younger generations join the workforce they will be well equipped technically as what Barger (2018) calls ‘digital natives’ and will evolve to an ‘ultra-digital’ workforce. Peer learning is another method of learning that can benefit both the employer and the employee. By bringing together a group of employees who can demonstrate or explain what they know to their colleagues it affords more employees the opportunity to learn new skills without having to look outside the company.

A video on the workforce of the future (Accenture UK Careers, 2015) notes certain skills that executives have cited as requirements for the future. These include problem solving, leadership, technology and communication. Careers Portal (2018) lists the top ten skills for the ‘Future Workforce’ to thrive in 2020: - Complex Problem Solving; Critical Thinking; Creativity; People Management; Coordinating with Others; Emotional Intelligence; Judgement and Decision-Making; Service Orientation; Negotiation and Cognitive Flexibility

All these skills can be loosely defined as ‘people skills’ or ‘soft skills’, something that technology or machines cannot replicate. These are also known as transferable skills.

A learning environment, as described by O’Connell (2017) will also be required for the future workforce to learn these soft skills through training and development. They will need to develop both ability and adaptability to succeed in a changing work environment. Human interaction classes and in-person learning are two suggested ways that the future workforce can learn these skills. It would also be beneficial for schools to teach ‘soft skills’ from an early age. The need to learn these ‘soft skills’ and ‘people skills’ could end up disrupting the tech industry as it will also need to adapt to the changing needs of Gen Alpha. AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) will need to become as commonplace as headphones and webcams are today. Both of these technologies can aid in the ‘human connection’ for global meetings and bringing people together to develop and improve their skills.

Employers need to embed a culture of lifelong learning and constant development to prepare the workforce to adapt to changes. People need to be enabled to build up a variety of knowledge skills and gain exposure to new areas. Jess McNicholas, current managing director of inclusion, diversity and corporate citizenship in State Street (Barger, 2018) has an interesting approach to future careers, her advice being “Don’t build a career ladder but a career lattice. Don’t be afraid to take a side step across from one side of a business to another.” Online and eLearning is becoming increasingly popular as most courses can be completed in bite-sized chunks. A lot of these courses are free so there is no extra cost to the company. Companies are availing of these courses to upskill their employees, and employees are also using them to increase their knowledge base and skills.

McDonald (2017) notes that many employers are complaining that graduates are leaving university lacking interpersonal and soft skills. Tech firms and creative industries, with the games, animation and visual effects sectors, need workers with both technical and soft skills and they can’t find people with this mix of abilities and digital skillsets. Schools need to teach coding in an engaging and creative way, to build innovation and creativity mindsets in the students. McDonald notes that there are many initiatives existing that “encourage a diverse group of children into tech careers in the future, and it is widely believed that diversity breeds creativity and innovation for businesses. McDonald cites Geoff Smith, as saying that ‘creative and soft skills in tech people will prevent technology roles from ever being fully automated. Be flexible and teach the need to learn continuously.’ It is also argued that more creative roles attract women into tech, and that supplying the opportunity to solve real-world problems is more likely to appeal to female candidates and encourage them into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)-based roles”. Companies should work with schools and universities to ensure that all the required skills are developed in students, through advising the schools what skills they need in future employees.

Technology

Barclays (2018) note in their report that humans main advantage over robots is cognitive functionality. ‘Context is key, but computers cannot understand it.’ They reference Polanyi’s Paradox, which states that “we know more that we can tell”. Many tasks that humans perform daily without thinking are because of our ‘tacit knowledge, which is difficult to articulate.’ The tech industry will need to aware of this tacit knowledge when planning on engaging the workforce of the future. If they introduce new technology, which is inevitable, they will need to communicate its introduction in a positive manner, showing the benefits, in order to engage the workforce. The Irish Times (2010) also undertook a study on what life will be like in 2030. John Collins (2010) notes that ‘twenty years ago the potential of mobile communications was barely on the radar. Move forward another twenty years and ‘applications that are “geo-aware” are also likely to be standard’. Collins quotes Smyth saying that ‘tablets may turn out to be communal devices that you might share in the living room’ with facial recognition software on the device knowing who is using it at any given time. He cites Raftery as believing that the inevitable constraints on energy capacity, and possibly water supply, will have implications for our use of technology. An increase in HCI (human-computer interaction) will need to be embraced by the tech organisations and adopted into the workplace to fully engage the workforce of the future and their digital needs.

Workforce Generations

The workforce currently consists of four generations; Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z. A fifth generation has also been identified, Gen Alpha, that is set to commence joining the workforce from approx. 2030 onwards.

Generations

Workforce Generations Personas

Every generations has grown up with different influences, from personal events, to schools, to global events. For a company to engage each generation, it must first understand each generation and what drives them. Creating a persona is a good way to get an idea of what matters to each one.

A Persona is a character involved with a product or service (O’Reilly, 2016, p. 18). Combining information from generation descriptions provided in a number of articles the following are the personas for each generation ((Fourhooks, 2015) (Hole, D. et al, 2010) (Lyons, M. et al, 2017) (Murray, R. 2017) and (Schawbel, 2014)). Generation Alpha has also been included as they potentially will be joining the workforce within the next ten years.

Personas