Homepage

Touchpoint - Job Characteristics

The role or job for the employee is another touchpoint on the employee experience journey. It includes several factors all of which can have a bearing on engagement: -

Hard Skills

Hard skills are the specific abilities and knowledge that an employee needs to do a job, and are gain through books and materials, education, learning by doing, learnt in the classroom or on the job. An employee would be expected to have at least a working knowledge of the required skills when applying for a job or position. Expertise in hard skills is then gained through years of experience and learning and repeated use of those skills.

Soft Skills

Soft skills are less obvious and deal more with communication, character, attitude, emotional intelligence, people skills and social skills. These skills enable people to steer through their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills. The Collins English Dictionary defines the term "soft skills" as "desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge: they include common sense, the ability to deal with people, and a positive flexible attitude."’ (Collins English Dictionary, 2018). Unlike hard skills, soft skills deal more on the interpersonal level with emotions and insights and being able to read a person., judge their mood, know how best to interact with them, and how to build a relationship with them. Additional skills that come under the ‘soft skills’ heading include critical and creative thinking, problem solving, motivation, decision making, conflict resolution and time management. These are all skills that can be learned and developed. One of the major benefits of soft skills is that they are ‘transferable skills’. If the employee has great soft skills they are more adaptable and can use them irrespective of the job.

Soft skills are also key for engagement; they are invaluable in building relationships with team members and colleagues. A positive way to help build these soft skills is to offer a personal development program to employees. Toastmasters is one such program. Basic skills learned in Toastmasters include leadership and communication but beyond that, Toastmasters also aids in developing skills for motivation, self-confidence, self-awareness, team-building, listening, giving constructive feedback, critical thinking, time management, planning, implementation and mentoring. (Toastmasters, 2018).

Employee Benefits

What motivates an employee? Is it their leader, their peers, money, benefits? The list goes on, but a generous benefits package is a must in today’s hiring market if a company expects to attract and retain employees. A potential employee will quite often choose a lower paying job that has better benefits or parks rather than a high paying job with less benefits. Benefits that can be offered to employees include flexible working hours, working from home, subsidised canteens, mileage subsidy and company buses. Both the working from home and flexible working hours usually cost the employer less after original provision of hardware and have an added benefit of lowering overhead costs. Additional vacation time is also an option to offer to employees. Rather than employees accruing hours that need to be paid if the employee leaves, unless there is a policy in place with a limit of carry-over hours per year, it can prove costly for an employer to pay out holiday pay. Giving unlimited holidays can avoid this issue, and despite fears that this might lead to lower productivity Fractl found no negative impact on productivity (Jones, 2017). CPL note the pros and cons of unlimited holidays and concluded from their survey that ‘over 80% of the Irish population don’t take their full annual leave entitlement, so offering unlimited holidays could be a no-brainer and cost saving measure in the near future. If the company culture is right, unlimited holidays is an amazing perk to have, and gets rid of that niggling “am I using my days right” worry.’ (CPL, 2018).

A recent benefits and trends survey in the U.K. (AON Hewitt, 2018) revealed a change in the most popular benefits provided to people on a flex scheme; the top three now being childcare vouchers, pension schemes and private medical insurance. How benefits are communicated to employees is also changing with 40% saying they would use benefits advisers, and a drop from 58% to 40% saying they would use their internal communications team. Email remains as the most popular channel for communicating benefits and is used by 95% of respondents. Face-to-face communication has dropped from 53% to 45% and using manager cascade (managers sharing messaging from leadership down to their team) dropped from 40% to 28%. The report also notes that group pension schemes remain the most popular type of pension scheme.

Employee Health and Wellbeing

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes Wellbeing and Health as follows: - ‘Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to her or his community. The positive dimension of mental health is stressed in WHO's definition of health as contained in its constitution: "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’ (WHO, 2014). It is important to consider not only the physical health, but also the mental health of the employee. Having programs in place or running talks that deal with mental health awareness is crucial for employees. They need to know that the work environment is a safe, friendly, supportive place to be, physically and mentally, and if they are suffering they need to know there is someone they can talk to about their problems. Having a mental health program in a company, or providing a confidential helpline is a great benefit to offer employees so that they know there is someone there to listen to them if needed. Psychologically this gives employees peace of mind in the knowledge they are not alone.

Employee Value Proposition

The Employee Value Proposition or EVP is the value or benefits that an employee gains from being in an organisation in return for the capabilities, skills and expertise they bring with them. Anand offers a simple equation to explain the employee value proposition (Anand, 2017): - EVP = Engagement drivers + Work environment + Engaged employees + Organization success. Reflecting on what employees value and enjoy most while working is a great place to start when considering the employee value proposition. What can a company offer to make their organisation a place they want to work in? This can include anything from professional or personal development to team building activities to their manager or supervisor. It should be noted that this is only one aspect of employee engagement and does not make up the complete employee experience.

Employee Anniversary

Employees know the date they are hired, and the anniversary of this date is a milestone every year. If an employee is engaged they will verbalise the years they are with the company. A great way for leaders to add the human touch is to also recognise the anniversary every year, similar to a birthday, be it with a cake, or an announcement to the team, and note some accomplishments of the employee during the last year. A small gesture goes a long way to make the employee feel included and valued as part of the team.

Fun

“Happy employees are healthier and more productive – so don’t overlook the importance of having fun in the workplace” (Chignell, 2018). Adding a fun element to the workplace can lead to improved results for employees, leaders, and the wider organisation. Happiness can have a positive effect on the health of employees, reducing their absenteeism. Fun is also a great way to build team spirit and collaboration and increase team creativity and productivity. Employees who are in good spirits are less likely to be stressed and will be more productive and positive in their outlook.

Motivation and Inspiration

What inspires an employee? Inspiration can mean different things to different people. Perhaps the question an employer should ask is “are employees making an impact?” There are a number of ways to make the workplace inspirational (Gupta, R., 2018), that can help employees make an impact. By decentralising decision making, and making employees accountable, the employees feel empowered and motivated in their decisions and actions. If an employee can be honest and recognized for that honesty even when they are the bearer of bad news this will help them feel more inspired. Acknowledging how an employee has contributed to the company and its performance is also a great way of inspiring the employee. Leadership needs to communicate company goals in a way that employees understand them. so that all employees understand them. If someone does not understand the purpose of the goals they cannot actively contribute to the company growth. Helping the employees align their approach with company goals and feel included will keep them inspired and motivated. Challenging employees to succeed and involving them in problem solving to reach a solution as a team also enables employees to be inspired in their work, knowing they are making a valuable contribution to the company and its performance.

Rewards and Recognition

Rewards and recognition are a great way to engage employees and don’t necessarily have to be financial. Giving a sincere thank you to and acknowledging an employee for a job well done in front of their peers are often all that are needed to make an employee feel they are making a valuable contribution to the company, which leads to improved performance. If an organization wants to experience better business results, a better culture for their employees needs to be a priority, with feedback given on a regular basis. ‘Fostering a culture of recognition drives higher levels of engagement, which translates into improved performance and better results. Organisations with highly engaged workplaces outperform their peers by 147 percent in earnings per share. The question isn’t whether to start building a recognition culture, but how to get started.’ (Biro, 2017).

Work-Life Balance

Work life balance is the time a person needs between work and their personal life outside of work. Having a good work-life balance is essential to engaging an employee. If they feel they must be constantly ‘on’ they will quickly grow resentful and leave the company. This ‘switching off’ can be encouraged by companies by implementing a ‘no contact outside of work hours’ policy. There is nothing so urgent that it cannot wait until the next workday. Mentally having a good work life balance is also important to allow employees to switch off and recharge their minds, allowing them to return to work refreshed both mentally and physically.

Career

An employee’s career is another important factor. The employee needs to know how their role is going to develop and how they are going to develop both personally and professionally in their career at the company. A common question in employee reviews is “where do you see yourself in five years?”. It would be beneficial to the employee if they were given an idea of how the role is expected to develop, dependant of course on whether the employee achieves the goals set on this journey. Have a development plan which includes the goals is a good way for an employee to see what they need to do to advance their career with the company.

Tools and Resources

For the employee to perform positively in their role several tools and resources need to be place. These include the physical equipment required to do the job, i.e. computer, phone, headset, printer, internet, etc. Emotional, cognitive and psychological resources also need to be available for the employee. These include a support network that the employee feels comfortable talking with, a positive and healthy surrounding environment, a knowledge base that the employee can access, and a sense of freedom to make decisions and choices where needed.

Remote Working

Conclusions of an analysis completed by Mamaghani (2006, pp. 845-850) stated that the future workforce would conduct business out of a non-traditional office setting. Employees would ‘continue to become more mobile, operating from remote locations via electronic means.’ Three trends identified were telecommuting, globalization and outsourcing/off-shoring. Buffer, a global social media sharing company, have no physical office. Instead their team is fully distributed across the globe, working from multiple countries and continents (Buffer, 2018). Everyone chooses to work from where ever they are happiest. They recently compiled a report on the State of Remote Work (Griffis, 2018). This remote working is both geographical, with employees based across the globe and functional, with employees working from home, co-working spaces and coffee shops. Co-working spaces are becoming an increasingly popular location to run a short-term project rather than renting a complete suite of rooms or a building. Republic of Work in Cork is one example of a co-working space, where different individuals or small teams and start-up companies rent space and mix with other people and companies across the same space (Republic of Work, 2017) With renting and building costs rising annually and office space becoming scarcer these types of shared working spaces could prove a viable option for future companies, especially if they follow the Buffer model of business. Remote working also means people can have the flexibility of choosing where, when and how they work and can customise their work area to their own liking at home.

Digital Nomading

“Digital Nomading – when remote workers travel and work at the same time” as outlined by Griffis (2018) has interested many remote workers but it has not caught-on on a large scale thus far. However, if communications and technology develop to meet the required needs of those choosing to be digital nomads this option could become more popular. Murray (2016, pp. 30-32) states that nearly 16 per cent of the workforce in 2016 has adopted the mobile and social life of being a part-time consultant or contractor. That workforce has been transformed by mobility and Murray goes on to estimate that according to IDC over 100 million mobile workers (roughly 72 per cent of the workforce) will exist in 2020. This will have both an up-side and a down-side. The up-side is that businesses will not have to worry about employees during down cycles. However, knowledgeable workers are becoming more financially secure and are happy to work on a project, then take time off to travel, thus not always being available when a company might need their knowledge and skill-sets.

Gig Economy

The ‘gig economy’ is another type of employment/work currently being mentioned in relation to the workforce. The BBC (Wilson, 2017) notes that ‘in the gig economy, instead of a regular wage, workers get paid for the "gigs" they do, such as a food delivery or a car journey. In the UK it's estimated that five million people are employed in this type of capacity. Jobs include couriers, ride-hailing drivers and video producers.’ People can benefit from the gig economy as they are able to juggle other priorities with those of work, by choosing what hours they work, and for how long they work. While there is an ongoing debate on whether the gig economy is good or bad for employees, it may ‘actually be a transitional step toward a brand-new work paradigm — one that just might change the nature of business altogether.’ (Finkelstein, 2018). The upside for employers is that they only have to pay employee per ‘gig’ and not a regular wage thereby dropping the annual wage costs.