We can roughly divide the quality of employership into four levels: from the lowest level, where the employer regards its employees as ‘human resources’, to the highest level, where the employer offers a ‘human experience’. Do you recognize your own organisation here?
Organisations in the lowest level of employership give their employees the feeling that they’re replaceable and an expense, regardless of the fact that their website recruiting page states that the focus is on the employee – what else could they say? But once inside, employees don’t feel that much. And management sees matters differently: ‘This place is for working, you know.’ Employees are mainly FTEs, working on their own separate islands, and when things go wrong, they’re prone to blame colleagues from other departments.
The HR department meanwhile is busy ‘making policy’ and playing policeman to anyone who fails to follow the extensive personnel rules. Facility Management is focused on lease cars and occasionally providing new drab carpeting. But most importantly, employees working from home mean savings on square meters! ICT ensures that tech tools are issued based on hierarchy. And managers are assessed according to their cost cuttings and profits.
The organisation conducts an employee satisfaction survey once every two years – ‘Hallelujah, we once again scored a 7. Phew…it could’ve been worse!’ Management traditionally scores low here, but your own pleasant team makes up for a lot. On review sites with 5-point scales, the organisation scores a maximum of 3. But that’s primarily due to the “malcontents who were fired”, management claims. Do you think that such a level still exists today? It sure does, constituting around 30% of all employers, according to recent research (Bersin, 2021).
The atmosphere at these employers is friendly; it feels a bit like family at these clubs. Managers strive to coach leaders, although not every manager succeeds. Departments help each other, while doing their utmost for their customers. HR acts as a helper to employees and managers. Moreover, HR has just completed a ‘Happiness at Work’ workshop, so that’s promising! Facility Management has provided a ping-pong table and dartboard for enjoyable ‘breaks’. IT focuses on collaboration and communication tools. Managers mainly focus on financial performance, customer success and forward planning, which is also partly based on employee survey results.
The employee survey in question focuses increasingly on happiness at work, with an average score of around 7.5. Super! Improvement plans will flow from this, although they haven’t progressed yet. The scores on review sites, and absenteeism and employee turnover rates, are certainly ‘pretty good’. There are more and more of these friendly, family-like organisations, and this also makes customers happy. How many employers like this are there? We estimate around 50%!
These organisations have of course remained efficient and effective. And a pleasant atmosphere certainly prevails. What sets these employers apart though is that they have a clear and appealing purpose. They know why they exist and how they make the world a little more beautiful, which employees like getting out of bed for. And here employees are likely referred to as collaborators, co-creators or simply as people. This is not about ‘committing and captivating employees’, but rather about ‘inspiring and connecting’. And their core values are not simply taped to a wall…no, they’re actually lived. The centricity of customers is really put into practice here. Employees have all the resources needed to solve customer problems themselves. Methods like agile working and design thinking are commonplace here.
HR supports productivity and (personal) leadership. Facility Management has given the organisation’s purpose and values a prominent place in the physical work space. IT offers employees a fantastic support system. Managers are no longer assessed, but rather focus on their financial targets, happy customers and employees.
The result of all of this: scores of around 8 to 8.5 in annual employee surveys, which are closely monitored by pulse surveys. Review sites are also enthusiastic about these employers, giving them no less than 3.5 to 4 out of 5. Moreover, such organizations are listed as ‘Best Workplaces’ or ‘Best Employers’. Here we’re talking about 15% of all organisations.
The crème de la crème among employers, the award winners. Here, employees feel that they are regarded as valuable individuals and want to contribute as much as they can to the organisation’s future sustainable success. Moreover, their creativity and innovativeness are put to great use. Work hard, play hard! Key values include diversity and inclusion, being allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, and maximum personal growth. Methods like deep democracy and holacracy are in action here.
HR facilitates the employees’ innovativeness and supports efforts to give space to experimentation. HR of course is no longer called HR here, but rather ‘People & Culture’. IT also supports personalization, personal growth and community activities. Managers ensure a successful balance between finances, customers, employees and innovation. Organisational growth is not a hard target, social impact is. And that’s precisely why the business is prospering! This employer not only offers its employees a human experience, but also offers this to everyone who contributes to the organisation, including the various parties in their network.
These organisations score around a 9 in employee surveys, and a 4+ on review sites. Their turnover and absenteeism rates are half those of their competitors or industry peers. These organizations are the winners in the job market. Unfortunately, there’s still too few of them.