Career wellness experienced a newfound awareness in 2022 as the effects of the pandemic rolled into a third year. People have changed how they live and work due to the disruptions and mental health fallout from COVID-19. The ongoing impact of the pandemic, increasing economic uncertainty, rising prices, and social unrest are affecting the workforce, leading to many employees dealing with mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, and burnout. These wellness issues are the reasons behind the high turnover rates, with many workers leaving their jobs to focus on work/life balance or their health. In short, employers that don't support employee wellness are losing workers.
To counteract what is being called the Great Resignation, savvy employers are stepping up to improve employee wellbeing by launching policies and programs that support career wellness. While employee wellbeing support was ostensibly a priority for employers in 2021, according to a study by Ragan Communications, only 67 percent of employers improved support, 21 percent didn't do anything about it, and 13 percent didn't know about wellbeing services. However, employee wellbeing has become a focus for HR since. Employees who have tasted the work/life balance and wellness programs, however, aren't giving up. Hence, the major trends heading into 2023 focus on career wellness through employee assistance programs like coaching.
But career wellness isn't just about employees' mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. It also involves the personal satisfaction of employees resulting from work/life balance and achievement of personal goals. Most organizations consider wellness as physical and mental health, and while the two dimensions are important in workplaces, career wellness is also crucial. Improving career wellness helps employees manage their career aspirations and improve their skill sets. That doesn’t mean you are training employees to leave; instead, you are improving job satisfaction, making them more likely to stay. When employees' skills are aligned with business goals, they can steer a company through difficult economic times and boost business growth.
One way to promote career wellness in your organization is by preventing skills stagnation. When your worker's skills are outdated, your business problems can't be resolved using old methodologies – they simply aren't effective. For example, employees who perform repetitive tasks like answering phones are likely to put their heads down, thinking they are doing well. Introducing and promoting career wellness helps them recognize the importance of continuous learning and developing fresh skills. With the new skills, workers will proactively think of ways to solve business problems and improve overall performance. So, how do you ensure your workforce doesn't have outdated skills...?
aligning workforce skills with business needs
As increasing automation and the economic impacts of the pandemic take hold, workers require new skills to excel in their roles. According to the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report, 50 percent of employees must reskill by 2025 to keep up with the changing job requirements. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why companies should develop strategies to align employee skills with future business requirements. Ultimately, learning to enhance job skills aids employee development, promotes career wellness, and strengthens an organization as a whole.
It's clear learning and development are valuable in improving employee experience, but spending more money on learning doesn't correlate to company growth. Companies should be intentional with their learning and development programs to ensure they align with business goals.
Keeping your business vision in mind when developing learning programs allows you to:
- develop learning opportunities that impact your employees' job performance
- gives you a strategic approach to investing in learning initiatives
- evaluate the return on investment after the program
If you are looking to align your workforce skills to your business needs, here are the steps to follow:
1. determine your business goals
Organizations should define business goals to set the foundations of workforce learning objectives. Clear business goals and key performance indicators help you gauge the return on investments for the learning. For example, if you want to improve engagement, it would make sense to train supervisors, while expanding the knowledge base requires learning on value propositions.
2. evaluate current performance and skills gap
When you understand the organization's long-term strategic goals, you can assess the skill gaps in your workforce. With new AI matching technologies, you can accurately assess your company’s skills requirements and employee’s competencies – both current and forecast. As well as evaluating your workforce’s overall strength and weakness, smart matching technology can reveal the skill gaps in employees that help them improve productivity. The evaluation aims to identify the team's overall strengths and weaknesses, performance gaps, and the role of individual employees in achieving business objectives.
3. set learning objectives
When you set learning goals and key results, you make employees accountable for their growth. The learning objective provides the metrics to be used in measuring progress. That means workers will remain on track to achieve their goals. Ensure you also communicate the learning expectations and set individual employee learning goals.
4. deliver the right learning
With various learning methods available, ensure you deliver the right learning to achieve the desired outcomes. Some employees prefer workshops, while others like one-to-one coaching. After the learning sessions, they assess the effectiveness by evaluating improvement in performance and establishing how the skills can be applied in the future.
why you should support employees' long-term employability
Organizational leaders and managers should support workers' long-term goals to enhance the employee experience through engagement. An engaged employee is a productive employee, and an important aspect of career wellness is ensuring employees can develop their skills and improve their employability. Developing an employee's long-term goals makes it easy for them to transition to other roles during restructuring or layoffs, while providing talent mobility tools like reskilling or upskilling prepares employees for promotions within the company.
According to a survey by Capterra, 49 percent of organizations are providing more learning and development opportunities to improve workers' skills. The figure is up from 41 percent in 2021. As the pandemic evolved in workplaces, reskilling strategies became short-term survival strategies for fueling and maintaining company growth. Many organizations discovered that upskilling during uncertain times boosts workers' performance and reliability.
So, to improve career wellness and retain workers, your company needs to invest in upskilling programs. As a long-term investment in augmenting knowledge and competencies that advance employee careers, offering upskilling opportunities has the following benefits for the company:
- improves employee retention: if you don't offer workers learning and development opportunities to help them move up the career ladder, they are likely to leave to find those opportunities elsewhere. The fear of missing out makes them look for greener pastures. Job hopping isn't good for your company since recruitment can be expensive. When you invest in upskilling programs, you increase your employees' value in the organization. Besides, giving them the feeling that they are worth the investment makes them feel part of the company's future.
- fills skill gaps in the company: organizations need specific skills to propel business growth with the changing markets and economic uncertainties. Unfortunately, many employees lack various hard and soft skills to facilitate their career mobility. Upskilling allows you to address the skills gaps in your company by learning the existing workforce.
- prepares the company for contingencies: in case of restructures that lead to key employees leaving the organization, you need a replacement immediately to maintain business operations. Upskilling gives companies a fallback plan since they can rely on the existing workforce to take leadership roles.
- fosters a learning culture: to remain a top employer, you should invest in human capital by creating a supportive learning environment. Companies that neglect learning experience high turnover rates and poor engagement. Implementing and fostering a learning culture gives your company a competitive advantage and attracts new talents.
- improved career mobility: when your company is forced to downsize, your employees are better positioned to transition to other roles. Upskilling improves their employability, enhances your employer brand, and your outplacement efforts will be more successful.
When you support the future employability of workers by prioritizing career wellness, you improve your company brand. You will be perceived positively for supporting employee goals, which drives your long-term business success.
why you should create an inclusive workplace
The pandemic brought about a remote work culture that shook the dynamics of traditional workspaces. As a side effect of remote work, many professionals are quitting their jobs in the Great Resignation and are looking for jobs with less tangible benefits like flexibility. After working from home for nearly three years, employees are questioning whether they need to return to the office and are abandoning those organizations that force it.
As a result, human resource leaders globally are looking for ways to make workplaces inclusive and create mental health-friendly environments. Inclusivity allows you to support a diverse workforce, and the OC Tanner report shows that companies with a diverse and inclusive culture perform better. For instance, you can improve workplace flexibility to accommodate remote and hybrid work schedules. Additionally, many organizations support diversity, equity, and inclusion through strategies like investing in talent development and advancement. In short: the uncertainty of the pandemic has encouraged organizational leaders to embrace diverse opinions, which promotes career wellness.
The pandemic also laid bare global gender inequalities. In many countries, women were more likely to lose their jobs permanently and bore the brunt of the crisis compared to men. For instance, women, in particular, tended to take up the caregiving role during the pandemic and faced an additional challenge in keeping their skills up-to-date. Unfortunately, when companies reopened, this meant they were far behind in career growth. In 2023, more companies are embracing flexible schedules to address inequality, with a focus on inclusivity, allowing everyone to learn through reskilling and upskilling programs.
the benefits of integrating learning into the flow of work
Incorporating learning into the flow of work is an effective way to address career wellness. Today's work environments are intense, and organizations are dealing with unprecedented challenges, with employees leaving en masse for greener pastures. Companies are fighting to engage and retain workers, and one of the effective strategies is providing an opportunity for career advancement. As a lack of career growth reduces engagement, you are more likely to retain workers through offering career-building skills.
The best way to approach learning is by building it into the daily workflows of your workforce. Traditional learning programs are difficult to execute in today's fluid and fast-paced work environments as workers will likely put their learning programs on the back burner in favor of the day's tasks. Integrating skills learning into the workflows ensures employees are constantly learning new skills and achieving their career development goals – as well as hitting their KPIs. Some tips for incorporating learning into the flow of work include:
- provide access to the right tools: ensure knowledge is readily available to improve the chances of employees accessing it. You provide diverse learning opportunities by putting the information they require at their fingertips.
- give employees challenging tasks: people learn by trying out new activities daily. You should find ways to stretch your workers by assigning difficult tasks that give them a learning opportunity. It helps employees improve their skills and develop new ones.
- experiment with different learning formats: traditional learning and development resources are available in written content and require a directed approach. If employees can find time to learn, they are less likely to use the time-intensive approaches. You can try learning formats like audio or podcasts that can be woven into their day. Infographics are also effective since they are quick to read and digest.
- build a learning culture: developing a learning culture is crucial in integrating it into daily workflows. When learning is ingrained in employee habits, it will be the normal mode of operation. You can develop a learning culture by encouraging workers to ask questions and incentivizing knowledge sharing. Keeping open communication channels improves knowledge sharing. Workers can seek clarification on a policy or procedure, and you can also encourage employees to help others learn new skills through job shadowing.
- leverage employee development tools: using career coaches can help build learning into the workflow. A half-hour coaching call can set an employee up to find on-the-job development opportunities and proactively develop their skills in the flow of work, which could save hours of conventional learning time.
Organizations prioritizing career wellness in 2023 achieve various benefits like employee engagement and improved performance. With the Great Resignation adding to the impact of the pandemic, 2023 is also the right time to improve talent mobility and learning opportunities to aid retention.
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