Human Resources: A Decade of Changes – and the Challenges of Today

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mountainIn a new study, HR software provider BambooHR offers insights into how the field of human resources has changed over the last ten years. In the course of the decade, businesses have learned to create more employee-conscious workplaces that meet employees’ needs, in terms of technology, stress, and workplace environments.

As a result of these initiatives, many employees see brighter futures with their companies than they did ten years ago. Today, two out of three employees would choose their current job over a similar job elsewhere, while less than half of employees surveyed ten years ago (48 percent) felt the same way. With organizations focusing more on leadership, growth opportunities, loyalty, recognition, and work/life balance, employees are more satisfied with their work in general.

BambooHR came to these conclusions by comparing survey results from 2006 with survey results from 2016.

It’s Not All Good News

While employee satisfaction is up, BambooHR also found that fewer employees today feel connected to their companies. Compared to the 2006 survey data, 5 percent fewer employees said they know how their work helps their department achieve its goals in 2016.

“Based on these results, it seems clear that employers are doing a better job, generally, at being more focused on the employee, their work environment, how they support getting work done, and how they recognize and value that work,” says Rusty Lindquist, vice president of of human capital management strategy and intellectual property at BambooHR. “The part that seems to still be missing is perhaps the more difficult aspect of work to manufacture: meaning. People want to feel like the work they do is meaningful, and then they want to know that their individual efforts have an impact on serving that cause.”

Employers can help foster this sense of connection to the organization by telling a strong story about the value they are trying to build in the market.

“This sounds simple, but it isn’t,” says Lindquist. “You have to really understand your ‘why.’ And then you have to craft a narrative around the ‘why’ and tell it over and over until employees tell it to themselves and each other.”

ShorelineResults show that building these emotional connections between employees and their organizations pays big dividends in terms of employee satisfaction, performance, productivity, and retention.

Organizations Also Warm to New Tech and Environments

According to the study, familiarity with mobile technology and social media has increased in the last decade, causing HR to loosen some of the strict electronic media policies and surveillance practices that once dominated the field. For example, site-blocking technology is on its way out, email monitoring is way down, and email regulations have relaxed.

Employees have also embraced less traditional workplaces, preferring environments that support creativity and innovation. Ten years ago, half of all employees felt they developed their best ideas at their desks. Today, employees find inspiration in an array of locations, including working from home, informal office settings like break rooms or company retreat locations, during their commutes, and even while running or working out.

“There’s this idea that’s blossoming in the market that if you create a great place to work, then great work will take place,” says Lindquist. “So, increasingly, organizations are not just changing their physical spaces, but also revising long-standing processes and policies to be more accommodating, more trusting, and more focused on employee satisfaction.”

With more satisfaction and less stress at work, employees remain engaged and accomplish bigger, better things. Today’s challenge is giving employees a clear understanding of how their work makes a solid contribution to overall team and company goals. Providing this understanding can create a balanced workplace that is rewarding for both companies and employees.

Read more in Human Resources

Samantha LoCoco earned her BA in English and world literatures from Marymount Manhattan College. She works as a research assistant for a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and is currently an MFA candidate for fiction at The New School in Manhattan.