The benefits of mentorship—without the time commitment

One of the goals of our survey is to determine what benefits and incentives are most important to employees’ job satisfaction.  Along with standard offerings like competitive compensation and comprehensive benefit packages, we also want to gauge the importance of development opportunities like education and training, access to technology, and mentorship.

A 2012 survey conducted by SuccessFactors revealed that mentoring is a priority among Millennials—but the right mentor can be difficult to find. “The experience of many mentors, especially those in limited supply such as senior executive women, is that the free-range scope of most mentoring engagements presents a time commitment and emotional investment that prevents having more than one or two protégés at a time,” writes Karie Willyerd, author of “Engage Your Mentor with a Short-Term Project” (and a key member of our project team) on the HBR blog network.

Short-term mentoring projects are a way to avoid many of the demands of traditional mentoring relationships while still providing employees the opportunity to benefit from the guidance of an experienced professional. Read tips for cultivating and managing these relationships here.

Paying workers to quit is good strategy

Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, announced in his annual letter to shareholders that the company is offering its warehouse workers up to $5,000 to quit their jobs:

“We hope they don’t take the offer; we want them to stay. Why do we make this offer? The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”

The “Pay to Quit” program is part of a larger employee empowerment strategy, which also includes development programs (Amazon will pay 95% of tuition for employees to take courses for in-demand fields) and flexible work locations for customer service support team members who need or prefer to work from home.

Giants like Amazon and Google often make headlines for their approaches to improving employee satisfaction; while there is no way to directly measure the relationship between a company’s workforce strategy and financial performance, the focus on organizational culture at both organizations suggests that employee engagement is a powerful new tool for business growth.

Bezos writes in his letter that Amazon wants “to find better ways to do things internally – things that will both make us more effective and benefit our thousands of employees around the world.”

The 30-hour workweek

The Swedish city Gothenburg is in the news this week for introducing a six-hour workday to public sector employees. The city hopes reducing working hours will improve productivity, result in fewer sick days, and save the city money.

This isn’t a new concept—in 1930, Kellogg’s instituted a six-hour workday to cut costs and provide jobs to those who’d lost them in the Great Depression. The short-term solution turned into a long-term policy—the six-hour program was in place in some form until 1985—after company president Lewis Brown noticed employees worked harder and more efficiently.

Employees everywhere probably hope their company will be the next to implement this policy, but in an age where mobility allows work to follow us everywhere,  the program may not be the best cure for employee exhaustion. A better solution might be France’s combination of a 35-hour workweek and its fresh mandate forbidding companies to contact employees after their work day is over.

What do Millennials want?

One focus of our research program is understanding the way companies are planning for and responding to Millennials entering the workforce—and identifying gaps in thinking between Millennial employees and executives.

In November 2013, SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott gave a keynote speech on the Millennial workforce at the Northern Virginia Technology Council.  As reported in this post from Lindsey LaManna, McDermott explored some shared characteristics of Millennials—including their focus on digital technology and desire for meaningful careers— and outlined the ways companies can create a culture that appeals to them.

As proven by the wealth of articles arguing over what Millennials really want and how they compare to generations that preceded them, assessing the characteristics and capabilities of an entire generation is no simple task. But as difficult as it is for companies to plan for these new employees, they are already thinking about Post-Millennials—those born around the late 1990s and early 2000s. It’s nearly impossible to assign characteristics to a generation of which the oldest members are currently only 14, but companies are beginning to speculate on what will matter to this group when they enter the workforce, and how they will contribute.

Reluctant-to-retire Boomers alter workplace dynamic

American workers are increasingly putting off retirement. And that has major implications for workforce planning as organizations struggle with the diverse needs and abilities that define each generation.

Driven in part by a lack of retirement savings, older employees are staying in their jobs longer than was the norm just two decades ago. That creates challenges — and opportunities — for employers as younger generations crowd into the workforce.

We hear a lot about the wants and needs of Millennials, and these younger workers will be a key focus of our work here. But other demographics are important to our story, too, and we’ll be giving them plenty of attention.

We’re fortunate to have Karie Willyerd, the author of this post (and co-author of The 2020 Workplace:How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today) involved in our research project. She was an integral member of the team that created our two global surveys, and will play an important role in analyzing the data and shaping our narratives as well.

Workforce strategy survey close to launch

We’re very close to finalizing our survey document, after which we’ll translate it and launch it into the field.  At the end of May, we’ll have the results from 2,600 executives and 2,600 employees across 26 countries. With our final data, we will be able to identify gaps in thinking between executives and their employees and suggest solutions to decision-makers looking to address these issues.  In the meantime, we’ll be tracking our progress, analyzing interim results, and sharing some of the stats here on the blog, so check back in the coming weeks for updates.