Workforce news roundup

Inside a startup bootcamp that’s addressing Silicon Valley’s diversity divide (FastCompany): We’ve talked before about the tech industry’s diversity problem—but there’s a new organization called the Startup Institute that is making introducing minorities to Silicon Valley a top priority.

Trying to solve the great wage slowdown (The New York Times): Last week a group of economists and policy experts published a new report on wage stagnation in the US and outlined some potential solutions to the problem.

More than a third of American workers don’t get sick leave, and they’re making the rest of us ill (Washington Post): Four in ten private-sector workers do not have access to any paid sick leave—which means many may come into the office for financial reasons even when they are under the weather.

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Searching for satisfaction at work

The more we think about the results of our workforce strategy surveys, the more we realize the significance of the numbers. This data is personal; each stat represents the feelings of a real employee, and each key theme mirrors a thought we’ve all had about our job at one point or another.

It’s no surprise then that these issues are in the news—the search for job satisfaction is important to all of us, and whether or not we find it has the power to change not only our own lives, but also the success of broader companies and economies.

So what does a great place to work really look like? We’ve revealed some of our own strategies over the past few months on this blog. For another take, check out this recent article from Tony Schwartz.

Building a flexible workforce

With more and more companies turning to consultant, intermittent, and seasonal workers, the global workforce is demanding increasing flexibility. Our survey shows that employees are looking for less-rigid schedules and work locations. And while these benefits are not ranked as highly as cash-based rewards (like competitive compensation, bonuses, and retirement plans), 44% of employees say a flexible work location is very important to their job satisfaction.

But managing a flexible workforce comes with a host of operational, training, and technology challenges—and there may be downsides for workers, too. In response to a recent report from the Inspector General of the US Postal Service, the American Postal Workers Union pointed out that these measures threaten stability and allow organizations to schedule workers according to demand.

To successfully build a flexible workforce, companies must take measures to make sure that contract workers are not only leading to business success for the organization, but also furthering the goals of its employees.

Making resolutions for 2015

As we make resolutions for the upcoming year, we should look to make ourselves happier and more productive at work. This article from FastCompany suggests ten ways we can all be better—and more satisfied—employees in 2015.

Stand out in crowd

On their list of to-dos? Replace your bragging about number of hours worked with your level of efficiency, be open about what you need from your boss and other employees, and give and receive feedback gracefully, among others.

And if you’re looking to be a better boss in the year ahead, check out this list of leadership resolutions for 2015, too.

Strategies for hiring seasonal workers

Last week, the US Labor Department’s jobs report showed that the economy added the most jobs in nearly three years in November. A large number of those newly employed are contingent workers—mostly in temporary, seasonal positions for the winter holidays.

Our research shows that companies are using these employees on a massive scale—83% say they are increasing their use of temporary, seasonal, and part-time workers. Use of seasonal employees, especially, introduces management and training challenges to companies looking to run the business efficiently during the busy season.

It is also important for companies to note that many of these employees are looking not just for seasonal work, but for a full-time job that extends beyond the holiday rush. Employers should think about offering better training and incentives to temporary workers—and seriously consider adding the best employees to the permanent staff. After all, they have already been trained and survived the busiest time of year.

How important is a holiday party?

A recent article on San Francisco Gate gets down to details about tech firms’ holiday spending—reporting that some companies spend over six figures on these seasonal events in the hopes of attracting talented, younger workers with elaborate menus, custom props, and novelty event spaces.

And while an over-the-top holiday party may not be in the cards for most firms, these events—even simple lunches in the conference room—do build camaraderie among co-workers and offer networking opportunities for those looking to get ahead. In the long run, throwing a lavish event is not as important to employees as the basics (like competitive compensation and merit-based bonuses), but might offer a good opportunity for executives and employees to get on the same page

AI a potential threat to employees in Japan

Japan is in the news this week for its plans to invest heavily in robotics. The country currently uses approximately 300,000 robots, and plans to push that number up to one million by 2025.

The country hopes to address a growing national problem: a shrinking workforce population. (The country has other plans in the works, too, including one to boost women’s participation in the labor force.) Japan also hopes to reassert its dominance in robotics.

While Japan may see AI as part of the cure for its national labor force issues, employees may not be thrilled with this prospect. Our employee survey shows that 52% of workers in Japan say their position changing or becoming obsolete is a top job concern—that’s well ahead of the global total (40%).

Like most technologies, AI will significantly alter the nature of work across the world, and employees should be prepared to reevaluate how they fit in to the new workplace.