Do high performers have different wants and needs?

With our survey data, we broke out data for high performers—employees who were ranked highly in their last performance review—from average and low performers. Karie Willyerd, the co-author of The 2020 Workplace:How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today and a valuable partner in this research project, recently published an article on what these high performers want at work.

How prepared are companies to meet the needs of their best workers? How satisfied are these employees today? According to Karie:

As you would expect, high performers as compared to low performers are more satisfied with their jobs and less likely to leave their jobs in the next six months. But in looking deeply into high performers specifically, you’ll see that the numbers aren’t as comforting as we’d hoped…one in five high performers are likely to leave in the next six months (versus one in four of employees overall who are likely to leave in the near term), and less than half are satisfied with their jobs.

You can read the full article at HBR—read it and join the discussion here.

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The Millennial career path

People are afraid that their jobs are going to leave them behind. Obsolescence is a serious concern for employees everywhere—even for Millennials just starting out in their careers. 40% of Millennials say this is a top job concern, and fewer than half say the skills they have today will be what’s needed in their jobs in three years.

Millennials are no more likely than non-Millennials to say they will have advanced skills in key technical areas like cloud, analytics, and programming and development—but they are looking to improve their performance through feedback and other development opportunities. In fact, Millennials expect feedback 50% more often than other workers, and many say development-related benefits would increase their loyalty.

Millennial development

Skills development for Millennials is a key part of planning for the workforce of tomorrow, closely tied to leadership and succession planning. For more on the wants and need of Millennials—and how companies are preparing to meet them—register for Wednesday’s webinar on the Millennial Misunderstanding.

Using vacation days is good for everyone

Over the past few months, we have talked a lot about what benefits and incentives matter most to employees. Perhaps unsurprisingly, employees are focused on competitive compensation and other cash-based rewards. But what about the benefits that employees need, but don’t rank as highly?

While vacation days are ranked lower on the list of benefits most important to employee satisfaction, we hear in the news over and over how important it is for employees to recharge out of the office—and how difficult it is to actually take that time. In fact, a recent Oxford Economics study finds that American workers lose 169 million days of paid time off each year. Yet our analysis reveals no clear payoff for employees for sacrificing their time off, as workers who do so are not more likely to get pay raises.

Using paid vacation days is good for everyone. Not only is it beneficial to employees’ health and productivity, it also allow the company to learn to function in their absence, says Megan McArdle in this article from Bloomberg. This raises some questions for management: How can companies ensure that employees are getting away from the office? What can employers do to create a culture that encourages taking well-earned time off?

What matters most at work?

Executives say they value loyalty and long-term commitment ahead of employee attributes like leadership ability and even job performance. Yet they are not doing what they should to foster loyalty among employees, particularly in regards to the benefits and incentives that are most important to their workforce.

When it comes to satisfied employees, cash is king. Competitive compensation and bonuses/merit-based rewards rank highest among employees—other benefits are far less important. But only 39% of executives say their company offers competitive compensation.

What Matters Most at Work - Sept 22

Some companies may be focusing their efforts incorrectly. Headline-grabbing amenities like recreational facilities and laundry services are not highly important to employees—only 39% say these amenities are important, and companies may want to rethink spending money on them to better focus their engagement efforts.

If executives want employees to demonstrate commitment to the company, they should make an effort to determine which benefits are most important to them. The loyalty that they will engender as a result will likely have sweeping effects on talent development and succession planning, ultimately leaving companies better-prepared for the future workforce.

Paternity leave lacking in the UK

The preliminary results from our survey point to a gap between what employees want and what executives say their companies provide. In addition to competitive compensation, benefits like the opportunity to work on a flexible schedule or flexible location is a big priorities for employees.

One aspect of flexible work is paid parental leave. This recent article from The Guardian discusses the UK’s national approach to paternity leave. Unlike countries like Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, where paternity leave is encouraged (or even mandated), companies in the UK are less likely to provide any substantial paid leave to new fathers, putting a strain on male employees and impeding gender equality in the workplace.

Ultimately, this kind of gap in what companies are offering employees and what employees expect could hinder successful workforce development. When our surveys close in a few weeks, we’ll have more insight into how these gaps in understanding vary country-by-country–stay tuned.

Netflix believes in freedom, responsibility for employees

The talent strategies of large, successful companies like Google, Facebook, and Netflix are in the news often these days—more and more, people are making the connection between HR strategy and business success. This widely-shared slideshow created by Netflix executives Reed Hastings and Patty McCord has become an influential document in the HR landscape.

The 127-slide presentation covers Netflix’s culture, values, and management strategies, many of which diverge from the norm—for example, the company ignores most benefits in favor of top-of-market compensation, and they support a culture of flexible self-improvement (i.e., through experience, observation, introspection) over formalized development (i.e., through mentor assignment,  set career paths).

This flexible approach to development works for the ideal Netflix employee—the “rare responsible person” who is “self-motivating, self-aware, self-disciplined, self-improving” and who “acts like a leader, doesn’t wait to be told what to do, and picks up trash lying on the floor.” Netflix believes this type of employee “[thrives] on freedom and [is] worthy of freedom,” and that ultimately, allowing more freedom will attract innovative thinkers and result in long-term company success.

You can learn more about Netflix’s HR strategy by reading the full slideshow.

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.