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The digital economy has fundamentally shifted how we do business today. Companies in the digital era across every industry dedicate teams and invest in technologies to better understand a customer’s individual needs, create personalized solutions, and offer an experience that will keep them productive,  engaged, and loyal. What if the same were true for the employee experience? If we can better understand and address the individual professional needs of our workforce, would they be more engaged, productive, and loyal to the company they work for? 

This is a compelling proposition and one that many organizations don’t yet have the HR practices, culture, or leadership support to address. But it’s also one that should not be avoided given the rapidly changing dynamics of today’s workplace. According to a recent Workforce 2020 study done by Oxford Economics, companies are increasingly relying on contingent, contract, and part-time workers. What’s more, as millennials continue to flood the workforce, they bring -contemporary expectations with them—from flexibility and more frequent career advancement opportunities to easy-to-use tools and technologies resulting in a work experience that mirrors their personal experience: simple, intuitive and connected. What should come as no surprise is that more seasoned professionals want these things, too.

Employee expectations, when combined with today’s highly competitive job market, are creating a shift in focus from the organization to the individual. This means that organizations of all sizes are going to have to take a much more personalized approach to all aspects of the talent lifecycle if they want to effectively attract, engage, and retain talent. Gone are the days of the one-size-fits-all—it’s now about creating a more personalized and consistent experience satisfying individual interests, goals, and skills.

So how can organizations effectively make the shift?

Talk to Your Employees

It sounds obvious, but it starts with engaging in a dialogue with employees. As part of the Workforce 2020 study, when employees were asked about their biggest concern for the future, half said they expect the skills they have today won’t be adequate in the next three years. Worried about getting left behind by changing job requirements, workers want opportunities that will help them stay relevant for the long term. With only 43% of the study’s respondents indicating that their managers have a good understanding of their skills today—and even fewer who reported that their employer provides ongoing opportunities to expand these skillsets—having open and ongoing development conversations with employees is critical to help them understand the skills and experiences necessary to evolve with your business as it continues to evolve.

Offer Relevant Options

The good news is, more executives and HR leaders recognize the need to address employee desire for continuous learning opportunities. Building a “consumer” approach brings together a menu of prescriptive, data driven options for learners to choose from, including internal knowledge-sharing programs, access to external experts and curating content in a more intelligent, targeted and easy to consume way from varying sources such as online or video content.  On- the- job development opportunities like rotational or fellowship programs encourage employees to explore wholly new sets of professional skills while on the job. Flexibility of work is also key—whether that’s through opportunities to travel or work abroad, or simply providing the right tools for employees to work from anywhere at any time.

Remember: Employees want options that are innovative, engaging, growth-oriented and flexible to their individual schedules and work life demands.

Make Learning and Feedback Continuous

Creating a company culture based on continuous, experiential learning and fluid feedback isn’t only about optimizing the potential  of all  talent, preparing the workforce with skillsets for the future, or even building strong, agile, and highly engaged leaders—it’s all of these factors combined. Regardless of experience level, affording employees with opportunities for continuous growth at every phase of their career will keep them engaged, productive, and proud. This also results in greater retention, customer satisfaction and overall business success.   At a time in the digital age when business models are changing rapidly and industry lines are increasingly blurred, differentiated skillsets are in such high demand, creating a competitive advantage by investing in the development of a company’s own workforce just makes good business sense.

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