As the face of the world changes, so does that of the global business community. Businesses are not only challenged with moving forward in this new world to keep up with their competitors, but they must also embrace entering new technological times, progressively building, adapting and growing - and most importantly, taking their employees with them on that journey. While there is no single formula for workforce sustainability, there are some tried and tested methods which strongly contribute to building and maintaining this culture in a company.
If there’s one thing the past year has taught us, it’s the importance of having a strong internal community in the workplace. The definition of workforce sustainability is one most people are only partially familiar with. In their chapter The Sustainable Workforce: Organizational Strategies for Promoting Work-Life Balance and Wellbeing, in the book Work and Wellbeing: A Complete Reference Guide, Ellen Kossek, Monique Valcour and Pamela Lirio argue that, “A sustainable workforce is one where the work environment is caring and supports employee wellbeing. Employees are not seen as primarily resources that can be deployed (and depleted) to serve employers’ economic ends. Their skills, talent and energies are not overused or overly depleted.”
The business world is changing in front of our eyes every day. Financial services firms are struggling to keep up and adapt to the new globalisation of the working environment. This particularly applies to bringing on new skills and capabilities in the workplace. Despite being one of the most forward thinking industries, financial services is not robust enough to survive disruption in the marketplace without making vast changes. The financial services industry accounts for 1.1 million of the UK workforce, yet one in five jobs are at risk and most employees can expect to see their roles change in some way this year. In the face of disruption, firms will carry out cost saving exercises. Now more than ever we see the need for investment in soft skills and workforce sustainability. According to a study by PwC, the industry could see a £263 million boost to global GDP if there were upskilling that closed the current skills gap.
Some of the main areas we see successful businesses focus on are: environment and wellbeing; creating opportunities; upskilling hard and soft skills; and digital and data.
ENVIRONMENT AND WELLBEING
Working environments are extremely important, particularly now they’ve moved to online. Curating that sustainable culture in a business and having an encouraging online atmosphere goes hand in hand with employees growing in the direction the workplace is evolving. A supportive working environment promotes wellbeing, which manifests in your employees’ interactions with their clients and customers.
A flexible workforce is essential for a business during periods of growth and change. It is vital that a business can lean on specific skill sets that may be niche and only available in a temporary market. Kossek, Valcour and Lirio argue that, “It’s time to embrace a renewable workforce and encourage interaction between the flexible and permanent workforce in a business.” This balance can be achieved in a variety of ways, including encouraging permanent employee upskilling, mentorship and education. Creating opportunities for permanent employees is one of the most successful ways to create and maintain workforce sustainability.
UPSKILLING HARD AND SOFT SKILLS
By strengthening employees’ skills, the management is showing them there is an opportunity to progress, grow and develop within the firm. This can also be extremely impactful on performance. An employee who feels valued will have a higher performance level than one who does not. It’s also important for business to acknowledge different learning styles for their employees; some will benefit from on the job training, lunch and learns and workshops, whilst others need external resources or educational accreditation.
DIGITAL AND DATA
Data can be a key contributor to workforce sustainability for many reasons. It ensures peak performance in a business environment by providing staff with the tools they need. “By empowering individuals with the right information at the right time, jobs are completed quicker and with fewer errors, eliminating guesswork and shortening learning curves,” argues Christian Ofori-Boateng in his piece for Forbes, Why You Should Prioritize ‘Workforce Sustainability’ For Your Company’s Culture.
Data highlights new and evolving roles that require different skills and experiences, and effective learning and development can help organisations quickly bridge the skills gap. Data can also provide the information necessary to build the profile of a happy employee.
As the world changes, our approach to uncovering and nurturing talent needs to change with it. By providing a supportive and collaborative environment, balancing our workforce, upskilling where necessary and utilising data, we can truly create and manage a sustainable workforce – and a sustainable workforce will lead to a sustainable business.