Nov. 17, 2022

Workforce strategies must change for companies to attract the talent necessary to ensure success.

Adrienne Selko

Successful companies possess intricate customer profiles which enable them to deliver exactly what customers want. Great care, time and research go into developing these profiles.

What if employers put that same time and energy into understanding what their employees want?

Tim Glowa, principal, Human Capital Services at Grant Thornton LLP

“The rules of the game have changed in part due to the pandemic,” explains Tim Glowa, principal, Human Capital Services at Grant Thornton LLP. “We were used to seeing a one-sided approach in employee relations. Companies offered a value proposition to employees, and they were expected to take it. But now that power is shifting toward employees in the current labor market as employees have more choices. And we need to look at employees through the same marketing perspective that we do our customers.”

This shift manifests in a variety of ways. “People are switching to higher paid jobs as pressure results in higher wages,” notes Glowa. “Another important development is if an employee feels that the promises made about the nature of the work don’t materialize, they will go elsewhere.”

The Employee Value Proposition Gap

These expectations, which can be viewed as the employee value proposition, should be structured and respected, just as the company would hold up its customer value proposition.

The foundation of a successful employee value proposition is to foremost understand the specific requirements, or desires, of the workforce. And at the top of every survey ever taken employees list pay as the first determinant when either taking a job or the reason why they leave their current job for another. In manufacturing the competition is fierce for workers as other industries are now offering higher wages than they have in the past. “If Amazon, or a fast-food restaurant, or a new manufacturing company comes to town, even employees who are loyal to the company will leave for higher pay,” says Glowa.

Loyalty needs to be redefined says Glowa. “Loyalty has to go two ways. We need to pay people fairly for the work they do. And the working conditions have to be taken into account as well. For example, even though a factory is safe it could be sweaty, foul-smelling and loud. If offered the chance to work in an air-conditioned restaurant with a better environment for equal or more pay many employees that were considered loyal will leave.”

Glowa says that companies need to understand the breadth of employees’ requirements, which in manufacturing includes issues such as flexibility and scheduling. “Our studies have shown that 80% of workers want more flexibility in where and when they work. While that might be harder to accommodate in manufacturing, there are still some ways to increase flexibility, if that is a top requirement of the workforce. For example, younger workers with families could be given the day shift more often than the night shift.”

The Manager Disconnect

Once the predominant concerns are understood and converted into policies, the next step is to ensure that managers are capable of acting upon them. While that might not sound difficult, the workplace is very different these days. This new environment creates an uncomfortable position for managers, says Glowa, who now need to respond and react to conditions that they haven’t seen before.

This complicated workplace environment might explain why almost 30% of those polled by Grant Thornton, say that dealing with their manager represents the most stressful part of their day. This doesn’t surprise Glowa, but he feels this number is higher than is necessary. And one reason is that managers remain stuck in their ways especially when it comes to measuring productivity. “Many senior leaders still judge employees based on them occupying seats in the office. It’s how they were measured and so moved up to become managers in the first place. But doing things the way they have always been done is outdated thinking. The old ‘my way or the highway isn’t going to work anymore.”

But in fairness to managers, often they receive no training. “There is a disconnect between what senior leadership thinks they are providing in terms of training and how prepared managers feel. In a survey, we did of 550 HR leaders of companies with 500 employees, 80% said they believed they were providing adequate training. But only 20% of the managers felt that way,” said Glowa.

Employee Engagement Key to Profit

The consequence of poorly trained managers shows up very clearly in a metric that most companies are viewing very closely – employee engagement. Grant Thornton’s survey, Entice Talent Through Reimaging the Workforce Model, which surveyed more than 5,000 US employees found that 49% are disengaged:

  • They do not recommend their employer to friends and family as a great place to work.
  • They do not see working at their current employer in six months’ time.
  • Their company does not inspire them to perform at their best.

The survey notes that the 15% with the lowest engagement score are actively disengaged and can be safely called “quiet quitters,” and of that group:

  • 61% are female
  • 42% are actively looking for another job
  • 36% are Millennials, 34% are part of Gen X, 21% are Boomers, 7% are part of Gen Z
  • 50% are frontline workers (customer-facing)

“So half of all employers are disengaged — that’s a large number — especially when employee engagement has a known link to profitability,” says Glowa. “Over the years that I have worked with companies, including manufacturing companies, and have seen that a facility that has higher levels of engagement will perform better than those with lower levels of engagement. There is a definite economic impact.”

And measuring the overall economic impact is a bit tricky since engaged employees are the ones that “leap out of bed in the morning to get to work,” as Glowa says. “Those are the employees that will improve processes, come up with new revenue streams and contribute in so many ways to the company’s success.”

Making sure that employees are engaged and happy with their value proposition is not a luxury but a necessity. “The war for talent is continuing and many organizations are making a lot of mistakes and causing self-inflicted wounds. Everything they do is on a permanent record, through sites like Glassdoor, so potential employees know exactly what is going on. Making sure that the company vision aligns with the employee’s vision and experience is key. Companies need to adapt to this new reality and provide a strong employee value proposition or they will be extinct.”