Today’s employees have come a long way. In the last few decades, the workplace has changed in many ways, and so have workers. Employees are no longer just cogs in the engines of industry; they’ve transformed themselves into a company’s most valued assets. With the right talent, companies are achieving more now than ever before.

The career paths of our grandparents are also long gone. Very few people work for the same company for 40, 20, or even 10 years like they used to. In previous times, employees were content to climb the corporate ladder within a single company and happy to work the long hours necessary to slowly make their way up the ranks. Now they’re forging their own career paths, switching companies, and even industries as they choose.

Work-life balance has become more important than ever. Having the ability to manage their time through flexible work schedules is no longer a perk but an expectation among many employees. Companies that don’t realize the importance of a work-life balance and allow their workers some level of flexibility will soon see their top talent walking out the door to join their more understanding competitors.

Some of the ways that employees have recently involved include the following:

  • Flexible work. Now, more than ever, employees are able to work anywhere, anytime. Thanks to cloud computing, remote access to desktops, and email on our smartphones, working away from the office is not only possible but also very easy. The workplace has changed so that employees can focus on getting things done, no matter where or when.
  • Focus on quality. Workloads seem to be getting bigger, but the ways they are managed have changed. Flexible work has been made possible because employers realize that what really matters isn’t having workers sitting at their desks from 9 to 5, but rather having workers who are able to get things done. People who have the talent, experience, and expertise to handle their workloads and produce quality work, no matter where they are, are valuable assets to any company.
  • BYOD. The rise of “bring your own device” policies means that employees are now using their personal computers and handhelds to do their work. Before, companies would have to spend money on providing laptops and smartphones to their employees so they could work away from the office. Now it’s becoming more common for employees to prefer using their own devices, and for employers to allow it.
  • Creating the ladder. Instead of just climbing the established corporate ladder, employees are creating their own ladders. They’re coming up with their own career paths and following them with different companies and even in different industries. Gone are the days of putting your time in with just one company to earn promotions. Now employees take their experience from one job – and company – to the next.
  • Sharing information. Whereas before employees tended to hoard information, thinking it meant they had power because they knew something others didn’t, now they are encouraged to share information. Creativity and risk-taking, along with speaking up and coming up with new solutions, are becoming more valued in the workplace. This has led to increased collaboration, and employees are more likely to feel part of a team they can share information with, instead of competing against one another.
  • More leaders. Today’s workplace boasts more leaders. Since employers are encouraging creativity and solutions, more employees have the chance to prove themselves and ascend to leadership roles. More collaboration has also made it easier for employees to become leaders within their organizations by sharing content and expertise with colleagues, so they can provide support to one another.
  • Learning over knowing. There has been a shift in the workplace from valuing simply knowing the facts to be able to learn. Employees are now expected to adapt quickly and learn new things, constantly updating their knowledge. It’s not enough to know the rules of the game; they need to learn new ones and how they affect the situation. This has become the true test of a good employee – his or her ability to continue learning on the job.

Have you noticed the evolution of your employees? In what other ways do you think they’ve changed over the years? How can HR continue evolving, as the workplace and employees’ priorities change?

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Adina Miron

3 Comments

  • Avatar Susan T. says:

    I completely agree! What our parents considered to be perks are now employee expectations. Just consider the flexibility we all desire and the number of devices we use. People nowadays place more value on a healthy work-life balance.

  • Avatar Sam K. says:

    Analyzing the modern workforce, I’ve come to the conclusion that their expectations have indeed changed. Besides the ones discussed in the article, I’d like to add a few more: wellness programs (gym membership, smoking cessation programs, or in-house nutrition counseling), consumer-directed health plans, financial guidance, and last but not least, time off.

  • Avatar Jonathan Hennes says:

    I believe that employees are more self-aware these days. They focus more on personal and professional growth, enhancing communication, and constantly learning new things and acquiring new skills.

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