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As the new year begins and people return to work, employers need to focus on creating a better workplace

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HAVE you ever have had a song just ringing in your head? For some reason, the lyrics, "Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s home from work we go," made famous by the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, have been ringing in my head. Only, this time the tune changed to, "it’s back to work we go!" And, I guess that’s the reality as Christmas and New Year celebrations have concluded and it is indeed, "back to work we go."

As we return to work in the New Year, our personal resolutions behind us, we know that owners and organizational leaders are also busy setting their own business resolutions for the year 2013. According to many surveys, these include goals such as placing a new or renewed focus on retaining employees, developing the next generation of leaders, developing a culture of engagement and training leaders to be coaches.

While these HR-related business resolutions are all well and good, some of the resolutions made by employees are also directly related to their work world. As we go forward, a review of what employees might be looking for in 2013 might guide management toward increasing the level of employee engagement. Some of these desires include:

A sense of purpose — Employees want to leave work knowing they’ve made a contribution. They need to understand the common goal so they can work towards it. They need to have a sense of purpose and they need to know that what they do every day matters. Be sure to not only share your vision going forward, but involve your employees in developing this vision, whenever possible.

Desire for corporate transparency — Most employees are seeking a workplace culture that is open, fair and trustworthy. They are also wishing for their leaders to be very transparent about any directional changes anticipated for 2013. While employees know that job security is a thing of the past, they want to be treated with respect and do not want any surprises. They want to have a sense of control over their physical, psychological and social needs.

Interest in personal coaching — Employees no longer see coaching as an executive privilege or as a performanceimprovement project for rising stars. Rather, employees view personal coaching as a development opportunity. As a result, more and more individuals will be requesting individual coaching services that are focused on skill development, particularly in the area of leadership and soft skills.

Support for continuous learning — With employers concerned about the lack of skilled workers, they are placing a greater focus on continuous learning within their organization. Employees, on the other hand, will expect their company to fund this training whether or not it consists of internal training and/or enrollment at an educational institution. Be prepared to set supportive budgets for this important initiative.

A focus on life-work balance — With multi-generations in the workplace, many workers are seeking more opportunities for workplace flexibility that helps to improve their life-work balance. They are looking for opportunities to work from home, for general flex time or staggered hours, part-time work, exchange of vacation days for salary or other arrangements that allow them more time with families, study or vacation.

Seeking multiple career opportunities — Let’s face it; some employees will indeed be looking for a new job in 2013. Don’t let them leave. Instead, take time to convince them the best place to look for a new job is within their own company. Help them to better understand your careers ladders and get them involved at looking into opportunities. Review the various occupational groups, create a competency skills map so employees can see where their skills can be applied and create multiple career paths within your organization.

Leaders who care — Most of the complaints I receive are all about poor leadership skills and poor interpersonal and relationship-building skills. It seems there are still many bosses out there who continue to live by the old-fashioned authoritarian rules. Recognize this doesn’t work anymore and make plans to provide "soft skills" training for managers. For those leaders who can’t or won’t change, transition them out of your organization. If you don’t, your high performers will leave instead.

Collegial relationship building — Employees want to feel a sense of belonging in your organization. Create this through formal and informal team-building activities and/or provide opportunities to volunteer on various internal projects, employee committees or to start a special group such as Toastmasters International. You’ll find that strong peer relationships and a sense of belonging in the workplace leads to higher selfesteem and high employee productivity.

Appropriate reward and recognition — Male and female employees have different interests and needs at different career cycles in their lives and this is further exacerbated by the intergenerational workforce. Some want professional recognition while others are motivated by financial rewards. Conduct a review of your employee interests and revamp your reward and recognition program to be more closely aligned.

Appropriate tools for the job — You’d be amazed at how many information technology systems are out of date, how many chairs and desks are not comfortable and wouldn’t pass an ergonomic assessment. You’ll also be amazed at how many organizations install new systems but don’t plan for any staff training on the new systems. Give your employees the tools they need to do their job. Consider training as an investment rather than an expense.

Opportunity for job satisfaction — Studies show that employee commitment and employee retention are closely related to personal job satisfaction. And job satisfaction is directly related to the assignment of individuals to the right jobs at the right time with the right skills. Therefore, 2013 provides an opportunity to conduct a complete organizational review, to study workload distribution and to examine if your organizational structure is effective in helping to provide job satisfaction.

All of the above items point to workplace dimensions that employees believe will help to create a positive work environment in 2013. Keep these in mind as you develop your approach to human resources and workforce planning.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s back to work we go!


Source: What do Employees Really Want? The Perception vs Reality, David Finegold and Susan Mohran, Centre for Effective Organizations, January, 2001.

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She can be reached at

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