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Moving beyond the Great Resignation with the deskless workforce

July 20, 2022 By Marcus Mossberger

Josh Bersin, the founder and CEO of the Josh Bersin Academy and a global analyst and thought leader, joined me for recent HR.com webinar. In it, we discussed various challenges that are simultaneously pushing people to leave their jobs (aka, the Great Resignation) while also forcing companies to transform how they relate to an increasingly hybrid workforce made up of both desk-based and deskless workers.

One huge shift over the past decade is how workplace priorities have changed. It used to be primarily financial motivation that employees valued, and monetary compensation such as raises and bonuses sufficed to keep corporate loyalty intact. Nowadays, as Bersin noted, people are finding more value in mental, physical, and emotional health, growth and upskilling opportunities, and more experiential rewards.

Mind the generational gap

Right now, there are five generations within the global workforce, and each one has a huge variety of experiences and values that inform their work styles and whole career mindset. Younger generations may not have seen some of the difficulties that older ones have, while older generations may not be as technologically savvy as the younger. Rather than letting these differences divide and create competition, organizations must learn how to manage and foster positive communication across generational divides to take the fullest advantage of their disparate perspectives and skill sets.

Bringing in the best

With the amount of industry disruption over the past few years, companies are also struggling to attract, recruit, and retain the best talent. Technology has made it easier to source employees as well as automate the hiring and onboarding process, but it can also dehumanize the process if HR departments aren’t careful. Distance between employees and the corporate vision can cause long-term problems, especially for companies relying more on remote and deskless workers.

Bersin noted that, “Desk workers or office workers are 60-78% highly aligned to the company's mission and purpose. Deskless workers, it's half that. They are significantly more disconnected to the mission and purpose of the company.”

Transforming employee experience with tech

Technology has also made it easier for employees to work smarter and automate tasks, focusing their time and energy on more growth initiatives. Yet much of the technological advances currently are geared toward the 2.7 billion deskless workers. HR leaders must devote a significant effort to helping those people feel engaged with the company, while also meeting their needs on both professional and personal levels. How can they instill trust and promote team agility? How can they ensure communication remains open and nurture a positive work culture with an increasingly spread-out workforce?

What really matters

In the end, it comes down to understanding what employees really want from the organizations they work for. As noted early on in the webinar, that used to be just financial. Now, though, Bersin points out the spheres of equity, well-being, and trust. Of course, people want to feel productive and to know their work is meaningful, but they also are seeking flexibility, independence, and validation for the good work that they do.

Beyond that, employees are driven by opportunities to innovate and grow. Companies may have to shed the old way of thinking about “work life balance” and pursue better “work life integration.” Bersin rounded out his observations by noting that of course companies must focus on keeping up with technology advances and functional capabilities of workers—but human development is where the most critical work is being done to secure the future of the deskless workforce.

Ultimately, it’s all about empowering your people.

Written by:

Marcus Mossberger, Head of Marketing, Service Industries

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