Weekly Wrap: Inside Look Into What Our Evolving Workforce Cares About

Who says that HR professionals aren’t flexible and open to new ways of doing things?

This was one of the thoughts that crossed my mind while reviewing the highlights of the 2014 Cisco Connected World Technology Report, a survey that gives a heavy dose of Millennial and Gen X thinking on a wide variety of workplace topics.

It’s a pretty interesting report. According to Cisco, the survey “examines the relationship between human behavior, the Internet and networking’s pervasiveness. Examining this relationship unearths data about how companies will remain competitive amid the influence of technology lifestyle trends.”

Perspectives on recruiting and HR

They add: “The global report, based on surveys of professionals between the ages of 18 and 50 in 15 countries, provides insight into present-day challenges that companies face as they strive to balance current and future employee and business needs amid increasing mobility capabilities, security risks and technologies that can more ubiquitously deliver information.”

For example, here are some highlights from the section on “The Future of HR and Recruiting” —

  • Nearly 6 in 10 (58 percent) of HR professionals say they would be willing to hire a candidate by only interviewing the candidate using video conferencing (without ever conducting an interview in person).
  • When asked of hiring managers in general though, slightly less (50 percent) believe hiring managers would be open to hiring someone without an in-person interview.
  • Most HR professionals (40 percent) believe that personal skills are most important to hiring managers when looking to fill entry-level positions.
  • When it comes to hiring based on their organization’s culture, HR professionals are equally divided on whether having the best talent or finding the best fit for their culture is most important.

Insights into workplace flexibility

Wow — nearly 60 percent of HR pros are willing to hire someone without talking to them in person? That’s a finding I wouldn’t have predicted, because HR is usually stereotyped as being filled with old school, stick-in-the-mud types who are reluctant to change with the times.

There were also some fascinating survey findings on the issue of workplace flexibility:

  • Roughly two-thirds of professionals believe that an organization that has adopted a flexible, mobile and remote work model has a competitive advantage over one that requires employees to be in the office from 9 am to 5 pm every weekday.
  • About half of Gen X and Gen Y professionals feel their organization’s HR department is adjusting to enable a more mobile, flexible work style for its employees, though nearly one-third feel it is not doing so quickly enough.
  • From an HR perspective, 56 percent indicate their HR department has already implemented or is planning on implementing a more mobile, flexible work style.
  • Professionals are unwilling to take a pay cut in return for greater work flexibility, although those in HR tend to be most willing, with 4 in 10 indicating they would accept a pay cut. Similarly, HR professionals are willing to accept the largest pay cut, with 56 percent accepting a pay cut of more than 10 percent (vs. 35 percent of Gen Y and 34 percent of Gen X professionals).
  • While salary is the most important factor for most, the flexibility to set their own schedule or the ability to work remotely is most important to roughly 1 in 5 Gen X and Gen Y professionals, as well as one-third of HR professionals

What the evolving workforce cares about

I don’t know that any of these are earthshaking findings, but from my perspective as a Boomer who is closer to the end of my working life than the beginning, they strike me as more insight into the shifting views of the workplace in the wake of the massive generational changes we’re seeing today.

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As Lance Perry, Vice President of IT Customer Strategy and Success at Cisco, said of the survey: “The results of the Cisco Connected World Technology Report provide valuable insights into the care-abouts of our evolving workforce. Businesses should grab this opportunity to re-examine how they need to evolve in order to attract top talent and shape their business models.”

Yes, you need to be plugged into how the younger generations are thinking if you want the best of them to come work for you. This survey provides one more way to do that.

For the record, the fourth annual Cisco Connected World Technology Report was commissioned by Cisco and conducted by InsightExpress, an independent, U.S.-based market research firm. The global study consists of one survey focused on Generation X, Generation Y and human resources across a range of industries. It includes 100 respondents from each of 15 countries, resulting in a pool of more than 3,700 respondents from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Poland, India, China, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Does HR really need to be strategic?

Of course, there’s more than the latest insights into the Millennial and Gen X mindset in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • What do you do after a bad performance review? Nobody likes a poor performance review, but what do you do when you get one? As the Harvard Business Review sees it, “Negative feedback often contradicts the stories that we tell about ourselves — what we’re good at, what we’re capable of — and sometimes confirms our worst fears. But don’t let a negative review unravel the story of who you are. “No one bats a thousand,” says Mitchell Marks, professor of management at San Francisco State University and president of the consultancy JoiningForces.org. “We’re human beings. And sometimes a reality check is quite valuable.”
  • Coming to grips with a layoff. Cutbacks and layoffs are tough for any business, but especially so for a small business, as this contributor to The New York Times You’re the Boss blog points out. Being clear and forthright is important. He says, “If I have to reduce my work force by three people, I need to call it what it is. It is not “right-sizing,” it is not a “reduction in force,” it is not a “rebalancing.” It is a layoff. People losing their jobs.”
  • Does HR really need to be strategic? Here’s a contrarian idea from the Harvard Business Review — maybe HR doesn’t really need to be thinking strategically. Author Sean Graber says, “I’m going to suggest that HR — at least in its current form — shouldn’t be a strategic partner. A few months ago, Ram Charan proposed splitting HR into two parts: one to oversee leadership and organization, and one to handle administration. That was a useful conversation starter. But companies should dice up the function even more finely. Instead of grouping all the people-related activities together under HR, businesses should organize them according to types of service provided — and move a couple of them to other functions altogether.”
  • Laid off after refusing to reinterview for her job. In some industries, forcing current employees to re-interview for their jobs is an odd (and some would say abusive) management technique. However, one reporter at Gannett’s Burlington, Vermont newspaper recently decided not to play the game. According to the weekly Seven Days, “Like most of her colleagues at the Burlington Free Press, Lynn Monty was scheduled to interview for her own job last week. But shortly before the interview was set to take place … Monty told a human resources executive from owner Gannett … that she wouldn’t go through with it. “The facts are that I opted out of the interview process and they laid me off,” Monty said … After six years at the Free Press, she said, “Interviewing for a job I already held was degrading and demoralizing … It compromised my integrity. And for the first time I couldn’t see a future there for me.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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