The face of the North American workplace is changing. Although we continue to see four generations in the workforce, Millennials - those born between 1980-2000 - are taking on senior roles in greater numbers.
The blossoming of Generation Y
The oldest of this Generation Y cohort are around age 35 and increasing are being promoted into management positions. Their influence will change workplace culture particularly when it comes to flexible hours, telecommunity and parental leave/benefits.
The budding of Generation Z
Along with the influence of Millennials, employers are quickly turning their attention to attraction and retention possibilities for the Net Generation -- Generation Z (born after 1993). As I wrote about in my post "Generation Z: who are they and what benefits do they value?", this newest cohort is entering the workforce having always known the Internet and grown up with smartphones. They also have a keener sense for a global world that is rapidly changing along with the stress of knowing that competition can come from anywhere. They recognize that getting a job is important, but may also come through the recruitment process with a "what can you offer me?" mentality. This mindset is something that employers, who have grown accustomed to recruiting for Baby Boomers and Generation Y, are quickly needing to address. As employers seek meaningful ways to engage Generation Y and Z, a number of trends are emerging.
Workplace trendsetters often come from Canada's tech sector and with the following workplace list, there is no exception to the rule.
Who said nobody gets a free lunch? Gen Y and Gen Z tend to be more focused on nutritional value, ingredients, and sourcing their food than other generations. With Gen Z being more dialled into the price of food than Gen Y, they tend to greatly appreciate employers who offer free, healthy food at work. Organizations like LinkedIn Canada, Google and Shopify offer this service to employees. Specifically, Shopify's chef prepares meals onsite for employees to make their dining experience more memorable and creates an atmosphere of "the comforts of home" being provided at work. While this practice may have started with law firms and investment banks in the 80s, it moved to tech companies where discouraging workers from leaving the building for breaks and lunch became a wise investment in productivity.
The death of 9 to 5 and the desk job.
Working 9 to 5 may have seen its hay day in the 80s. With a growing number of virtual "online" companies, employers find it easier and more cost effective for employees to work remotely. Again, with tech companies leading the trend, a cultural workplace movement is underway especially now that national organizations are promoting agile workspaces and flexible work. The goal is to provide a different type of working area where employees have freedom to work where and when they feel most productive.
Employers that maintain the requirement of working in an office are beginning to think about bringing the outdoors inside. Companies are looking for ways to improve time spent at work by exchanging artificial lighting and synthetic furniture with green living and sustainable design strategies that incorporate connecting workers with the natural environment.
Increasingly, the topic of parental leave is discussed on social networking sites. After Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg took a 2 month paternity leave when his daughter was born, he changed the policy for his employees who now are offered four months off paid parental leave. With the proposed changes to Employment Insurance related to Parental Leave as part of the 2017 Federal Budget proposal, more Canadian employers will look to family friendly workplaces that consider the Federal Budget's announcement.
Whether it is vacation or sick time, employers are looking to loosen the strings associated with policies that limit vacation days as well as sick days. Following in the footsteps of Sir Richard Branson who introduced a no-limit vacation policy, Shopify followed suit. Other employers are likely to consider a similar model that eliminates the need for absence tracking and is seen as a highly attractive benefit by potential Net Generation applicants.
While raising the minimum wage to $70,000 for all employees like Gravity Payments did might not seem realistic or possible option, there are trends that employers are seriously considering as viable recruiting and engagement tools. If you're looking to make changes to your benefit package or recruiting strategy, we invite you to contact us. We make it our job to stay well informed on these and other topics. We are here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Unlimited paid vacation leave is a 2017 trend that is building traction beyond usual trendsetters like tech start up companies.
Since 2004, Netflix employees have been able to take as many vacation days as they want. In 2014, Sir Richard Branson's Virgin US and UK operations did away with strict annual vacation policies and began offering unlimited paid vacation time.
Based on the 2010 General Social Survey (GSS), 27% or 3.7 million Canadian workers said that their lives on most days are "quite a bit" or "extremely" stressful. With stress levels in the millions, Canadian employers are exploring ways to avoid burnout while attracting the Net Generation or Generation Z - workers born after 1993. This exploration includes what unlimited paid vacation might mean for their recruiting and engagement efforts.
Unlimited paid vacation creates the opportunity for an employee to make decisions about when and how much time they take off work. Is this a scary thought? What could this mean for customer service and productivity? By putting added responsibility on the employee, companies who have implemented unlimited paid vacation time are finding that employees are taking fewer days off than what they might have been entitled to under a more structured approach. They worry about not getting their work assignments completed and looking lazy to their colleagues and employer if too much time is taken. This isn't the desired outcome and organizations may need to help employees swing the pendulum back to a place that provides the right amount of time off. This might mean offering generous vacation policies that have some limits in place.
Good work-life design
Weighing vacation time and its influence on productivity is a topic that will continue to change shape with the influx of Generation Z (workers born after 1993). Unlimited paid vacation or generous vacation policies with limits could help the newest working generation achieve the balance they seek. This approach could also be an attractive option for the aging cohorts that are quickly becoming empty nesters and have more time to travel or fast track their career.
The policy that isn't.
Flexibility doesn't mean lack of accountability. Unlimited paid vacation time focuses a leader's attention on what matters, which is getting results and that equals a higher level of productivity. The concept of working 9 to 5 with rigid rules came from the time of the industrial revolution and while we still might feel awkward about changing our mindset, it is worth considering that work is done quite differently now. We are in a participation economy that engages workers through employee ownership, gain sharing, profit sharing, and involvement in decision-making including the time they spend away from work.
A policy that isn't -- means carries the proviso that workers will do what is comfortable for them and is a decision based on connecting with their team to ensure that their vacation time doesn't harm a project's deliverables, the business, or their career.
The thought of not needing to ask permission from managers to book off vacation time or keeping track of days away might generate fear in the hearts of those accustom to policies that have been baked into a century or more of business practices that originated from an industrial economy. What will happen to a business that releases the vacation time reigns and pays for unlimited time off? Will employees take advantage of the situation and run the business into the ground? Companies like Netflix, Virgin and Shopify don't think so. Since Netflix changed their vacation policy to a policy that isn't -- with unlimited paid vacation time, their market cap has grown to over $51 billion.
While unlimited paid vacation might not be an approach that feels right for every employer, it is one that doesn't appear to be hurting the companies who have implemented the change. If you are looking to explore modifications to your Human Resources policies or revisiting your benefits strategy, we invite you to contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
May 1-7 is Canadian Mental Health Association's (CMHA) Mental Health Week. This year's theme is #GetLoud. On their website, the express message is "Getting loud means speaking up to stop the discrimination and the stigma that often go hand in hand with mental illness. It means using your voice to raise awareness and build support. For someone at home. For someone at work. For yourself." CMHA’S 66TH ANNUAL MENTAL HEALTH WEEK MAY 1-7, 2017.
Stigma is a negative stereotype.
While workplaces continue to make a solid case for the success of wellness programs, stigma surrounding the issue of mental health continues to exist. This stigma prevents employees from talking about the mental health issues they face.
Stigma is a negative stereotype and mental illness is one of many health-related stigmas that cause sufferers to hide their illness. According to CMHA, mental illness stigma is reported as one of the greatest barriers that prevent people from living a complete and satisfying life.
Fear based assumptions
Whether it relates to sharks, snakes, cancer or a host of health related illnesses, stigma is often associated with fear and misinformation. While many of us might not be in a position to face a shark, one in five of us (or 6.8 million Canadians) will experience a mental health issue in our lifetime. The remaining four will know of a friend, colleague or family member who has experienced mental illness. Fear-based assumptions create myths and prevent an open-minded approach to examining the real issues.
Addressing fear associated with the stigma of mental illness begins with the process of workplace culture change. Similar to the main premise of the Bell "Lets Talk Day" campaign that encourages people to share their stories related to mental illness, a workplace climate should support open dialogue about the mental health issues faced by its workers. Without the willingness and the confidence to believe its okay to share, people will continue to silently suffer from mental health challenges. They will remain afraid to admit they need support.
I don't know what to say.
Managers, supervisors, lead hands and influencers all play an important role in addressing the stigma linked to mental illness. For some, they might simply just not know what to say when someone shares their mental illness story with them. Leaders can help by knowing what to do. The website mendthemind.ca lists 7 important things to do to reduce stigma:
I've written about training for leaders as an integral step toward addressing mental illness in the workplace. I also believe it is important to educate and inform. The more people have the facts about mental illness, the less chance there is for stigma to thrive. Education can take the shape of:
Leveraging CMHA's Mental Health week can be a timely opportunity to review Human Resources policies and group health data relating to workplace mental health issues. Jumping on the wave of social media initiatives like Bell Let's Talk and CMHA's #GetLoud campaigns provides a window to open up more dialogue regarding mental illness, stigma that remains prevalent and how it affects workers.
There is never a wrong time to take a deeper dive into this important topic. We invite you to contact us. We work closely with mental health champions and service providers whose expertise can quickly be put to work for you. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.