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Generations & Beyond: Create a People-Focused Workplace to Drive Engagement

For business leaders, the challenge and opportunity comes in steering away from a top-down approach, to develop employee-centric experiences and offerings.

Diverse employees meeting in open, modern cafe space

Engaging the multi-generational workforce can feel like a paradox: there is a need to adapt the workplace experience to accommodate for the younger generations entering the world of work, but that change has to occur without alienating existing employees.

Some companies have responded by aspiring to the examples set by big tech and media organizations to create interactive, collaborative and ‘fun’ environments. But not every workplace—and certainly not every employee—fits this mold. Where a game room might make sense in a technology start-up, workers at a manufacturing site may prefer a comfortable communal food space or a breakroom with healthy food and vending options.

Subscribe to Work Reimagined GIFTThe most important thing to remember in times of change is that we’re all human. Failure often stems from a top-down or ‘copy and paste’ approach, where companies try to replicate what others are doing in the market, instead of creating a tailored workplace experience that empowers the people in its workforce. Organizations can unlock lasting human impact and differentiate the employer brand by designing the workplace experience around employees and constructing it from the ground up.

Emerging expectations driving workplace change

Chart 1 - Emerging ExpectationEvolving employee priorities are the core drivers for changing expectations in the workplace. As leaders take their organizations forward, they should be prepared to evaluate and adapt services to meet the shifting priorities of the workforce. 

But understanding what motivates employees is an ongoing challenge. One trend reshaping the world of work is the growing number of younger employees in the workforce. By 2025, Millennials will comprise three-quarters of the global workforce. Along with Gen Z, this generation wants more time to focus on personal growth and collaboration, within flexible working environments that promote efficiency and wellbeing. Sodexo’s Global Workplace Study reflects this shift: the research revealed that most younger workers want their workplace to provide opportunities to have fun (see Chart 1). 

Chart 2 - Emerging ExpectationAt the same time, the influence of the workplace consumer is gaining traction—and competitive organizations should be ready to keep pace. Services that enhance the workplace experience reflect the interactions, experiences and environments people are gravitating toward outside of work. In particular, Millennials and Gen Z are frequently using consumer-like services that help them to optimize their day. Sodexo’s study found that around 4 in 5 employees from these generations actually expect their organization to offer services that make their lives easier (see Chart 2).

While younger generations are at the forefront of change, age is just one piece of a much larger puzzle. For emerging best in class companies, the key is to steer away from stereotypes, towards a bottom-up approach that puts people at the heart of every decision. 

Painting an accurate picture of the workforce through segmentation

Diverse group of employees standing against a blank wallA workplace that supports everyone from Gen Z to Baby Boomers is built on hard facts, rather than generalizations or assumptions. Organizations are far more likely to succeed, and attract the best talent, when they consider what their employees truly need to do their job well and feel supported—both at work and at home. 

It all boils down to fundamental human needs. Workforce segmentation (grouping employees) and profiling (defining these groups) are tools that some employers are using to uncover needs that could have otherwise gone unnoticed. This approach enables companies to avoid common mistakes, remove the guesswork and identify workplace services that are likely to have the greatest impact on employee wellbeing and productivity.

The most innovative organizations are collecting data on their people on an ongoing basis, which allows them to understand how their workforce evolves over time. These findings help companies develop highly personalized service offerings that still remain flexible, and open to feedback and revision.

“It's so important to understand people's fundamental human needs. Employees may think they need a service, but in fact what they really need is more time and efficiency. Or they may need to feel more comfortable or safe in their environment. Segmentation based on these needs is critical for us to be able to define the appropriate services, and it can help us to avoid mistakes as well.”

Rachel Permuth, PhD, Global Head of Insight for Corporate Services, Sodexo

Uncovering employee needs and motivations with PersonixTM

Personix Map of 8 families
Sodexo’s Personix™ tool is based on eight dominant human motivations. These are organized based on how they align with two dimensions: the personal dimension and the social dimension.

Personix™ is Sodexo’s tool for understanding human needs and motivations, which are the same across all cultures and contexts. The tool is grounded in foundational theories of psychology and supported by extensive research. In the context of the workplace, Personix™ gives employers an opportunity to deeply understand their workforce. 

The psychographic data gathered by the audit categorizes employees into eight groups based on their dominant motivations. With these motivations as the foundation, Personix™ provides insights into employee attitudes, lifestyles, and values. From ‘Traditionalists’ who hold the institutional knowledge of an organization, to ‘Freestylers’ who need freedom to experiment and develop their skills, the categories paint a picture of what is needed for an organization to truly support its people.

The tool is an effective way for organizations to impact the entire employee journey—from the moment employees prepare for work to the moment they arrive home. More specifically, the outputs of a Personix™ audit can help companies select and tailor a wide array of workplace offerings, from space design and layout to food services, cleaning, sustainability, recreational facilities, landscaping and more. The process also allows employers to optimize factors such as level of service personalization, individual control and choice, and digitization. 

Sodexo’s Global Head of Insight for Corporate Services, Dr. Rachel Permuth, emphasizes how critical profiling is when defining the appropriate services: “Let's say you're in a very entrepreneurial environment. You need very fluid spaces because the people on site are innovative. They don't like rules, they need longer hours for food service, they need freedom of choice. And they tend to work more flexibly, which means you might not have any fixed desks for them.” 

The way forward: Creating a workplace that works

As younger generations enter the workforce and consumer-level expectations become a fundamental fixture at work, business leaders must adapt or risk falling behind. Companies who use segmentation and profiling to select the right services, spaces and solutions can enhance the workplace experience, and in doing so deliver the best outcomes for their people and their business.

Future applications could go even further as preferred ways of working evolve. Rachel notes that the impact of remote and virtual working require different approaches due to the complexity of the modern dynamic. Workplace environments will, ultimately, become more flexible to accommodate increasingly transient employees and those who work from home. 

Ultimately, it’s how companies support their employees that makes the difference. Informed by tools that deliver a deep understanding of the workforce, business leaders can create an all-inclusive experience that will have a powerful impact on employee performance, boost talent attraction and retention, and accelerate growth.

Redefine your employee experience with Sodexo

Sodexo Global Workplace Study coverSee more insights in Sodexo's Global Workplace Study

Sodexo’s focus on improving quality of life starts with the conviction that an organization’s strategy must be based on a deep understanding of its greatest asset—its people. We work with clients across the globe, in a diverse range of industries, to develop the right solutions for their workforce and elevate every step of the employee journey.

To learn how Sodexo can help transform the workplace experience for your business, contact us.

January 13, 2020

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