Staff and employers clash over priorities – how can SME owners address the balance?

There is an emerging gap between the expectations of employees and employers, according to new research.

The 2014 Adecco Employment Report found Australian businesses are mostly interested in providing education and training to their employees, despite the fact that staff are mostly after a better work-life balance. The research also found the main reason staff leave a business is for a better opportunity elsewhere (49.6%), followed by salary (17.8%).

Karen Gately, author of The People Manager’s Toolkit, says this shows business owners need to take a step back and understand how their employees define success.

“People are no longer convinced that money, power and traditional measures of success are still relevant to them and their lives,” she told SmartCompany. “People have one life. They don’t step out of their homes and into their work ones – they turn up to work as a complete human being.”

Gately says while she strongly believes in workplaces providing education and training, employers need to understand that these days staff are after a more holistic approach.

“An employer that has a flexible mindset and a respective attitude towards the need for people to look after all aspects of their lives will build up a sense of trust and inspire people to give their all.”

Small businesses are at a particular advantage, says Gatley, because it is more likely there will be an open, two-way relationship in a smaller environment.

“In a small business there are opportunities for people to get involved in things, which help them feel like an active participant in the decision making. Thinking about the value of the experience not just the dollars that people take away is essential.”

Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith, senior vice president of global research at PageUp People, agrees.

“Smarter companies are taking the bottom-up approach where they’re asking the questions,” she says. “Everyone’s interpretation of what is flexibility and what is work-life balance is a very different proposition.”

Vorhauser-Smith says employers need to understand they have a variety of tools at their disposal when it comes to retaining staff.

“Money does matter, but so does being able to see your career progressing. People want to be working for organisations that they feel give them a bit more meaning and purpose. Leadership is also critical, as people still leave companies because of the people they work with rather than the company itself.”

Mike Davies, chief operating officer of Adecco Australia and New Zealand, says the gap between what motivates employees and the benefits offered by employers needs to be addressed.

“Employers need to have in place a workplace that recognises the work-life balance aspirations of their employees,” he said in a statement.

“Equally, employees need to recognise that ongoing education, training and skills development is key to improving productivity and should be as important to them as work-life balance. There’s no doubt that better alignment of these aspirations will go a long way towards enhancing Australia’s productivity and probability in the workplace.”


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