Workplace Culture

Newsflash: Workers No Longer Accepting Their Companies’ Idea of Happiness

By Brent Kedzierski

Nov. 1, 2021

Every day, growing volumes of research show that worker concerns for mental health and a better work experience are building to a point of worker revolution. Unfortunately, organizational capacity is failing to respond as workplace burnout, stress, and impact on well-being have gone viral. After nearly 25 years of fighting the “war for talent,” organizations missed the mark in tracking evolving worker expectations. HR fought the visible battles of getting workers in the door by finding scarce critical skills, navigating competitive talent markets, building a pipeline of future executives, and addressing gaps in diversity and from retirements. However, HR missed the shifts in the underlying currents of worker expectations for their daily work experience once in the door. The rising challenge is to repair the perception of the 21st century work experience.   

Industry 5.0 Human Performance Experience Model 

People have reflected on the fact that they could spend upwards to 100,000 hours of their lives at work. Many are voting with their feet as they seek alternatives to find more fulfilling experiences within those millions of moments. The heart of the issue is that employees want to be treated as individual humans with lives and families outside of work and not simply workers bound by their organization’s idea of happiness. Worker expectations have shifted from the want of lifelong employment to finding work opportunities that are fulfilling and enhance, not detract from, their overall well-being. In 2022 the most human-centric organizations will refresh their mental models about work and focus on enriching five key dimensions of the human performance experience. 

Dimension 1: Meaningful Work 

Industry 5.0 is about enabling a more human-centric experience at work that promotes quality of life, inclusion, social contribution, and sustainability. Enriching work experiences begin when workers believe their efforts are meaningful, and they have a platform at work for making contributions greater than they could do on their own. Research has proven that worker choice, persistence, and performance are influenced by intrinsic motivators. Motivators such as the workers’ belief in the importance of doing a job well, their perceived ability to perform successfully, and the extent they value and enjoy what they are doing on a day-to-day basis. In a world focused on competing priorities, it’s important for workers to believe that the cost of their time and effort is beneficial when compared to their priorities and future goals. Work that aligns with the human search for meaning is a key characteristic of the Industry 5.0 workforce.

Dimension 2: Human-Centric Performance Support  

In an era of high job stress, burnout, and more complex and evolving job demands, worker-centric resources and more personalized support is more important than ever. As work technologies and environments evolve, organizations must ensure job demands are balanced with job support. The correlation between job demands, job control, resources, social support, and work-life balance on worker stress and performance is clear and growing. Matching job demands with more adaptive and personalized worker support will be a growing trend to better meet worker expectations for job satisfaction and psychological well-being. Modern era work seeks is to make traditional human performance blockers and stressors a thing of the past

Dimension 3: Digitally Fluent Environment

Pandemic conditions resulted in an erosion of the traditional workforce culture. This erosion has made way for digital transformation to enable new norms for the role of self-determination at work. Digital fluency goes beyond digital literacy and improves the performance experience by bringing equity to opportunity, access, and power of contribution. Fluency is the great equalizer as people can use the same platforms to socially connect, promote citizen-developed content, pursue their development, and build their brand. Most importantly, fluency enables more democratized attainment of the core psychological needs for self-determination (competence, autonomy, and relatedness). Self-determination is the core theory behind human motivation and underscores the dimensions of the Industry 5.0 human performance experience

Dimension 4: Smarter Social Connectivity 

Humans are social beings that don’t live or work in isolation. The focus on smarter social connectivity drives stronger cultures of belonging, empathy, inclusion, and support. At the core of smarter social connectivity is the shift to leverage new research in brain science related to the psychology of connection and the “social brain.”  Smarter social connectivity promotes cultures of cooperation and trust which are needed as new norms evolve promoting flexibility in how, when, and where work gets done. Trust influences the social brain to believe it has more “friends” than “foes” and to think in an “us” versus “them” mentality. Workers expect more personalized and adaptive pathways to social connectivity. Pathways that address individual preferences, recognize employees as people with lives outside their day job and promote what it means to be human and psychologically safe at work.

Dimension 5: Fulfillment and Flow  

People want more fulfillment in their lives, work, and learning experiences. Fulfillment at work stems from the satisfaction people get from giving their time and attention to their work, colleagues, and organizations. As the value placed on human experience grows, workers are asking more discerning questions regarding the type of work that gives them joy versus work that leaves them languishing in boredom. Workers are also looking for greater flow in their lives. The term “flow” is often associated with people who are intensely focused on what they do such as artists, writers, or athletes. Society understands the need for these people to create individualized environments where they lock themselves away and put their full attention, focus, and creativity into every moment. Unfortunately, today’s work environments are typically counter to promoting flow. Workers instead are overwhelmed as their work shifts from one priority to another and are fraught with distractions. Flow performance experiences provide a healthy mix of exciting and challenging work that doesn’t create a constate state of anxiety and frustration. We all know that time flies when we are in the flow of doing something and feel a sense of ownership, accomplishment, and growth. Industry 5.0 work opportunities seek to align people’s competence and passions with meaningful work that accentuates their days.

Moving Forward

In responding to the great awakening and resignation underway, organizations need to pursue the workers’ evolving idea of happiness.  As workers go through rough times, organizations need to recognize that their own internally and culturally biased ideas on what should make workers happy aren’t working. The trends that will dominate in 2022 involve workers wanting flexibility, fulfillment, and more empathetic leaders and organizations. Most of all workers want the opportunity to bring their whole self to work and complete work in ways that work best for them and their mental health without negative repercussions.

Brent Kedzierski the Chief Learning Officer at HumanWRKS. Brent and is a dynamic and sought-after keynoter, author, and thought leader. He has been featured and cited in prominent publications, including Harvard Business Weekly, Chief Learning Officer, BBC News, and more.

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