The pursuit of skilled talent is more competitive than ever before, as companies seek to build an agile workforce that can move faster than market expectations and compete in today’s global economy. However, each year a wealth of knowledge and expertise leaves the workforce because of retirement, parenthood or young professionals delaying entrance into the workforce in favor of educational pursuits.
The population over 60 years of age is the fastest growing in the country. By 2050, this age group is expected to form 19% of India’s population, leaving the employment market with a massive skills gap and eventually inhibiting a company’s ability to react quickly and effectively in changing business environments.
Tapping into the strength of these ‘hidden workforces’ presents opportunity for companies to widen the talent pool to address the projected skills gap. It is imperative employers look at these overlooked groups to help fill the void – both now and in the future. This reality demands that leaders and HR departments accept, adopt and promote new strategies to better attract, engage and retain the hidden workforce to succeed in the new era, and prepare for an uncertain future.
Below are a few guidelines on how to achieve this and build an employee value proposition that addresses the hidden workforce needs:
- Provide flexible working schedules
Work-life balance is more important to the hidden workforce than any other group as they try to adapt to the combined needs of demanding professional responsibilities and a busy personal life. Eliminating the rigid traditional job structure in favor of flexible work schedules, such as compressed work weeks, flex-time, job sharing or reduced hours, is an effective way for companies to create workplaces that foster this balance. For companies migrating to new work schedules, seek the opinions of executives and employees via an internal survey or begin a pilot program to help the introduction of this regime.
- Accommodate remote working and distributed teams
Traditional ‘presenteeism’ attitude held by leaders mean workers are physically present in the office longer than is actually required, but this often conflicts with important family responsibilities, or health abilities. Technologies, such as virtualization, cloud, software-first networking, enterprise file sharing and mobility management, will allow jobs to flex with lifestyles and make companies more attractive to this group.
- Create opportunities for collaboration
Some workers may be permanently restricted to residential locations as a result of far-reaching geographic locations, pregnancy, chronic health issues or childcare duties. This could lead to a loss of face-to-face interaction and collaboration with office-bound colleagues.
Consequently, remote workers can face a variety of unique obstacles like isolation, which can impact their motivations and productivity. Companies that invest in virtual collaboration solutions will be able to better cater with these diverse working styles, while also unifying communication and increase employee engagement.
- Provide employee training programs
Adequate development and training opportunities must be provided to update skills to match the demands of contemporary jobs and technology advances. This will be particularly important for parents and mature workers who have been out of the workforce for an extended period of time and may have some anxiety about re-entering.
To ease these concerns and build a consistent level of understanding, companies should look to offer training that appeal to a variety of working styles; face-to-face workshops, e-learning courses or even peer-to-peer mentoring programs.
- Build an accepting workplace culture
Some leaders are still hesitant to encourage flexible work arrangements due to cultural and trust related barriers. This can lead employees to be discouraged from taking advantage of these policies for fear of being pulled up for it. Alternatively those that do take on flexible working arrangements often overcompensate by sending more emails, making more phone calls or working longer hours in order to seem ‘present’.
To disperse the skepticism attitude, companies must train leaders on how to effectively manage remote workers and put into place systems to measure performance or results rather than physical presence in an office or the number of hours lodged. Software can help companies seamlessly monitor and manage employee who are working off site.
By Makarand Joshi, Area Vice President & Country Head, India Subcontinent, Citrix