An employee's worth is often based on how much they contribute to the company, but the new wave of thinking highlights that organizations must also contribute back to employees.

Staff Writer

It used to be that being an employee was a fairly well-defined process: people joined a company and stayed with that organization for their entire career, working their way up the ladder and building a nice retirement package. However, that career path is fast becoming the exception rather than the norm, as the idea of what it means to be an employee is constantly changing. Today’s employee often forgoes the traditional contract between a single organization and has more freedom to change their career. Employees can be full time, part time, or contractors and often move between organizations multiple times during their careers. It all boils down to the fact that an employee is a member of the team who contributes on a daily basis to the success of the organization, and to whom the organization also contributes to their success.

The changing mindset for the future employee is an area where many organizations struggle because it throws out most of the traditional ideas about how to hire, train, and promote employees. Although every organization must make its own decision about how to operate in regards to employees, the most important trait is to have an ever-evolving mindset, according to John Sigmon, chief human resources officer at AARP. One of the biggest obstacles for organizations is how much time, effort, and training to put into an employee that could leave the company and go work for a competitor in just a few years. In theory, that training and knowledge would eventually go to help another organization. But the flip side also remains–what happens if a company doesn’t put in very much training or development and the employee ends up staying with the organization? It could come back to hurt the company if employees aren’t well developed. It is often to a company’s best interest to develop their employees to showcase their trust in them. That way, no matter where employees go or what their next career steps are, they can always be ambassadors for your organization.

An employee’s worth is often based on how much they contribute to the company, but the new wave of thinking highlights that organizations must also contribute back to employees. This happens through more than just a paycheck and basic benefits, but through career development and building marketability and strong skills. Developing strong employees helps the organization and the industry as a whole, no matter if the employee is a long-term full-time employee or a contractor who will move on to a new project in a few months.

Today’s employees want to develop and continually challenge themselves, which is one of the reason they move between organizations faster than employees have in the past. Many organizations have found that their employees are hungry for ways to build their careers, not only to plan for the future but also to find new ways they can contribute in their current position. AARP runs a series for employees about “Building Your Presence” that brings in experts from around the country to train on various topics and answer development questions. The program has been incredibly well received by employees and provides them the opportunity to push themselves and gain more skills. And although AARP knows that not all of those employees will work at AARP for their entire careers, it is the price the company pays to build its employees and turn them into the best people they can possibly be.

Addressing the modern employee definitely takes a changed mindset, which can be a challenge for some organizations. While employees can act as a catalyst by making their voices heard, true cultural change must come from the top with management leading by example and embracing all kinds of employees.

As the future of work evolves, we’ll likely see more changes in what it means to be an employee, especially in regard to customization and flexibility. However, organizations should continue to change alongside their employees and develop them into well-rounded people who can contribute to the company’s success every day.

This article was taken from an interview on the Future of Work Podcast with John Sigmon. You can listen to the full episode here.