Contribution from ADP UK: The employee’s view - Europe in uncertain times
Europe has seen unprecedented change in the last few years and while we have generally experienced business and economic growth, the constant state of uncertainty has left many with doubts about what the future holds. Brexit is, of course, the word on everyone’s lips while new technologies such as automation, blockchain and many others continue to rear their head - often leaving European workers wondering what their future careers hold. A state of doubt and the constant flux of change can lead to low engagement and productivity in the workplace, key issues when considering how to bolster Europe’s low productivity problem. So how are our employees really feeling and what insights could this provide on business advancements in Europe?
Every year, ADP produces its flagship report, the Workforce View in Europe. The research includes a survey of around 10,000 European working adults, giving a snapshot of employees’ feelings about the future of work including topics such as optimism and management, and their consequential effects on productivity. Employees comes from all over Europe, including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Poland and the UK. Attitudes towards new technologies such as automation are also explored and the findings provide an overall view of the current state of play with a business’ most valuable resource - their employees.
The most recent report, the Workforce View in Europe 2018 provides a year-on-year analysis of changing trends amongst employees. Unlike in previous years, all the countries surveyed were shown to be experiencing economic growth and falling unemployment, and levels of optimism seemed to correspond with this. Across the continent, 79% of respondents described themselves as optimistic, an increase in one percentage point on 2017, and a two point rise since 2016. Dutch workers were shown to be the most optimistic, with 85% of workers describing themselves as such, a four percentage point rise on last year. While French workers continued to be the least positive nation (74%), they also saw a three point rise on 2017.
While it is difficult to know exactly what employee optimism can be attributed to, it’s interesting that an increase has come at a time of such uncertainty. Another area of the study may illuminate more. AI has recently been the talk of the workplace with continual reports of the likelihood that the robots are coming to take our jobs - and soon. With artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics being deployed at a rapid pace across a range of industries, employees have shown concern about their role in the future workplace. While a third (28%) of Europe’s workforce say they are worried that their job will be automated at some point in the future, over half (52%) have said their employer is working to retrain and upskill employees in the face of such technological changes, or is planning to do so. Areas such as this highlight that businesses are working with their employees to ensure their success and bring out the best in them, and I believe this is part of a growing trend where we are seeing a renewed focus on employees’ wellbeing, mental health and engagement. This is highly important considering the effects of these areas on productivity and business success.
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Another important topic in the workplace is mental health, with continued reports on the importance of supporting the mental health of employees in order to get the best out of your workforce. Programmes such as Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index reflect the growing focus on an employer’s responsibility to look after their employees’ wellbeing. The Workforce View results showed that, while there is a long way to go and the results vary significantly by country, 52% of employees feel their company is interested in their mental wellbeing. While this isn’t a high enough result, mental health awareness is continually hitting headlines and is becoming more important to businesses, and they are starting to take action.
The Workforce View further report further noted that, despite explosive growth in recent years, there are signs that the gig economy and self-employment are starting to losing their attraction. Fewer employees seem ready to consider this way of working (60% vs 68% in 2017) or are actively considering it. Self-employed workers are also slightly less optimistic than they were in 2017 (77% vs 79%), perhaps as some of the difficulties of the lifestyle start to become clear. This seems to correspond with the increasing negativity around the gig economy and the way workers are sometimes treated, and once again emphasises the increased focus and recognition we’ve seen around employees’ rights and wellbeing.
ADP’s report, while not rosy in all areas, highlights a growing optimism and a bigger emphasis on the employer’s responsibility to ensure the wellbeing and success of their employees. This advancement in the increased care and engagement of employees is key to ensuring a happy, productive and successful workforce. While these are changing times, we are seeing great advancement in this area - something I believe is key for the success of European business.
Jeff Phipps is Managing Director of ADP® UK, a leading global provider of Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions. He joined ADP from Systemax, where he was Executive Vice President and General Manager for Germany, Austria & Switzerland. With a strong background in the technology industry, Jeff has previously worked in IT consultancy, sales and business leadership roles at Tandem, HP and Dell. He also has a background in IT management at a number of leading financial services firms.
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