Softworks Blog

How to keep Generation Y engaged in 2014

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Tue, Jan 7, 2014

First there was talk about Baby Boomers, then we heard about Generation X and today’s conversation is focused firmly aound Generation Y.  So who are this generation and why is it going to be so important to keep them engaged in the workplace now and in the future?

Generation Y generally refers to people who were born between the late 70s and 80s although the group is sometimes expanded to include all those born between the late 70s and 2000. When it comes to defining a generation, the boundaries are quite loose.  The point is, Generation Y are now all grown up and are set to become a significant force within the workplace and keeping them engaged could be key to your company's success or otherwise. 

Certain traits have emerged that are distinguishing this generation from previous generations. One of the most significant differences between generation X and Y cited, is that  generation X are often seen as the “abandoned generation” or "latch-key kids" due to the fact that they were raised at a time when both parents had to work so they had to fend for themselves.

Generation Y, on the other hand, are often considered to be the most parented generation in history. They are also the largest generation of youth in history being three times larger than Generation X.  Generation Y includes terms such as Millennials, the Net Generation and the Trophy Generation (due to the tendency for kids in this demographic to get trophies from activities regardless of their actual achievement levels!)

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Generation Y are idealistic, digitally-enabled, social and ambitious and research tells us they are likely to have a distinct set of characteristics and expectations from their managers.  The implications are that the management styles that may have worked for previous generations may not have the same impact or motivation factor for this generation.  

Due to the endless positive feedback bestowed on generation Y kids from their parents, the young adults of this generation tend to be extremely confident. They tend to enter the workforce with high expectations both for themselves and for their employers. They have higher salary expectations and unlike previous generations, they don’t overly fear losing their job, as they have had the luxury of bouncing from one job to another until they found one that suits. This lack of fear tends to make them more outspoken and less afraid of the boss than previous generations.

This generation is likely to "work to live" rather than "live to work". Working assists them to do the things they really want to do. They would rather an interesting job for less money that allows them plenty of time out of the office (or working at home/flexible working) rather than putting in 12-hour days for a six-figure salary. In summary they want engaging work with opportunity for change and growth. Both on a personal and professional level.  They expect instant feedback at work, in the same way they receive feedback in their personal lives via text messages or "likes" on Facebook.  They want work to be an enjoyable experience and if this experience can include working with their friends in a casual and fun environment – even better!

So if you are looking to engage this generation consider the following motivation and retention strategies for 2014...

  • Share the company vision – This generation will look for meaning and by explaining your company vision you will give them a clearer sense of purpose.
  • Give encouragement and regular feedback – honest supportive feedback will go a long way; they have received this from a young age and continue to receive it via Facebook etc.
  • Coach rather than manage – Generation Y need to feel they are learning, and they especially appreciate being coached.
  • Offer more flexibility – Work life balance ranks high on their agenda. To Generation Y-ers, a 9-5 shift can seem like a prison sentence!
  • Stretch the comfort Zone - Generation Y people welcome new challenges.  
  • Provide education and professional development - Facilitating their continuing education and hobbies will go a long way towards keeping them happy and engaged
  • Promote team cohesiveness and social interaction - Team loyalty is a key tool for motivating and retaining Generation Y members who enjoy working in a team environment.
  • Give time for personal projects – Offer time to work on personal projects as this keeps them engaged and can also boost innovation within your business.
  • Set multiple tasks and goals in a structured way - They are excellent multi-taskers and enjoy variety at work.
  • Allow time for social causes – Generation Y feel responsible for making a difference in the world and like to give back via volunteering, supporting charities etc. Support them by allowing some flexibility in their hours to facilitate. It's good for them, it's good for your business and it's good for the world in general :)

Topics: Jobs, Employee Retention, Flexitime / Flexible Working Hours Arrangement, Work-Life Balance, Flexible Working, Working From Home, Motivation, Performance, Generation Y

Asda offers festive flexibility with nativity leave for busy parents

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Wed, Dec 11, 2013

Yesterday, I got the time and date from my son's school for his nativity play. It's on at 12.30pm next Wednesday afternoon. Not exactly the handiest time for a working mum (or dad). That said I see myself as one of the lucky ones, as at Softworks we have flexible working. So I'll get to hear my 6 year old son say his two lines "Hang on, I'm coming" and "Read the Sign"...He's the Innkeeper and taking his role very seriously! However, some of his friends parents' are finding it a little trickier to slip off for that all important half hour. 

Asda however is supporting busy working parents this Christmas by offering employees ‘nativity leave’ to ensure they don’t miss out on their little one’s starring role in the school play. The festive flexible working option is available to colleagues following Asda’s latest Mumdex research, which indicated that working parents are worried about missing out on their child’s key milestone moments due to work commitments. In face-to-face focus groups with Asda mums as part of the research, one in three cited the annual nativity play as one of the top things they feel they just can’t miss out on.

Hayley Tatum, Asda’s Executive People Director comments; "There’s no doubt working mums have a lot on their plate at this time of year and we don’t want our colleagues to miss out on the things that are really important to them this Christmas.

“Technology might help to take the pressure off busy working parents on a daily basis, but we know that it’s just not the same watching your child’s milestone moments back on a smartphone or tablet. ‘Nativity Leave’ gives parents the opportunity to take time off for the school Christmas play or simply for some much needed family time outside of normal holidays.”

The ‘Nativity Leave’ flexible working policy allows Asda colleagues planned, unpaid discretionary time off to attend their child’s school play or to take much needed ‘me time’ outside of normal contracted holidays.

'"Nativity Leave" gives parents the opportunity to take time off for the school Christmas play or simply for some much needed family time outside of normal holidays.'

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While the scheme was designed with parents desperate to see their child's play, any staff members can actually take advantage of the scheme. They are allowed the time off for Christmas shopping or seeing family, as they do not have to provide a specific reason for the time off.

Personally I think this is a great scheme and well done to Asda for taking the initiative. Realistically it doesn't cost Asda anything but it's of enormous value to employees so a win win situation for all...

Topics: Flexitime / Flexible Working Hours Arrangement, Retailers, Work-Life Balance

The True Cost of Employee Time and Attendance

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Tue, Nov 19, 2013

By Oliver Mitchell, ACA

‘There’s more than one way to skin a cat’ and there are many ways to record and track the cost of time. Whether it’s sitting in traffic, standing in a queue, waiting for a computer to load or simply sitting idly watching TV, almost every minute of your day has a cost that can be applied to it. It is all well and good accepting these unseen costs in your everyday tasks, it’s a given really, just part of your daily routine and most of us don’t give it a second thought. However, when it comes to the workplace, where employee’s get paid to be, it really should be a different story.

Of course, some employer’s don’t pay too much attention to the cost of time. Employees are hired for a specific role and work the hours agreed in their contract - for example 9 to 5. However so much has changed in how and when we want to work, more and more organisations are realising the benefits of measuring tasks completed rather than hours worked.  Employers record how employees spend their time throughout the day, recording individual tasks over set time intervals. These types of companies have a very good handle on the true cost of time and have excellent visibility of where efficiencies can be harnessed and real savings achieved on an on-going basis.


Profit and loss

Over the years, there have been countless studies conducted to try to apportion a cost to any particular activity in the workplace, and there have been multiple methodologies devised to track and record the cost of an activity. Suffice to say, that a great starting point for any company that really wants to get valuable information and reports in relation to their true cost of time, is to start tracking their employee’s time and activities. It doesn’t have to be an onerous or cumbersome task, nor does it have to be seen as an authoritarian approach, the introduction of timesheets and time recording has come on leaps and bounds since the early days of time tracking. The clock on the wall approach whilst still in place has evolved into detailed reporting and analysis, web clocking, absence management, flexi-time and even allowing employees to manage their day through self-service time and attendance management while at the same time promoting and supporting a work life balance. In a lot of cases it can often be seen as a plus point in today’s workplace and if implemented and communicated sufficiently, time and attendance systems can be of a huge benefit not only to the company but also to the individual employee who has more control over their working hours.

Not only will a modern Time & Attendance system provide managers with a real time view of their designated workforce, team calendars, rosters and much more. It will also allow for detailed and specific reporting over a huge variety of information at various levels from employee all the way to the MD and has been proven to drive efficiencies and save payroll costs by up to 5% of an organisations total labour cost. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s certainly more than one way to evaluate and assess the true cost of time, but for any company the best starting point should be gaining a true understanding of how their workforce – their biggest cost and biggest asset spends their time.

Topics: Time & Attendance, Workforce Solutions, Flexitime / Flexible Working Hours Arrangement, Work-Life Balance, Accountants, Performance, Business Processes

Dream Job - NASA Will Pay You $5,000 a Month To Stay In Bed!

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Mon, Sep 23, 2013

If you like me struggled to get out of bed this morning, this might well be the job for you. Nasa are paying $5,000 a month to participants of their bed rest study. The study takes place at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Participants in the program apparently can chat on the phone, Skype, play games, work remotely on their laptops, read books etc. The only stipulation is that they must remain in bed.

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The NASA scientists are working to find ways to keep astronauts healthier and safer when they spend a long time in space. Head down bed rest is a good way to mimic a person traveling in space without gravity. They had this to say

"Head-down bed rest helps researchers study people on earth in a way that causes some of the changes the body goes through while traveling in space without gravity. This study will show how much your body, tilted down slightly with head down and feet up, for 70 days, 24-hours a day, without getting out of bed, except for limited times for specific tests, is like an astronaut’s body during the weightlessness of space flight. Watching you will help scientists learn how an astronaut’s body will change in weightlessness during space flight in the future." 

Subjects in this study will be tested on a set of seven functional tests (Functional Task Tests) and a corresponding set of physiological measures before and after 70 days of bed rest. 

The study will also evaluate the effectiveness of a new exercise program to maintain muscle size and strength, bone health, and cardiovascular function during 70 days of bed rest. The exercise program is called the countermeasure and functional testing (CFT) study. So you'll be expected to do a bit of working out for your money....

Not for me as I think I'd be bored by the second day but if its something you fancy you can apply via this link 

Good luck :)

Topics: Jobs, Work-Life Balance, Flexible Working

Work Life Balance - Top Ten Countries

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Wed, Aug 7, 2013

While on holidays in Portugal, I got chatting to the family in the apartment beside us. They had travelled from Norway and were expecting their second child. As our holidays were at an end, we spoke about holiday plans for next year. They mentioned they might head to Thailand. My initial reaction was- that’s a long way to go for a couple of weeks. However, when they explained parental leave in Norway, I could see the logic.  It was poles apart from the three days my other half got on the birth of our kids…

It did however get me thinking about the best counties in the world to work, from a work life balance perspective.  According to the latest report from the OECD who examined 36 countries, Denmark is the best country for work-life balance.  In fact all three Scandinavian countries; Denmark, Sweden, and Norway finished in the top seven in the ranking.  No wonder my new friends were making grand plans for next year with their number three ranking!

In general, Northern Europe dominated the list, taking almost all the top ten spots. So what constitutes a balance between work and life? The OECD settled on three main variables:

(1) The share of the labour force that works very long hours (more than 50 hours a week);

(2) Time spent on "leisure and personal care" (defined in contrast to paid or unpaid work as spending time with friends, going to the movies, pursuing hobbies, sleeping, eating, etc.); and

(3) Employment rates for women who have children.

Work Life Balance

The United States, which leads most of the world in share of mothers who are working, lagged behind in leisure time and share of overworked employees. The US, for example, is the only OECD country without a national paid parental leave policy, although some states do provide leave payments. Overall the US ranked number 28 out of 36 countries.

The share of employees working more than 50 hours per week was not very large in OECD countries. Turkey was the country with the highest proportion of people working very long hours, with more than 46%, followed by Mexico with nearly 29% and Israel with nearly a fifth of employees. Overall, men spend more hours in paid work and the percentage of male employees working very long hours across OECD countries is 12%, compared with less than 5% for women. The final OECD top ten are as follows;

  1. Denmark
  2. Netherlands
  3. Norway
  4. Belgium
  5. Spain
  6. Sweden
  7. Russian Federation
  8. Ireland
  9. Luxembourg
  10. Germany

To check how your country fared, you can access the full report here

Topics: Work-Life Balance

Working from home on the increase despite the recession

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Wed, May 22, 2013

The number of people working from home has increased by 13 per cent in the last five years, according to a new TUC analysis of official figures to mark National Work From Home Day, organised by WorkWise UK.

The TUC analysis from the Labour Force Survey shows that just over four million employees usually worked at home in 2012, a rise of 470,000 since 2007. The South East, Scotland and Wales have seen the sharpest rise in homeworking over the last five years.

While nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of people who work from home are male, an increasing number of women are also making this career move. According to the research, the majority of homeworking jobs created in the last five years have gone to women. The rise in female homeworking is partly due to the fact that almost nine in ten (86.8 per cent) of these new jobs are part-time, says the TUC.

In addition to the four million people who usually work from home, many millions more occasionally work from home, says the TUC.

The sharp rise in homeworking in spite of the recession - which many feared would halt flexible working practices - confirms that this new way of working has become an essential part of the UK labour market. Technological progress and the rise of the services sector, where many jobs do not require specialised machinery or face-to-face contact with colleagues or customers, have helped fuel this growth, says the TUC.

Working from home

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said:

'The recession may have fuelled rising unemployment and put pressure on flexible working practices, but homeworking has continued to thrive and grow.

'Over four million people usually work from home, while many millions more occasionally do so. The sheer scale of homeworking proves how easily it can be done but there are still too many employers who are reluctant to allow staff to work away from the office or the shop floor.

'With government figures showing a further 4.5 million people would like to work from home more often there is still much more that employers can do to meet this unmet demand for more flexible working.'

According to WorkWise UK's chief executive Phil Flaxton

 'The key issues for success still surround management styles and the acceptance of change. Building a culture of information sharing and creating trust takes time and careful planning. By carefully choosing and training the virtual workforce and by structuring the organisation to make best use of its virtual employees, most organisations should be able to see an improvement in productivity of between 8 and 15 per cent.'

Topics: Flexitime / Flexible Working Hours Arrangement, Work-Life Balance, Working From Home

All work and no play is damaging family life

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Mon, May 20, 2013

According to new research a culture of 'all work and no play' is damaging family life in the UK, causing high stress levels, cutting time spent with loved ones and creating an inability to switch off from work.

The study was commissioned by health cash plan provider Medicash found that 83 per cent of working parents feel guilty about the amount of time they spend working, with 50 per cent saying it has a negative impact on relationships with their children, and almost half (45.9%), saying it caused problems in their relationship with their partner and caused them to neglect friends (25%).

Professor Cary Cooper, Distinguished Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University & Director of Robertson Cooper Ltd, said: 

"The fact that many people feel guilty about how they spend their time is hugely significant - it shows how important it is to maintain work-life balance.  The evidence shows that flexible working delivers to the business' bottom line, with employees feeling less guilty about how they spend their time and achieving a better balance between work and home commitments."

When asked how they thought it affected family life, over 50 per cent of respondents admitted to missing their child's sports day, school play or parents' evenings due to work commitments, 42.9% said they had worked through family holidays, and 58.8% admitted their children had complained about the amount of time they spent working.

Parents also said that work had caused issues with childcare, with just over 30 per cent (30.4%) having to organise for someone to collect the offspring at the last minute because they had to work, whilst 46 per cent of parents admitted to dropping children off at school or nursery when they were ill because they had to work and could not find a childsitter at short notice. Professor Cooper added:

"If we are slaves to work, our family life seems to suffer by default. We need the joint responsibility to promote a healthier, happier lifestyle; organisations must actively promote flexible working and employees need to take advantage of that opportunity - work smarter, not longer should be our mantra. Increasingly we are seeing employees turning up to work ill and delivering little added value, presenteeism does not enhance but undermines productivity."

The study also revealed that heavy workloads were responsible for increased stress levels, with over 60 per cent (60.1%) of respondents saying they found it difficult to switch off from work when at home.

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According to results, those most likely to feel guilty about working long hours are in professional services (29.3%), who were also the most likely to work on a family holiday (56.1%), and have children complain about their overworking (22%). They were followed closely by those working in finance, who were the most likely to suffer Sunday night blues (63.4%) and worry about work during the weekend (46.3%). 

"Given the pressures on people with increasing workloads, the demands by clients for the completion of work instantaneously and the ability to interface with people 24/7 through new technologies means that it is vital that people find time for their family during the weekends, family holidays and at least 2-3 nights a week - or they and their families will suffer and ultimately so will the organisation," explained Professor Cooper.

"The health implications of excessive working are very serious and should not be overlooked, often being associated with the development of health problems like heart disease, diabetes, stress and depression, which is not only damaging for personal relationships, but also the UK economy, leading to workplace absenteeism, which amounts to 10.4 million lost working days per year, costing UK businesses an average of £3.7bn each year. Keeping a good work-life balance helps both workers and businesses."

You can view the full report here


Topics: Flexitime / Flexible Working Hours Arrangement, Absenteeism, Work-Life Balance, Flexible Working

Employee Burnout Common in a Third of UK Companies

Posted by Triona Cahalane on Thu, May 9, 2013

30% of UK HR Directors say employee burnout is common within their organisation according to new research from Robert Half UK with the figure rising to more than 35% for those based in London, the South East and publicly listed companies.

Employee Burnout

The report goes on to reveal that two thirds (67%) of UK HR directors highlight “workload” as the primary reason for employee burnout, although this figure rises to 75% for large and 73% for public sector companies. Over half (56%) mention “overtime/long working hours” as the second reason followed by “unachievable expectations” (35%), “economic pressures” (32%) and “inability to balance personal and professional commitments” (27%)

According to Phil Sheridan of Robert Half UK, “Employee burnout can affect almost any professional, from top boss to rank and file employee. Many employees who have been tackling increased workloads while putting in long hours are beginning to lose their motivation at work and this is particularly challenging for accounting teams as they prepare for fiscal year-end.”

In terms of implementing initiatives to counteract employee burnout, HR directors are mainly looking at promoting a teamwork-based environment (50%), reviewing job function (45%) encouraging team-building activities (34%), providing flexible working options (34%) and encouraging employees to take time off (31%). 

Click here to read this article in full. 

Further Resources

Free White Paper: Top tips on introducing Flexible working into your organisation
Top Reasons Why US Employees Stay on the Job
Employers ‘missing a trick’ by not offering flexibility
Extension of flexible working rights is good for business

Topics: Employee Retention, Workforce Solutions, Work-Life Balance, Flexible Working

Canadian Report: Balancing work, childcare and elderly relatives

Posted by Triona Cahalane on Wed, Apr 3, 2013

Stress at Work

A recent study has found that a fifth of Canadian are working and having to care for both their children and elderly relatives resulting in higher absenteeism levels, increased stress and burnout.

It’s nothing new that people have always juggled family care with work but due to shifting demographics, challenges are escalating as the population ages, workers having children later in life, more women in the workplace and the population living longer. Additionally the recession and alternations in the labour market leave many professionals stressed and exhausted.

According to the report, carers are more likely to be absent from work, use company benefits and turn down promotions. They are also inclined to experience a reduction in productivity and decline in hours dedicated to work.

“People say they’re short of sleep, grumpy, they take it out on customers and colleagues at work. And these are our knowledge workers...who are expected to come in and be creative,” said Linda Duxbury, professor at Carleton University and co-author of the paper with University of Western Ontario’s Christopher Higgins. “This group is going to increase dramatically in size and in importance to businesses.”

The study called “Balancing work, childcare and eldercare: A view from the trenches,” focuses on highly-educated managers and professionals and is based on a national survey of 25,021 employees during 2011 and 2012 in Canada.

Employers wanting to attract and retain workers may need to adjust their strategies in order to facility the changing role of their employees to include for example more flexible working hours and employee assistance programs.

Please click here to read this report in full. 

Download free white paper: Download our top tips on introducing Flexible working into your organisation

Topics: Absenteeism, Work-Life Balance, Flexible Working

Do you think a four-day working week would work in your organisation?

Posted by Triona Cahalane on Fri, Feb 1, 2013

Gambia has recently shortened the working week for their public sector workers who now work from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Thursday with Friday’s off. President Jammeh wants the extra rest day to "allow Gambians to devote more time to prayers, social activities and agriculture".

Work Life Balance

Not surprising this isn’t the first time that a four-day working week has been introduced, for example in 2008 approximately 17,000 government officials in the US state of Utah began a 4 day 10-hour working week in a bid to cut costs. However it didn’t last and four years later the five-day week was restored.

In the Netherlands, the four day week is also popular with a third of workers either working part time or 40 hours in four days.

It highlights how far the working population has developed from the 19th Century where workers considered themselves lucky if they got Sunday off. The achievement of a 40-hour week with Saturday AND Sunday off was a major landmark for the labour movement.

There are of course pros and cons to this working arrangement, while it might save on heating/electrical bills, help with recruitment and improve staff morale, it could make life more difficult in terms of childcare issues for employees and most importantly, customer relations due to the loss of available services on a Friday.

Read this story in full

Have your say: Vote Here: do you think a four-day working week could work in your organisation?

Further News about Flexible Working & Employee Motivation & Engagement 


Topics: Flexitime / Flexible Working Hours Arrangement, Work-Life Balance, Flexible Working