New priorities for 21st Century employees

In an age where the concept of a job for life often seems a quaint and outmoded notion, it is only natural that employee needs are going to change with the times too. Of course, a good financial package will always be a major driver in attracting and holding on to key personnel, but a new picture of employees is emerging that suggests that it is the more subtle benefits that can really make a difference to an attractive role.

Does your company take steps to reduce its carbon footprint? Does it offer a flexible hours policy in line with today's wired generation? What about sabbaticals and a set of values that a new recruit will take as their own? For the 21st century employee, it seems that money alone can't buy you professional love.

Corporate Social Responsibility, a policy on environmental impact and a greater focus on occupational health and work/life balance are just some of the issues proactive HR professionals face in creating a culture attractive to tomorrow's talent.

The rise in number of company employees who now spend all or part of their week working from home, for example, has risen sharply over the past seven years, from one million in 2000 to approximately 3.5 million today. This transition, often requested as part of a package these days, represents a fresh management challenge to the Human Resources sector, although not one without its benefits to both productivity and reduced overhead.

As the average life expectancy increases, it is quite possible that an individual will have more than one meaningful career within their lifetime. It is the job of intelligent HRs to try and accommodate that eventuality, possibly through an evolved skills and training programme that both harnesses and develops a talented employee's skills through the differing stages in their professional cycle.

A more diverse workforce will also present challenges of a sophisticated nature for companies intent on maximising their output within a truly global marketplace. There can be no doubt that diversity brings a wealth of benefits to any company, although getting the mix right will be a significant and enduring aspect of a 21st century HR's role.

It is clear, as always, that the types of benefits, culture and opportunities offered to employees will dictate where the talented ones will remain, although it is also apparent that the definition of those benefits and opportunities are changing rapidly. In an increasingly candidate-driven marketplace, companies need to carefully define their offerings and take an innovative approach to recruitment. Time to move with the times.

Sarah Hayes is a freelance journalist specialising in the HR and recruitment sector.