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7 Ways Consumerism is Changing the Workplace

Posted by Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan on 10 Aug 2017
How Consumerism is Changing the Way We Work


Choice. Transparency. Personalization. Immediacy.  The benefits of being a modern-day consumer. We live in a world where we get exactly what we want faster than we ever imagined possible, while our devices tell us what we need before we know we need it. Technology has not only transformed the way we consume information and purchase goods and services, but has also given us the power to become more savvy, educated, and discerning – all on our own terms.  Most importantly, it’s redefined how the consumer-provider relationship is built, maintained and destroyed.

And now that technology-driven tidal wave of consumerism is transforming the way we work. 

Here are seven ways it’s changing the workplace and the role HR plays in it.   

  1. It’s all about employee experience
    The era of the employee experience is here. And fulfilling it doesn’t mean checking the box on a fun company culture with the latest perks. Employee experience is the unique and evolving composite of your organization’s culture, brand, technology and tools, benefits and environment – and the way your employees relate to each.  Most employees come to work because they need to.  Think of employee experience as the why employees want to come to work for your organization.  

  2. The division between work and life is rapidly disappearing
    It’s no longer about work-life balance, it’s about work-life integration. The lines between when and where we work continue to blur.  Alongside, comes the expectation that the nature and types of consumer experiences we’re used to having outside of the workplace should be the same inside the workplace, too. 

  3. It’s not about what your “employees” want - it’s about what Bob S., Mary T. and Sue D. want
    Like the Cheers theme song reminds us, “you wanna go where everybody knows your name.”  The concept of workplace individualism extends far beyond organizational demographics; it’s about a meaningful dialogue with each person that leads to a better understanding of their needs and wants. This dialogue includes recognizing what enables employees to work their best by offering them choices: flexible work arrangements, a range of options to help them recharge, or alterations to the physical environment of your office (open spaces for active collaboration vs. the option of private spaces for focused, individual work). 
     
  4. Technology is king – and key to making it all happen
    Whether you’re looking to deliver personalized communications, boost wellness, get a better read on employee satisfaction, or simply be faster in responding to HR requests, technology is a key partner in the execution of a successful employee experience. From mood indicating survey tools like KeenCorp, to well-being solutions like VirginPulse, to the use of gamification technologies to enhance recruitment, training and retention, the options are endless.  Online learning tools like Lynda, Coursera and Skillshare are also rising to the forefront as employees demand more opportunities to develop skills. Personalization, rapid response and access to every part of life via a device is what consumers have come to know and expect – now it’s time for the workplace to deliver the same.   

    RELATED: 9 Ways to Gamify Your Wellness Programs


  5. HR needs to put on their marketing hat – permanently
    In her Forbes article, “Consumerization of HR: 10 Trends Companies will follow in 2016,” Jeanne Meister defines the consumerization of HR as referring to “creating a social, mobile, and consumer-style experience for employees inside the company.” To do this well, HR professionals must become savvy marketers. Understanding how to identify needs, segment audiences and communicate successfully with employees is key.  Adopting the main tenets of marketing, and applying them to your HR communications strategy (particularly with the help of social media, mobile apps and video) will help ensure that HR is in the employee experience driver’s seat helping deliver the right message using the right vehicles.

  6. It’s time for companies to find a voice, stand out and be real about it
    Brand matters. As does standing out from the crowd. And being authentic.  The consumerization of our workplace is requiring that your internal brand is just as strong as your external brand.  Employees want an employer that differentiates itself, upholds its brand promise across all areas of the organization, and is both authentic and transparent.  Not only is brand differentiation and adherence integral to employee experience, it’s also critical when attracting new talent.

    RELATED: 10 Key Questions to Ask About your HR-Brand Partnership

  7. The benefits menu needs to have something for everyone
    When it comes to benefits, employees are demanding more choice. Not only are there five generations in the workplace, but every individual’s needs vary based on life events and phases. Diversifying your menu of benefits, offering choice, and keeping it iterative and adaptive, helps assure employees they have options that respond to their needs now and in the future.  It’s this consumer-driven experience of anticipation, personalization and immediacy delivered by an employer that will help keep employees both satisfied and loyal.


Consumerization of the workplace is here to stay. Making it work for your organization includes utilizing available technologies, thinking in innovative ways about how you train and structure your HR team, and collaborating with key stakeholders like leadership, IT, marketing and facilities.  And no matter how much consumerization dictates change in the workplace, it will never overshadow the voice of its most important force – your employees. 

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