RMIT Online Reveals Why Employees Don’t Want Free Lunches 

RMIT Online Reveals Why Employees Don’t Want Free Lunches 
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

There’s a long-standing myth that the modern workforce can only be won over and retained through ‘perks’. An office ping pong table. A well-stocked beer fridge. Friday afternoon drinks and so on.

But according to a new RMIT Online report, over half of employees say they would rather receive additional workplace training (worth $1000) than free daily lunches.

One in five respondents even chose the training over a pay increase of $50 per week—especially significant, since some rough, back-of-the-napkin calculations suggest this would net much more than $1000 over the course of a year.

The truth is employees need to upskill in digital literacy 87 per cent of jobs in Australia now require digital or tech-related skills—and they expect their employers to facilitate that learning experience. This isn’t just important for employee development, but also for businesses’ bottom line.

Employee dissatisfaction translates directly into lost revenue. According to research out of the US, 63 per cent of companies say that retaining employees is actually harder than hiring them. Employers spend about $2.9 million daily looking for replacement workers, and roughly 100,000 to 120,000 people quit their jobs every day in America alone.

If companies want to retain talent and minimise costly attrition, they need to see staff training and development as an investment, rather than a cost. Australia is going to need 156,000 more digital technology workers by 2025, and 50,600 Australians already report lacking the necessary skills or education as their main barrier to finding work.

We’re caught in a cycle where companies need to manage digital transformation and reskill their workforce, but employees lack the confidence and necessary skills to effect that change. Employees grow dissatisfied and leave for greener pastures, or better opportunities, and companies struggle to find skilled replacements.

Only education and digital literacy can break this circle. The scary thing is, over half of employees surveyed by RMIT Online claimed to have no access to employer-provided training. There’s a gap between what companies want to achieve, and what they’re willing to invest.

And that’s a shame, because investing in staff training is not only good sense, it’s good business. In 2014, HR Magazine found that companies who invest $1,500 per employee per year on training average 24 per cent higher profit margins than those who don’t. They can also generate a 6 per cent higher return for shareholders.

Training can even benefit the wider economy. If Australia can address the digital skills gap, it will turbocharge the economy, and help businesses in the technology, media and telecommunications industries grow by $10 billion by 2025.

“Four in five Australian business leaders agreed that adopting new technologies is critical to achieving business goals, and yet employers are also facing difficulty obtaining technical skills like 5G, blockchain, AI, machine learning and data analytics,” RMIT Online CEO Helen Souness said.

“Australian employers across industries need to prioritise training and upskilling. This includes shifting their perspective on training to consider it as a core business activity, rather than a nice-to-have.”

Employees instinctively recognise the value of digital literacy training, which is why they’re turning away from attractive but ultimately superficial ‘perks’, like free lunches. Staff satisfaction isn’t tied to shallow lifestyle or culture benefits anymore, it’s about future-proofing your career and forging a strong connection to your workplace—people tend to invest in organisations that invest in them.

They want to know their skillset isn’t slowly becoming redundant.  There is also a noticeable shift in education offerings to meet this changing mindset. Universities like RMIT Online are offering short, future-focused courses in areas like digital marketing and data analytics to quickly upskill people in targeted and emerging areas.

Mark Levy, former head of Employee Experience (EX) at Airbnb got it almost right when he said, “Anything that sets employees up for success or improves our culture should be part of EX.” The only word to change there is “or”. Setting employees up for success is improving company culture. They’re one and the same thing.

And as we move into an uncertain future of automation, tech literacy, global recession and digital transformation, free lunches just aren’t going to cut it anymore. Development and training are the new ping pong table.

Want to learn more about training for the jobs of tomorrow?  You can check out RMIT Online’s Ready, set, upskill report here.

Featured image source: Getty/JohnnyGreig

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