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Inicio  /  Blog  /  Worker Identity: How people think and feel about the work they do, every day

Worker Identity: How people think and feel about the work they do, every day

ADP article

To better understand how people think and feel about the work they do every day and their sense of identity in relation to work, ADP sponsored extensive field research to learn directly from the workers themselves.

A report was developed for anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the social and cultural forces that shape workers, work and livelihoods.

What did we learn?
Based on conversations with a wide range of people, each of whom has graciously shared how they think and feel about the work in their lives, we have identified four territories that we believe are worth mapping.

The world of work is evolving rapidly.
How people work, where they work, why they work, when they work, and what they believe about work are questions with many different and dynamic meanings. Over the past few years, people have reflected deeply on the role of work in their lives in the shadow of social unrest and a global health crisis.

We know that people have been unequally impacted.
Many continued to go to a physical workplace with all the risks and anxieties this produced, while others were able to experience the benefits and burdens of working remotely. Hybrid work is now a buzzword, but also a reality that applies to some and not others.

What do we know about the ways in which workers "navigate" and reflect on "the world of work"? What is this world? What is work?
This report is for anyone interested in gaining a deeper insight and understanding of the social and cultural forces that shape workers, work and livelihoods. Based on conversations with a wide range of people, each of whom has graciously shared how they think and feel about work in their lives, we have identified four territories that we believe are worth mapping.

Cuando un antropólogo cultural y un etnógrafo empresarial han decidido reunirse para colaborar en un tema de investigación relacionado con el trabajo y la identidad, no es fácil saber por dónde empezar. Primero, es un tema enorme. En segundo lugar, se puede abordar de muchas maneras y desde muchos ángulos. ¿Cómo descubrimos más sobre las formas en que las personas piensan y sienten sobre el trabajo? Todo comienza con la identificación de las preguntas que creemos que son más relevantes al tema y a las personas que tienen perspectivas interesantes y que están dispuestas a compartir con nosotros.

It is within the spirit of this tradition as participant-observers that we attempt to make sense of the cultural dimensions that shape work and workers' attitudes toward them. We have been rewarded with both deep and everyday perspectives. Over time, as the conversations continue and new patterns emerge, we hope to return to share this growing body of knowledge.

We find that people want to work and deeply value work, but they are rethinking their relationships with employers and jobs.

The place to start is by discovering the broader cultural trends, how and why our relationship to work is changing.

The new research identifies four (4) key territories of worker sentiment, which are:
  • Time: owning the 'when' of work. What matters to us as humans has changed. People are reprioritizing how much time they are willing to devote to work and how much to "everything else." Who owns our days? Who owns our time? How do we improve the use of time for the benefit of workers? Are we paying people for their time or something? Is time the best measure of value? Are there ways to give people more control over when and how they work? Have we asked the people who do the work if there is a better approach? Do we know what people want?
  • Risk: Staying with one employer for too long. People no longer see having a job as a way to reduce risk and increase security. Instead, they value independence, autonomy and freedom. How to optimize decisions. Choices being made. Why does embracing risk feel like the best option for some? Career choices are often tied to financial security. But we have matured in our understanding that nothing is certain. The business world is moving in more nimble ways, often at the expense of employee security. People are redefining what occupational risk really means. Is it a greater risk to be employed in one place than in three? Is it riskier to work for someone else or for yourself? Is there more risk in staying in one place or changing jobs every few years? These questions are being asked in earnest by today's workers.
  • Humanity: depletion, social problems and systemic change. People are trying to make sense of their place within larger social structures and examining the structures themselves. This, in turn, invites new interpretations of our existing models of work, jobs, companies, power and leadership. Who do I work for? What contribution do I make? How does this respond to societal needs? People want to join companies with which they share value systems. Do people understand how their work makes a difference to the organization and our customers? Do we encourage people to do more of what they love and are good at? Do we reward making a difference or primarily aim for efficiency and productivity? Do we let people know they are important? Do we reduce people's stress at work or through policies or benefits? Do our words and actions match? Are we more concerned about compliance than a culture where people are seen, heard and valued? What is more important than helping our people thrive?
  • Relevance: the effects of digital tools Technology changes faster than people. While the goal of most technology companies is to make things easier and better for people, the relentless focus on efficiency and productivity in technology sometimes loses sight of the humans who use it. The relationship between people and technology. The digital and the analog. What systems do we have and what are they designed to do? What do they do? Are our systems delivering the results we want? Are there results we want that don't have systems or incentives to do them? What do we measure to determine progress or success? Are our measures based on what is wanted or what is easy to measure? Do our KPIs reflect what is important to the work, the business, and the humans doing the work? People of all ages and occupations are feeling the pressure to stay relevant in the face of increasing technical expertise, automation and rapid digitization. In the face of these realities, what does it mean to be a relevant human being?

In March 2020, organizations learned that they could do things in new ways, including some they didn't think were possible. Workers learned that, too.

Many of us realized that work is not a place where we have to work.; we could work wherever we are. For those of us who continue to work on site, we learned how vulnerable we are. We all began to reevaluate what it means to feel safe and what it is like to protect ourselves. 

What we're seeing is a shift in the relationship between work and workers. It turns out that we don't really have to keep doing something because that's how we've always done it - all sorts of new things and options are possible. While the temptation is always to go back to "business as usual," that's really our human desire to get comfortable and know what to expect. But humans are also creative, curious and adaptable. It's time to apply that to the way we work. This is a unique opportunity for organizations to ask themselves how they do everything.

Work is fundamentally about creation, value and exchange. How can we design our organizations to optimize the human experience?


About ADP and Advice
Serving more than 990,000 customers (companies) in 140 countries, ADP has the experience and scale to support organizations of all sizes, across all industries. ADP pays more than 39 million workers worldwide and 1 in 6 workers in the U.S. on a monthly basis. With integrated technology platforms, data analytics and guidance strategies across all aspects of human capital management, ADP is focused on shaping the future of work.

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