Is Technology The Only Differentiator In The Workplace Of The Future?

millennialsOne of the topics that currently fascinates me is the generational changes that are forecast in the workplace.  Jon Andrews a partner at PwC and head of its HR Consulting practice in the UK, recently contributed an article in HR Review in which he states that by 2020, millennials (people born between 1980 and 1995) will represent more than half of the working population in the UK and one of the major differentiators between millennials and previous generations is their use and knowledge of technology. He believes that, for the first time, older people will be turning to younger people to learn from them in the business world.

However, he goes on to say that it is not only technology that differentiates this younger generation – millennials also expect rapid career progression, a varied, interesting career and plenty of feedback, and research has backed this up, showing that the millennial generation place higher priority on workplace flexibility, work/life balance and the opportunity for overseas assignments over financial rewards, when compared with other generations.

And apparently it isn’t just younger workers reshaping the workplace. In the UK, where there is no default retirement age and a phasing out of final salary pension schemes is in progress, the older generation will be extending their working life and it won’t be unusual to see a 17 year old and a 70 year old on the same team; presenting real challenges for managers and HR. Understanding inter-generational and individual differences and, in particular, what motivates people will become increasingly important and organisations will have to respond to an individual’s needs in order to get the best from them.

It seems, in the face of these changes in the workplace, if  employers want to get the best from their employees, they will have no alternative but to offer more flexibility and choice in working practices and opportunities. The more organisations can personalise value propositions for each employee in terms of what matters to that individual, the easier it will be to keep them engaged so they can retain and motivate their employees.

With more flexible working practices for individuals – it will become crucial for employers to have an accurate record of hours worked and the ability to schedule employees in the most cost effective and productive way possible. Technology will play an important part in this revolution and I am happy to say that the technology already exists. I believe it will be crucial for both small and big businesses to take advantage of the latest Human Capital Management technology if they wish to keep up with the changing face of the workforce.

As both a manager and an employee, this topic will be something I will continue to follow with interest and if you have any stories to share or want to comment on any of the issues – I would be interested to hear from you. What kind of flexibility would you like to see personally? Do you believe that inter-generational tension will become an issue? What steps has your organisation taken or is planning to become a more flexible employee?

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