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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The ‘Me, Me Generation’ Have Come Of Age

Gen YOver the last few weeks it’s been really interesting  observing the increasing amount of media coverage about generational differences in the workplace and how employers can keep their multi-generational workforce engaged and motivated.

Statistics suggest that 50 per cent of UK employees will be Millennials within a year. With the Millennials (also known as Gen Y – a generation that were born between the early 80’s and early 2000’s) now flooding the workforce and who will  soon be occupying more senior roles in businesses – it seems an appropriate time for businesses to take a closer look at how they will the meet their needs .  Think about this, the first Generation Y CEO (born after 1980) to lead a British FTSE company is expected to be appointed by 2016, according to Deloitte’s Upwardly Mobile report.

Millenials are often labelled as the ‘me, me’ generation who have an inflated sense of entitlement and believe there is nothing to learn from the older generation. And according to an article in IoD Connect, it seems, now we are getting to understand them better, they have been misunderstood and many people will have to change their views.  It appears Gen Y are actually a happy, ambitious and vocationally-minded workforce. Based on the finding of the City & Guilds organisation’s edition of its Career Happiness Index, Millennials are ‘positive, high-aiming, go-getters, who are eager to learn’ (as well as being ‘tech-savvy and hyper-connected’!), and if this is true I can’t see any organisation having an issue with a Gen Y workforce.

But as with all employees – how they are managed and treated by their employers can make the difference difference between having a productive fully engaged and motivated workforce or one that is disengaged and unproductive. So how can employers keep this high-flying generation engaged?

  • Positive Feedback – if your Millennial does something well –tell them.
  • Training/development – they are highly ambitious generation – help them achieve those ambitions and retain good talent.
  • Challenge them as individuals and teams – Set them tasks/projects that mean they have to solve problems or learn new skills.
  • Create a positive and inclusive environment – Millennials want (as we all do) to be happy at work – so help ensure that the workplace is a good environment to be in.

With two successful Gen Ys still living with us, I’m possibly risking family harmony blogging about this subject, here’s hoping not too much, as we might need looking after in our twilight years.

Working with a Well-Connected Generation

Millenial GenerationMillennials. Generation Y. Call them what you like, but employees born in the mid 1980s are making up a significant chunk of today’s workforce. They’ve never known a world without mobile phones, bottled water, chat rooms and next-day delivery. And their attitude to work and the workplace is somewhat different from those held by the Baby Boomer generation. The Facebook generation has brought increasing expectations to the workplace and workplace technology – and to ensure our future success, we need to understand what motivates them and how to manage them.

Here are some tips to managing Millennials in the work place.

Have a strategy for recruitment

The most successful organisations have strategies for recruiting and retaining Generation Y employees.

Social media as a recruitment channel is now expected, as is an interactive, engaging corporate website with video testimonials, 360 degree views of the workspace, clear careers opportunities for graduates and school leavers, policies on remote working etc. But do give some thought too to dress code, career paths, flexible working opportunities, enabling a work-life balance, and your policy on bring-your-own-devices to work – all important to this group of employees.

Don’t ignore mobile technology

According to research by Cisco in 2012, smart phones now rival laptops as the device of choice for Generation Y – with 60% of young people admitting they compulsively use them for updates. Generation Y employees have grown up with technology and rely on it to do their jobs better. If you don’t already have a policy for employee’s bringing their own devices to work (BYOD), then adopt one – it’s a growing trend and here to stay.

Offer a better work-life balance

Today’s younger workers have a very different view on where the line is drawn between home and work. Mobile devices mean that they can pick up and send emails any time of the day or night, from wherever they are – and most are happy to do so, but they are also demanding a better work-life balance and more flexibility. Technology can help you to capture and record employee skills and working preferences and then use this data to set their shift patterns – a level of flexibility that can be highly motivating for younger employees.

Invest in Self Service Technology

Workplace systems are often light years behind smart phones, tablets and the latest laptops. Millennials expect their business applications to be as intuitive as their iPhones. They thrive on sourcing information themselves. Ensure therefore that the company intranet site is a valuable source of information for employees. And where possible, think about the significant number of HR admin queries that could be avoided if staff had mobile access to request holidays, review payslips, swap shifts, view organisation charts, complete employee surveys and manage their reviews.

Better Analytics means more informed feedback

Generation Y employees are hungry for feedback – they want to know how they are doing and they want to improve. Harnessing your mountain of HR data and using it to highlight development opportunities is critical. Leveraging workforce analytics to measure the result of work is key to high quality individual feedback. Millennials accept the need for performance measurement and they have an expectation that managers will use the data to address issues in the workplace

Understand what’s working and what isn’t

As well as Generation Y employees liking feedback and they like the opportunity to give feedback. If you are not already doing so, consider a regular employee survey to understand what’s working, what’s not and how to change things for mutual benefit.

Know what’s fair

Older generations might be less vocal about covering for absent colleagues, colleagues who arrive habitually late or those that seem to take more than their fair share of sick days. Generation Y employees are less tolerant and more vocal about unfair working practices. Ensure that your working practices are fair and equitable and that your absence and sickness policies are communicated. Consider rewarding good attendance or high productivity – time off is a great motivator to the Generation Y employee.

Attracting skills into your organisation

As the baby boomers retire, and more are retiring than the number of new people entering the workforce, you need to have a strategy to attract skills into the team. Millennials are very aware of the current economic woes and when searching for employment, focus on organisations with a good fiscal track record and those that are environmentally responsible. If you want to attract top talent ensure that you publicise these attributes 

Support a Group culture

Generation Y love collaborating and working in groups, a culture instilled in them throughout their school years. Unlike independent Baby Boomers who tend to want to take on a particular assignment work it through and report back to a meeting of their peers, Millennials would rather work through the assignment as a group. Find ways of using technology to support this way of working Have a company presence on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter for example and think about ways in which your business systems can interact through this media.

Harness free thinking and innovation

If  you’re doing something one way because that’s the way it has always been done, think again. Generation Y bring a new way of thinking to a business. They will ask questions at all levels that other generations would never ask. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring these questions as noise from the ‘y’ generation. You might just miss an innovation that the business can harness for greater success.

Generation Y workers are tech-savvy workers and different for sure. Changing the way you do business and the way you manage, recognise, and reward your employees is essential not only to your success in recruiting and retaining Generation Y workers, but to the future success of your organisation.

Is your organisation meeting the cross-generational needs of your employees? Let me know your thoughts.