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?

The Connected Generation – Is Your Organisation Keeping Up?

The connected generationThe Next Generation of workers has arrived. And they are expecting to be connected anywhere, anytime to all the information they need, at work and at home. They are more than happy to access business information via their own personal devices and rather than being tied to desktops and laptops – their mobile devices are the primary technology used for the majority of their communications and information to support productivity at work.

Managers and employees increasingly expect to have the freedom to manage and work ‘on the go’; utilising their time efficiently and maximising productivity. And with more employees demanding a flexible and balanced work life, one way for employers to enable this is by embracing the mobile technology that is now available. Flexible working practices can mean less overheads and improved employee engagement for many organisations. Mobile technology will also support a more agile workforce – one where managers and employees on the frontline are able to respond in real time to the changing needs of their business and customers – allowing them to approve requests for more hours, respond to absence and share information quickly and easily wherever they may be.

With mobile technology becoming more widely available, affordable, reliable and secure, workplace culture is experiencing a tsunami of change.  And as long as organisations have the right technology and IT infrastructure in place there is little to hold back the tide. Those organisations that don’t move with the times will be left behind and have to deal with disengaged employees, gaping skills gaps and will lag behind competitors who embrace the new age.

Mind The Gap – Rising To The Challenge Of A Multi-Generational Workforce

generation-divide-shutter-ubj_280I noticed that there has been coverage in the news this week about generational conflict in the workplace. Older workers are not retiring and there are more over-50s than ever at work, and, I am happy to say, they are increasingly being seen as vital contributors who will help fill the skills gap in the UK. At the same time as older workers are staying in work longer, Gen Z employees (born after 1996) are now entering the workplace. This means, for the first time, there will be 5 generations of workers that employers will need to manage and motivate. This multi-generational workforce, according to a nationwide report by KPMG could create conflict, with younger workers feeling deprived of career opportunities as their older counterparts work on past the statutory retirement age.

And when it comes to workforce planning, it looks like employers are now being squeezed from both sides; by older workers who want more flexibility and have a higher focus on the ‘life’ end of the work life balance and at the other end of the spectrum, Gen Y and newer members to the workforce, are also expecting the same flexibility.

To add to the pressure, the Government is also actively encouraging an ‘agile workforce’, one that is highly flexible that will help UK businesses remain competitive with a raft of legislation that supports more flexible working practices.

Employers are now expected to rise to the challenge of managing these complex workplace tensions and expectations whilst maintaining high levels of productivity and engagement in their workforce. To do this employers should understand that each generation has its own preferred communication style, values and feedback requirements. Generational conflict will occur when communication and engagement break down. Employers will, therefore, need to work to bridge those gaps through communication, culture and engagement, and a flexible working environment will go a long way to helping meet those diverse generational demands.

The challenges of any multi-generational workforce shouldn’t be underestimated – but with the right tools , good communication and an understanding of the value each generation brings to the workplace – businesses can benefit from a rich and varied workforce that will work happily together to fully meet their organisation’s needs.

Find out more in these white papers:  ‘The Ageing Workforce’  and ‘Reaping the Rewards of Flexible Working’

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.

The Big Issue of Work-Life Balance & How An Agile Workforce Will Help UK Recovery

WorkLife BalanceI want to thank everyone who participated in the holiday poll last week; it would appear that I have some very hard-working blog followers. The poll showed that around 45% of respondents don’t take all their leave entitlement – that is 20% higher than the official research which is slightly worrying!

Flexible working, as well as taking time out to enjoy friends and family would probably go a long way to addressing the issue highlighted in a recent survey carried out by totaljobs.com, that 66% of UK employees are dissatisfied with their work/life balance with  42% saying that the stress of work affects their home life!  

So it was with some relief I read in the Telegraph this week that a group of 22 senior executives from Britain’s largest organisations, including BT, Ford, ITV, B&Q, BP, Citigroup and Tesco are ready to commit to flexible working for their staff. As you know, flexible working is high on my list of ‘hot topics’ for organisations to consider – not least since I know that it is now easier to manage flexible working practices and that it can bring all kinds of benefits to UK businesses and makes them more competitive.  

It seems that there has finally been a shift away from the long-held business opinion that flexible working is a cost to the organisation or merely an ‘employee perk’. The change of view has been driven, in part, by a McKinsey report, commissioned by the Agile Future Forum (AFF) that found organisations with an agile workforce can cut workforce costs by as much as 13%. This is on top of the benefits of employees that are better engaged with their work.

The AFF, lead by Sir Win Bischoff, Chairman of Lloyds Banking Group and set up 18 months ago to look at transforming traditional working practices with a view to boosting the UK economy,  is  very keen to promote the benefits of an agile workforce. It has laid down some basic principles around flexible working, the first of which is to ensure agile working policies come from the chief executive, not human resources, to ensure they are business-driven. The second is for bosses to fully engage staff so they can understand what will work; some will want to work weekends or evenings or fewer hours, in exchange for flexibility.

It seems now may be a good time to ask the  boss if would be ok to move to a 3-day  week so I could spend more time on the boat – not sure that my request will be granted but I will let you know how I get on. As always I would welcome your thoughts and comments.

Flexibility wins over employees across generations – Employers are you listening?

Flexible WorkingAccording to a recent survey carried out by PwC across their global workforce (44,000 employees); Generation Y workers (employees born between 1980 and 1995), would choose workplace flexibility, work/life balance and the opportunity for overseas assignments over financial rewards. As this generation will make up 50% of the working population by 2020, PwC believes it is vital organisations understand this generation and realise they may have to completely re-think how they attract and manage their workers or risk losing talent to companies that do adapt.

The impending skills gap, when more employees will be retiring than entering the workforce, plus the increase in the numbers of workers at the peak of their career having to balance the demands of work and caring for both a younger family and ageing parents also means it will become more important than ever for employers to fully engage their employees in order to reduce the effects of these pressures and offer flexible working.

With flexible working moving ever higher up the agenda for many organisations, it does look as though employers are getting the message. Some research carried out by XpertHR has found over 3/4 of responding employers grant between 75% and 100% of requests from employees to work flexibly, while almost half said that up to 20% of their employees already work flexibly.

It is widely acknowledged that flexible working improves employee engagement and reduces absence but it is important that it is managed in a way that is fair and unbiased if you don’t want to breed resentment in your organisation. It has to be available across the organisation from ‘shop floor’ to senior executives. It is no longer acceptable for senior executives to have their own unofficial flexible working pattern whilst other employees are expected to work 24/7.

By supporting flexible working with a real-time, effective workforce management system, employers will find it much easier. Some of the issues cited by employers like the complexity of scheduling working hours, making it seem fair and equitable and tracking employee hours worked can all be addressed with the help of an automated solution that can provide both managers and employees with information whenever or wherever employees may be working.

Work Your Proper Hours Day – What’s the state of your work-life balance?

WYPHD Clock When did you last work your proper hours? Today is Work Your Proper Hours Day, the day when the average person who does unpaid overtime finishes the unpaid days they do every year and starts earning for themselves. More than five million people in the UK regularly do unpaid overtime, giving their employers a staggering £29.2 billion of free work in 2011 alone. So, whether you are an employer or employee it is worth taking some time today to consider work-life balance and how well you are managing this.

If you want engaged, fully productive employees, managers should be able to identify those employees who go the extra mile and those who are struggling under the weight of their workload. A workforce management solution gives you a real-time view of employee hours worked that will enable you to make better informed decisions with regards to employee recognition, scheduling, training and HR policies. Find out more about improving work-life balance and how you can better manage your people to achieve this, whilst still meeting your business objectives, in this white paper about Employee Engagement. The TUC workSmart website also has lots of useful information for employers and employees as well as an unpaid overtime calculator you can use to find out when you start your paid hours.

So today make sure you take your breaks, stop work on time, and have a think about your work-life balance – remember high levels of productivity aren’t always down to working long hours and can be counter-productive to your health and well-being.

Why not let me know your thoughts on the UK’s reputation for working long hours – do you think it should be discouraged? What would you spend those extra two months of the year doing? Leave me a comment I would love to hear.