Changing the way we work: 2020 and beyond

By Sam Obafemi, Client Relationship Manager at Profusion.

There is no doubt 2020 will see the continued proliferation of digital solutions for the workplace. The effect of modern technology on work has, so far, been defined by an accelerated working environment. Instant communication, automated processes and remote working have fundamentally shifted the way employers and employees operate.

Today’s workforce is multigenerational at a time when technology has only heightened the generation gap. The different needs, beliefs and backgrounds of each segment of the workforce will need to be managed for companies to be successful. Ultimately, though, the focus should be on millennials and Gen Z to drive change.

  1. Silent – 1928-1945
  2. Baby Boomers – 1946-1964
  3. Generation X – 1965-1980
  4. Millennials – 1981-1996
  5. Generation Z – 1997-2012
  6. Generation Alpha – 2013-2025

Baby boomers

Research suggests that, of all the demographic cohorts, baby boomers are the most likely to have faith in an organisation’s strategy. They also NPS score more highly on engagement when compared to millennials. This is a key battleground between the two generations, with attitudes to work changing as rapidly as the technology that underpins it. Millennials are inclined to question traditional practices and ways of working, preferring to find new working practices. The end goal, ultimately, is a reduction in stress and mental burnout.

Millennials

Millennials, unsurprisingly, are more likely than their boomer counterparts to work in the technology sector. This has a defining impact on the technology created. Having grown up alongside the development of mobile phones and broadband internet, millennials are comfortable with rapid change to the technologies they employ, something older generations can struggle with by comparison.

New ways of working

Organisations have quickly learned that, to get the most out of the technologically fluent generations of today, they should incorporate a large degree of flexibility into their working practices. In these environments, employees are invited to contribute more directly than in the past, with buzzwords like ‘innovation’ defining the era. In 2020 and beyond, organisations that adopt this approach will reap the benefits of a workforce that feels valued, with a vital part to play in enacting change, testing practices, questioning inherent beliefs and driving a new vision.

The nine to five working day may also need an upgrade. Eight hours of sitting at a desk in a given day does not necessarily indicate productivity, and the correlation between output and time taken should be a metric used to shape change. The employees I envisage in the future are full of energy and ideas, emboldened by freedom and autonomy. The strict time stamps of the past could be a limiting factor in achieving optimum output, and employers should consider reassessing the structure of the working day.

The challenge for leaders wanting to enact change will be existing legacy structures in place, hierarchies and received wisdoms to overcome to cater for a changing workforce. Much like the latter half of the millennial generation, Gen Z is not interested in laborious documentation and historic processes. They to follow natural leaders, where authority is derived from mutual respect and sound leadership. Leaders that accept novel approaches to work and are willing to adapt will thrive. “We already know how to ride the bike, we just want to make the experience of riding the bike better”. We all want to be motivated by trust, autonomy, empowerment and, most importantly, a career that enriches us.

Change is inevitable

Social norms are changing, advancing more rapidly than in previous eras. Millennials and the generations that have succeeded them want traditional barriers to be removed and replaced with an open door to explore. Organisations will need to define their ‘company mission’ and start to really listen to the people that drive the success and values of the business. It will be interesting, a few years from now, to see what collaboration in a flexible working environment looks like for big tech companies.

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