Companies and employees alike are figuring out how to adapt to continued innovations and changes to the workplace. Work is no longer an office where you sit from 9 to 5 every weekday. But what do these changes to the workplace mean for employers?
My friend Lindsey Pollak has partnered with The Hartford on its My Tomorrow campaign, which aims to educate workers on how they can protect their paychecks through things like disability insurance so that they can stay on track with their finances. As part of the My Tomorrow campaign, Lindsey has written a trends forecast that offers employees and employers advice on how to adapt to the workplace of the future. I sat down with Lindsey to hear about what employers can do to continue to attract and retain employees despite changes in the workplace.
We all talk a lot about the new generation of workers entering and changing companies. How do you explain the way Millennials, or Gen Y, are actually changing the workplace?
Millennials are 80 million strong, which is bigger than Boomers, who come in at 76 million. This giant generation – what I call a tidal wave – is expected to comprise almost 50 percent of the workforce by 2020. The younger end of this generation are landing their first jobs while the older end are married, with families, holding managerial positions. Millennials grew up adapting to change, know little else than having technology constantly at their fingertips, and have seen innovations transform society out of nowhere (think Facebook or the iPod). They are taking this mindset and applying it to the companies they work for.
When you say “apply it,” what do you mean?
As Millennials take on leadership roles, they are making changes that align with the mindset of their generation. Perhaps that’s rethinking the recruitment process or implementing innovations for business operations. But, more immediately, it means that Millennials who are looking to advance their career expect certain things, based on their experiences and overall changes in our culture, which employers haven’t had to be prepared for with other generations.
What are these expectations, and what do employers need to do to meet them?
In my first Tomorrow @Work trends forecast with The Hartford, we cover trends in the workplace that are directly related to the changing generation dynamic. The first trend is that employees see flexibility in working arrangements as an essential, not a perk. With all the technology available, work is no longer a place. That means employers must define and clearly communicate about “expected work,” particularly if it is beyond the traditional 9-5 workday. It might vary for employees at different levels, roles, or locations. Are managers expected to be reading and responding to emails 24/7? What activities would count as overtime? And what personal activities (personal phone calls, online shopping) are acceptable during work hours? I’ve found that Millennials like flexibility but welcome some direction. One example would be a manager allowing her team to work remotely for two days a week, but the entire team being present in the office on Mondays for the weekly update meeting.
Millennials have grown up with customization their entire lives. They have started looking for job opportunities that are tailored for their personalities, interests and goals. To respond to this expectation, employers can consider asking employees where in their jobs they want customization, within reason. For example, could employees have a small say in their own job descriptions? Can you crowdsource the next change to the office workspace?
Any other takeaways?
Definitely! Social media is an increasingly important recruiting tool and is not going away, so employers should use employees as the company’s brand ambassadors on social media. Companies can help their employees be good ambassadors, such as offering training on professional use of social media. I’ve found Gen Y workers are comfortable with using social media personally but can benefit from advice on how to use social media professionally to advance their career.
Another big trend is the fact that today’s workforce is comprised of multiple generations. You could have up to three generations of workers in one location, team or project. Think of the 18-year-old bagger working at a supermarket alongside a 60-year-old greeter and both managed by a Gen X-er. Good news is, The Hartford’s research found little friction among generations. In The Hartford’s 2013 Benefits for Tomorrow Study, 90 percent of Millennials agree Baby Boomers bring substantial experience and knowledge to the workplace, and 93 percent of Boomers believe Millennials bring new skills and ideas to the workplace. Employers can capitalize on that by implementing co-mentoring programs, in which employees of different generations share knowledge. And make sure to have each generation in your office present for discussions around company policies and key decisions.