So here we are, Generation Z ‘mobile only enabled’, Millennials, Gen Y, Generation Slashie and the Yuccie all co-existing. In a period where consumers are more confused than ever (see PepsiCo CEO: We’ve never seen consumers so confused) you can’t help but feel sorry for the manager of the truly diverse work force. At a time when the global workforce and economies face two key issues – a labor shortage and an ageing population – the contingent workforce is set to be over 50% contract globally by 2020.
Your average worker in the next decade could have over 7 jobs. It’s an increasingly common view and one held by Anton Andrews, Director of Microsoft’s Envisaging Lab, that the jobs of the future will involve a series of interactions over an increasingly short space of time. To put it more succinctly, it’s not just the workforce and consumers that are struggling, it’s the management teams and leaders of today and tomorrow.
The workforce around the globe has found it increasingly difficult to balance the demands of work and life. Many of us are working longer hours than ever before, delaying starting families or struggling to understand how their children are going to cope financially. Herein lies one of the key issues; the multi generational workforce is now so fragmented and different that management are faced with the task of engaging a workforce with multiple priorities. This raises the question, ‘does a company vision and culture suit all, or does today’s workforce require multiple visions and sub cultures to function?’ …A question for another time.
Back to the initial idea, the millennial workforce has been more affected than perhaps the newer generations entering the labour market specifically by the economy; workers in companies that shed employees are still doing the work of multiple people. Salaries have not increased in line with costs of living. This is certainly a contributing factor, however an important point to make is that most bosses just don’t get Millennials.
Research suggests that over 80% of Millennials are engaged in a dual income situation, with both individuals working full time. With Generation X, this figure drops to 70% and out of the generation of baby boomers born just after WWII, who incidentally occupy over 60% of top management jobs, only 45% have a full time working partner. More typically, this partner will work part time and will be responsible for taking care of home life duties. This leads to what Karyn Twaronite, EY global-diversity and inclusiveness officer, sees as an empathy gap in the workplace. Her view is one that I agree with: “when there’s frustration about work-life balance in the workplace, and you think your boss doesn’t get it, that very likely could be true.’
One of the key shifts in the workplace moving forward will be around real time communication and real time tools; responsive networks creating dynamic participation. In short technology, in the eyes of a modern workforce, frees them up to work from anywhere. The traditional management, who are more accustomed to work cultures with more face time, may start to see only empty cubicles. Crazily enough, at a recent Microsoft talk the audience of leaders were informed that 60% of desks in any organisation are empty at any moment!
The modern workforce are more about social, physical face to face moments, with 96% of people wanting a community and co-working human relationships, as a community increases productivity by 20%. For companies that are desperate to hire workers, specifically Millennials, the group that is apparently the one companies are desperate to attract and retain, is the most dissatisfied.
There have been multiple surveys from the likes of EY and BCG that show what Millennials most want is flexibility in where, when and how they work. Most would take a pay cut, turn down a promotion or be willing to move to manage work-life demands better. Only in Australia does the pay issue buck the trend. As a result, a key reason for moving in Australia is increased pay in line with work life balance.
Old school management styles have led to the millennial workforce feeling that having a flexible schedule leads to negative consequences. A lack of flexibility has been regularly cited as one of the top reasons in this generation for workers to quit their jobs.
Working in recruitment in a variety of different geographical areas, one of the key requirements from the millennial workforce we see focuses around work-life balance. This was increasingly uncommon in Asia until 18 months ago. The mindset of management needs to change from seeing flexibility as making an exception to the norm. The reality is that a large proportion of management are still managing the way they have been for over a decade, and a large proportion of companies and management teams have been slow to realise that the Millenials are feeling burned out; they seek a balance that a large proportion of the newer generational workforces demand.
Today’s management teams need to navigate a tricky environment, however they also need to realise that the workforce of the future and the work of the future will be technology based, require trust, empathy, collaboration and flexibility, and that if they want to hire and retain a millennial workforce the focus is on flexibility, health and relationships in equal measure.
Rob Sheffield is Nakama’s APAC CEO and is based in Sydney.