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The multigenerational workforce

How have the expectations of the workforce shifted and what will the expectations of the next generation be? In the latest episode of our Humanising the Future of Work podcast series, our host Daniel Hind discussed these interesting topics with our experts: Lauren Coe, Manager and Future of Work Lead at Deloitte, Francesca Dale, Senior Consultant at Deloitte, John Baddeley, Director at Deloitte and Rhiann McCurdy, Senior Analyst at Deloitte. Find out what they had to say.

How have expectations of the workforce been shifting?

There has been one significant shift which we have to call out, and that’s an increased focus on purpose and societal impact. This is an overarching cross-generational theme which touches upon the wellbeing of employees and the impact an organisation has on society as a whole.

Rather than being top down, we are seeing a shift in organisations focusing on employee experience, belonging, collaboration and leadership; thinking about all of these aspects of work with a purpose lens.

Fostering a sense of belonging is critical to this. Employees want their employers to have the same kind of values as them and be representative of their own individual purpose. They want to understand how their role and the work they do impacts the organisation. Having a sense of belonging and understanding the impact you have at work will also impact retention, it’ll make you stay at an organisation for longer.

Building on this trend, and supporting ‘purpose’, is having aleadership team that is approachable. Younger generations tend to have high expectations for the role that managers and top line leaders should play in an organisation. They should be visible, approachable and transparent. Ultimately, they’re the ones who are setting the organisation’s culture.

Also, having the opportunity to learn every day is important too, and again more prevalent in Gen-X and Gen-Y. These workers don’t want to be pigeon holed into one role, or have one niche set of skills.

Changes in the actual workplace…

The physical workplace itself has shifted in intent, from a place where work is done, to a place where workers collaborate. Additionally, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the workplace. As organisations continue to face the ongoing challenges brought about by the pandemic, flexible working is expected to stick – and organisations are talking about the fact that their employees can now work from home for the rest of their lives if they want. They don’t need to come into the office. So actually, the future office environment is going to be really interesting. We will no longer come into the office just to sit at our laptops and work. We will come in for a specific purpose, and the majority of that purpose will be socialising, networking and collaboration.

We do still have a responsibility for the younger people coming into the workforce, to ensure that they’re still getting the right training and the right support as they’re going through their early careers. The workplace of the future is going to be a road map of discovery but we must recognise that employees will have their own individual needs – one size does not fit all. The workplace will have to flex for this.

There have been some positives that have come out of working remotely during COVID-19, and one of them is workers feeling empowered about having more autonomy and more control over managing their own time. Thinking about how people no longer have a long commute and can now use that time how they want, either starting work earlier, doing exercise, spending time with family. It’s this flexibility and empowerment to say “this is my time, I know what I need to do for work, but I know what I need to do that is good for me”. This has a positive impact on wellbeing.

What does the workforce expect from leadership?

As mentioned already, it’s really important for leaders to be personable. That’s a key attribute, especially for young people - millennials the Gen-Z - as they are coming into a workplace without the expectations of a hierarchical or bureaucratic organisation.

Young people want their manager to be a role model and to provide opportunities to shine and to step up. If a leader or manager can spot that opportunity for their team member to perform at their best, and to seize the day, this is the best type of manager to have. And finally, somebody that you can have fun with and laugh with, who takes an interest in both your work life and personal wellbeing. These are the types of managers who will be able to understand how to get the best out of their team – they will find out what motivates you, what drives you etc.

So personable leadership/management is vital, but empowerment is also growing in importance within the workforce. Workers want to feel empowered and that they can decide on their skill sets and the areas they want to develop. To be able to have empowerment over your own career and also be able to empower your team will make an impact.

Nurturing talent within the business

Leadership should be thinking of employees as individuals as well as collectively. A big part of nurturing talent is “coach rather than manage”. To advise in the right way, without telling. You can feel when you’re doing it well, and you can feel when you’re not doing it well. And sometimes when stress levels are high you can switch into tell mode. But you know when that’s happening, and you recognise it. I think it’s something that we need to be conscious and aware of but especially management and leaders.

There has been a lot of improvement in leadership behaviour over the years. And in particular, in the reduction of poor leadership behaviour i.e. zero tolerance policies to stamp out undesirable behaviour. Hopefully progress in this space is reflected in how much people enjoy their day-to-day working careers.

Expectations of future generations coming into the workforce

If you think about younger brothers, sisters, or friends who are in their teens at the moment, what do you think will be different about their expectations when they join the workplace?

Right now, all the babies that are born, are born into a world where technology is taking over everything, and it plays such a key role. You’ve got iPads and mobile phones to play with when you’re really, really young! This means the digital aspect of a career will be huge. Not only in attracting new young candidates into an organisation, but also in retaining them. A key consideration here is employee experience. We have brilliant consumer grade experiences where we’re using between 10 and 20 apps a day on our personal phones. Organisations need to make sure they’re providing a similar consumer grade experience for their workers every day. We can’t put down our amazing digital tools, and all our cool apps, as soon as we step into the physical or virtual working world. We need to make sure we’re enabling future talent pools and current talent pools to do their best job at work, and to enjoy work, by improving digital experiences.

It’s also really important for younger generations coming in to the workplace to feel the organisation offers them an opportunity to thrive, and really gives them support around wellbeing. Organisations have a bigger responsibility to support their workers with personal issues and life moments. Future organisations need to do more than just provide an opportunity to learn and have a diverse career.

Finally, it may be that in the future there will be a big shift inthe overall role of higher education and the connection between higher education and the working world. Organisations can help young people to fund their education, and make a commitment to them early, which would be advantageous for the company, for careers, and for society as well.

What disruptions could impact the workforce over the next five years?

The common theme we’re seeing is flexibility and the workforce craving more flexibility. One of the biggest considerations going forward is for organisations to understand who their workforce are. Not just the different between generations but their background, what motivates them, what drives them, and what’s their expectations about working and interacting with an organisation in the future? Understanding this is going to set organisations apart in terms of attracting talent, retaining talent and continuing to improve employee experience.

Finally, theclosing point will be on climate change. We’re at the very early stages of working out how to deal with it. And it’s quickly shifting from being societies problem to a genuine business problem, with significant risk associated with it. This pendulum shift is significant. We’re going to see much more around climate change over the next 10 to 20 years.

For more Future of Work insights, check out our Humanising the Future of Work podcast

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