Workforce 2020: are you prepared?

Millennials are increasingly defining the workplace, and they want connectivity and flexibility. Here are three things businesses can do to keep up.

The workplace as we know it is undergoing one of the most significant and fundamental revolutions Australia has ever known. In just six years’ time there will be very few 'Baby Boomers' in the workforce, most having retired during the previous decade. Our senior leaders will mostly be made up of Generation X, with Generation Y nipping at their heels.

But the greatest change that will take place between now and 2020 is that for the first time, there will be more 'Millennials' in the workforce than any other generation.

This will herald one of the most substantial shifts that has ever taken place in our society. It’s quite literally the moment when people and technology collide.

It is the next Y2K for technologists and unless we take similar steps to prepare our organisations in the few years we have, the risk -- though less immediate or catastrophic than what Y2K promised -- is far more insidious as it threatens the organisation from the inside out.

The Millennials are a generation that has never known a non-digital world. They started work at a time when working remotely -- and around the clock -- as well as intense competition for the best roles, defined the commercial environment. This brings a new set of challenges to the workplace as Millennials demand connectivity and flexibility.

So how can organisations prepare for the rise of the Millennials? To take advantage of this opportunity, and to really engage the best of this generation, managers must do three things.

Reimagine HR practices

We are already seeing a transition towards a new way of working. By 2020, the new generation will have a perspective of the working landscape that is centred on what they can offer an employer -- not necessarily what an employer can offer them, which was the viewpoint of previous generations.

We will also see a shift towards greater flexibility in regards to employment. A world where employees invoice businesses rather than earn a salary. And where the best and brightest will showcase their body of work in a portfolio, not a CV.

By recognising these changes now and implementing processes towards a more flexible working environment, you are beginning to position the organisation to attract top talent in years to come.

Get smarter about data

Right now, LinkedIn probably knows more about your staff than you do. Historically, we have only collected minimal information about our employees -- for instance, their name, address and bank details, just to name a few data points.

Savvy businesses are realising this needs to change as the new wave of workers expect a level of understanding and personalisation. This means executives need to plan how their businesses can take a similar approach to data collecting giants, such as Amazon and Facebook, to work out what drives and excites Millennials and supports them to work to their full potential.

Shut down the ‘Sunday/Monday’ crisis

Sunday/Monday is a phenomenon with which Millennials are only too familiar. It refers to the dread they have when they have to return to their job on Monday after a weekend using intuitive consumer devices, only to arrive at work and be faced with extremely outdated technology.

Put simply, this dynamic is a motivation killer for Millennials. And it means businesses need to be planning now for how they can put in place an ongoing people and technology strategy so that the tools available to Millennials match the intuitive, easy to operate devices they use on a personal level. The rise of BYOD is a direct response to the Sunday/Monday theory.

I cannot stress enough how important it is for businesses to decide now how they will tackle the people/technology nexus that will define the workforce in 2020.

Those businesses that act early will be able to attract, engage and retain the cream of the Millennial crop, but we need to start planning now. Those that wait too long to prepare risk missing out on attracting this talent and will find it harder to compete in an already ruthless marketplace.

If you can remember Y2K then you’re probably not a Millennial, but you will recall the fear and apprehension that prevails in the years leading up, and the planning that went into ensuring it was a “fizzer”.  Start taking steps now to work out how you can optimise the people/technology connection so your organisation shines in 2020 and beyond.

David Guazzarotto is CEO of Future Knowledge.

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