In part two of Chris Merrick’s look at generational difference in the workplace he focuses on flexible working and technology.
Although millennials are widely known for desiring flexible working in their jobs, they are not the only generation that wants it integrated into their usual working practices. The ability to tailor flexible working in terms of location and hours is one of the main keys to unlocking millennial satisfaction in the workplace. The chance to move working hours, for example, starting later or contributing to hours at night are some of the ways that individuals would like to work flexibly. In fact, a substantial amount of intergenerational employees would be willing to sacrifice pay and promotions in order to facilitate flexible working.
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Further to this, our Workforce Horizons1 report found that 92 per cent of HR and resourcing professionals believe that flexible working will be key to attracting new talent by 2025. Businesses that offer their workers the freedom to have a flexible working schedule stand a much higher chance of not only attracting but retaining top talent. Not only does this help promote satisfaction amongst employees, but is a sure fire way to tackle skills shortages within an organisation too.
That said, there has been a widespread discussion about how businesses are going to adapt to meet expectations around flexible working and technology. It is crucial that businesses keep an open mind about agile working. Giving employees the choice and tools they need to work in a way that suits them are key to promoting a satisfied workforce.
It is also fair to say that flexible working is not the answer to all business challenges. Some companies work in capacities where employees need to be geographically aligned from an operational perspective. Other companies will expect their business partners to be working similar hours to them. This is why, in some cases, the option of agile working is not as available as one might want, as it is not set by the individual employees or the employer, but rather by the end client.
Working in an office environment can also give employees a greater chance to form bonds, bounce ideas around or rely on each other at short notice; something that would not be as possible if employees were working remotely.
Technology that enables productivity
In order to enable flexible working, businesses need to make sure that their employees have access to the right technology. Alongside this, they must ensure that all staff know how to use these tools effectively. From video conferencing and instant messaging to iPads/tablets and VPN systems, employers must ensure that they combat any intergenerational issues which may arise from the type of technology they use. For example, older colleagues might be used to long-standing conference call systems, and be reluctant to learn and incorporate new tools into their working routine. Younger colleagues, on the other hand, may have so many apps that others find it hard to keep up. The way to handle these situations is through knowledge sharing sessions such as the mentorship programmes we have already mentioned, one-to-one sessions or regular formal training. This will ensure that all employees are on the same wavelength and business processes can run smoothly.
The bottom line for employers when trying to create a harmonious, productive work environment, is to not to feel threatened by the multiplicity of generations in the workplace and view it as an opportunity. Welcoming the diversity as a chance to harness a range of perspectives and skills will make employees feel more included and appreciated.
It is, however, important that younger workers come to the workplace with an expectation to make changes themselves. Not every role can be done in a flexible manner, or be carried out within the hours the employee wishes. The key for businesses is not to dwell on the differences between the age groups but choose to focus on and reward their individual skills and outputs, irrelevant of their age or experience. Above all else, keeping an open mind is key to understanding how to manage multiple generations in the workforce. With Generation Z expanding the number of age groups we will be incorporating, lets utilise this time to address and change the culture across our business to make it suit all generations, not just focus on adapting our approach to capture the new one