The workplace is changing rapidly and smart employers are beginning to realise that working more flexibly with staff is not an indulgence, but a way to unlock the potential of their staff.
Three dominant demographic groups – women and the two 'Bookend Generations' (Gen Y and Baby Boomers) – are redefining what is expected from an employer of choice.
These cohorts are remapping participation in the workforce as they pursue meaning, choice, involvement, more tailored approaches to career planning and creative alternatives to retirement. Cultures that require the separation of the personal from the professional in order for an individual to succeed will be struggling in the talent stakes.
While companies grapple with the dilemmas of increasing productivity versus demands for new ways of working, both women and the Bookend Generations are testing the culture of ‘either you can have a career (marked by ‘working long and hard,’ ‘availability’, ‘instant response’ and ‘face-time’) or you can have a balanced life’. They are challenging what this ‘either/or’ thinking is doing to how their potential, commitment and performance is assessed and rewarded.
Dual-centric individuals see themselves as equally focused on their work and home/community lives; are more satisfied with both and do so without guilt or regret. They are healthy physically, emotionally and socially. They often have a sense of control over their life, and feel that the decisions they make are informed choices as opposed to forced trade-offs. They feel more successful in their careers, are less stressed and have an easier time managing the demands of their work and personal lives.
The business case is clear: increased productivity, reduced stress, improved morale and commitment, reduced lateness and absenteeism, increased retention, the ability to attract and recruit, not to mention good corporate citizenship and an enhanced corporate image.
Although career management has shifted from the employer to the employee over the past decade, organisations now need to understand what creates real engagement, motivation and meaningful careers. In this coming decade of skills shortages, new definitions of career, career paths and career success are needed by both organisations and individuals.
The expectation from employees will be to have access to tools, programs and coaching so they can sculpt their individual career path, be involved in career decisions and develop their own role with a work experience that provides greater levels of energy and satisfaction.
Career mapping for individuals will take on greater significance within the talent function. Strategic career planning will be a more important part of the reward/benefit mix with a greater range of services provided by employers, including mentoring to achieve promotion and energy-time management.
In the coming decade, the feminisation of leadership will be boosted by the fact that Gen Y will be entering the management suite. This is expected to create a style that is inclusive and collaborative, where personal values and purpose articulate authentic leadership.
Performance will increasingly be measured through outputs – with less emphasis on ‘face-time.’ There will be a greater focus on feedback, communication, development, knowledge sharing and networking. Work-quality will come to mean more than flexible hours. The need for interesting and challenging work remains.
These dynamics have deep implications for companies and executives alike. In a skills-driven, knowledge economy, only the nave would ignore the trends or remain unconvinced for the need to redefine the way we work.
Dianne Jacobs is a former equity partner at Goldman Sachs JBWere and founding principal of boutique consulting firm The Talent Advisors.