Feb 23 2016

The future workplace – what will it look like?

FullSizeRender[16]This post is a summary of the key points raised by author Jeanne Meister of Future Workplace in Blessing White’s webinar The Future of Leadership: Preparing for the Future Workplace aired in January this year. You can watch the hour-long webinar and download the slides here.

The themes raised are based on research (cited on the slides) into the evolving workplace and the emerging challenges that brings for Human Resources, Learning and Development and Leadership Teams. Jeanne argues we are in the midst of a revolution with changing workforce demographics and the explosion of free or low cost online content, which means organisations are being forced to consider new strategies for how they acquire, develop and retain the talent they need to deliver their strategic goals.

The Rise of Generation Z in the Workplace

The first area she covers is the rise of Generation Z in the workforce. Over the next 10 years they will increasingly form a larger percentage of the global workforce and together, with the rise of the Millennials to leadership positions these two generations will form an estimated 60% of workers by 2025.

This means a different type of leadership and workplace culture will be required. Jeanne provides examples of how certain companies are already reaching out to develop partnerships with middle school pupils through the use of internships and partnerships with schools and universities. An example she quotes is organisations developing competitions aimed at creating an interest in developing STEM skills.

One of the characteristics of Gen Z is they are hyper connected as they have been brought up with tablets and sophisticated mobiles. They are also known to be entrepreneurial and they differ from other generations as their focus is on developing their personal portfolio. This focus on personal growth means they have high expectations of themselves, their organisation and their career. The global research cited showed many expect to be a manager within five years.

An interesting point she makes is that because this generation spend so much time on technology providing opportunities for face to face mentoring and meet ups will become important. Some organisations are encouraging affinity groups for informal innovation and networking.

In essence, Jeanne believes that acquiring, developing and retaining talent will take a very different shape over the next 10 years.

The Gig Economy Worker.

Next, she covers the predominance of freelance workers in the job market. Many people are now leaving their full time position and retiring early from their corporate career to go freelance. The research cited found the average age of a Gig Economy Worker is 49 years old. The increase in the speed and accessibility of technology has allowed them to do this.

The implication for organisations is that they now have access to a global talent pool and can do more on demand hiring rather than recruiting full time employees. This entrepreneurial approach is a big motivational driver for Millennials and Gen Z and many may not be available as full-time employees.

Jeanne also argues that even full-time employees will be looking for more innovative ways to spend their time at work. Organisations such as BMW have created their own internal innovation centres, sometimes in partnership with universities, to provide these entrepreneurial opportunities and stretch assignments for their internal employees.

Another growing trend is ‘career mobility try outs’. This is where an individual keeps their current role but is given time (eg 5 hours a week) to try out something else within the company. This gives them a taste before they decide whether or not to make a move and in addition, expands the depth and breadth of their skill set.

Growth of Workplace MOOCs

There has been an explosion in the number of Massive Open Online Couses (MOOCs) now available either for free or very low cost. In 2015 there were 500 universities and 35 million students involved or enrolled in MOOCS. Jeanne suggests that learning and development professionals should be asking themselves “What is our MOOC strategy?” “How do we curate all of these open, online assets and align them with our current learning and development offerings?”

For example, she wonders how many companies know how many of their employees have taken MOOCs under their own steam? She believes this data something organisations need to recognise and capture on their employees’ profiles. Some people propose that MOOCs are just another form of elearning but Jeanne disagrees; she states that the new blended approach of videos, group discussion, badges, peer reviews and potential meet up opportunities go far beyond traditional elearning technology in its current format.

There are possible barriers such as concerns about data security but organisations such as McKinsey, Comcast, Microsoft AT&T and LinkedIn are already delivering workplace MOOCs to their employees and this webinar covers some of their case studies.

In conclusion, the theme of this webinar is that things are changing and HR, L&D and leadership teams need to take note and think about new ways to connect with their younger employees. Creating innovation centres, hiring freelancers and curating organisational-specific MOOCs are some of the ideas discussed.

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