How prepared are our organisations to usher in the next-gen workforce

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Most organisations are ill prepared because they are structured to respond to a very different set of business conditions than the ones we face today.

There is a new storm brewing. Is your organisation ready?

With the emergence of more social and collaborative ways of working, organisations need to relook at their hiring, on-boarding and employee-engagement practices to remain relevant as a brand of choice. The newer technologies and applications are already reshaping business as much as the new workforce.

This next-generation workforce is clearly different from its predecessors — in terms of age distributions, wider geographical spread, uneven skill distribution and more varied in what they want from work and what they find engaging and motivating. Most organisations are ill prepared because they are structured to respond to a very different set of business conditions than the ones we face today.

In the past, the primary challenges faced by almost all businesses centred around ensuring profitability, better margins, higher utilisations, happier investors and delivering services or goods at low cost-better quality. But the future lies in creating a differentiator in the ability to attract and develop employees with both the skills and desire to adapt the business to rapidly changing customer demands and expectations in a VUCA world.

Organisations can be ready for the future workforce by adopting any of the following approaches, which can vary from industry to industry:

Relook at processes, systems, structures and policies with a new lens: The company needs to allow for transparent collaboration systems, processes and policies through every stage by making it more open to anyone who is interested using blogs, chatbots, mobile, wikis and chats to stimulate conversation. Leveraging intelligence requires building your organisation’s ability and willingness to share information, ideas and insights productively. The ability to collaborate can be a powerful competitive advantage—but doing it successfully requires the right systems.

Accept that employee experience leads to customer experience: Many of us are talking about employee engagement and the intrinsic link between engagement and productivity. Many organisations are struggling to embark on the journey to increasing engagement levels to create a more well-rounded and happy employee experience (EX) at work resulting in customer experience (CX). Companies are utilising the latest new-age technology at the workplace to enable engagement across levels. Relook at how experiences at every stage of the employee lifecycle could be improved digitally. How can companies mirror the interface and experience that we are familiar with as consumers, and how can we apply this to HR— from recruitment of new talent to self-driven on-boarding and ongoing development.

Sahana Shankar

Digital tools have made it easier for leaders to access the workforce. Use frequent interactions to create a constant feedback stream in between scheduled performance reviews. Provide everyone with opportunities to learn and develop. They should always feel that they are working towards something greater, and they should clearly be able to see where their development plan is taking them.
Building capability with a liquid and contingent workforce: Build excitement and understanding about work, leaving approaches open and creative. Increasingly, work for your organisation will be done by individuals who are not considered ‘employees’.

The workforce will include individuals with a diverse array of work arrangements, some part-time, some cyclical, some full-time, some contract-based—a dizzying array of relationships between businesses and those who perform work. Today, there are many options to employ individuals who are not employees in the traditional sense. In the process, these contingent workers offer companies lower costs, increased flexibility and access to skills that are not available or difficult to develop inhouse.

Increasingly, contingent work is a choice being made by the individual, for a variety of reasons. Just as in the film industry, where individuals come together only when needed for a specific project (rather than remaining on the studio’s payroll when their skills are not in demand) we have started seeing a similar model at the workplace.

Leading with purpose: The generation of digital natives wishes to work for an organisation with a larger purpose. Articulating the organisation’s reason for being and connecting that to a sense of purpose will help attract talent that resonates with that purpose. A purpose becomes the focal of interest. It is important to demonstrate organisational integrity by being considerate, accountable and transparent. Organisations need to act as custodians with an emphasis on collaboration and trust.

Understanding that EQ is needed more than IQ: Darwin’s notion of ‘survival of the fittest’ applies to every facet of human life. As it is always said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” This is where emotional quotient (or emotional intelligence) kicks in.

EQ is measured by one’s ability to perceive, manage and express emotions in a controlled manner. This is the need of the hour in a fast-phased VUCA world. With the gig economy and a contingent workforce coming in, working together to deliver projects, collaborating for specific milestones and the ability to relate, connect and manage uncertainties, EQ has become the new IQ.

Making technology a part of DNA: Today’s increasingly digital world makes possible the ability to optimise a number of business processes that are typically conducted manually. The next generation comprises digital natives surrounded by technology. Leveraging technology not just for your employees but for customers, vendors partners and other stake holders is the key. The best way to assimilate next-generation workers into the workplace is to offer them systems that are more engaging and easy to use.

The next-generation workforce is the one that can truly put technology to work to solve customers’ problems and drive unique experiences. It is a generation committed to innovation and collaboration and holds the desire to work in partnership with the customers to help them deliver on their mission. The disruptive demographics of a multigenerational workforce are set to change the workplace. Employers who opt for new approaches to management, benefits mix, engagement and leadership building will stand to gain from a three-generation workforce that is engaged, energised and experienced.

(The author is AV-P & head of HR, Paladion Networks)

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