The following blog post is part 2 of a 3-part series, which is adapted from a speech given by Harlan Schafir (CVO, CEO of ExactHire and Human Capital Concepts) at the Collective Alternative Executive Speaker Series on September 17, 2015.
A new generation of workers rapidly entering the workforce is one thing, but when that generation is huge, and it enters the workforce at the same time as another huge generation exits, the stage is set for a seismic cultural shift.
And I think many small- to medium-sized business owners have already felt the tremors of this shift. Over the next decade, organizations will increasingly grapple with the challenges of work culture, as the Baby Boomers retire and the Millennials make their mark on the nature of work and the workplace.
Yesterday and Today
I’d like you to think back to ten years ago, 2005, and consider what the average workplace was like then for small- to medium-sized businesses.
In general, the employees all lived within the same geographical location. They worked 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM in the office. They had a desk, they punched a clock–or at least clicked it. They still filed some work in folders–or at least to the folder in their desktop computer. When they left the office they were done with work.
Today, an organization’s employees can be spread across the country and, in some cases, the world. Full-time, telecommuting workers have increased by more than 80% in the U.S. since 2005 according to 2012 Global Workplace Analytics study. And a 2014 survey by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) indicates that 59% of companies are offering at least part-time telecommuting.
This flexibility in work location has given rise to flexibility in working hours as well. Flex work schedules empower employees to arrange their work schedule in a way that helps them balance commitments at work and home. Some organizations are even going so far as to offer unlimited Paid Time Off…that’s right unlimited PTO!
Technology Driving Change, Blurring Lines
The current change in the nature of work and the workplace has been largely brought about by advances in technology. Cloud-based software and storage solutions mean that workers are no longer reliant upon the office desktop computer or file cabinets to access their work. With a laptop or even a smartphone, employees can communicate with colleagues, access shared files, complete sales transactions, and conduct virtual meetings from anywhere at anytime.
So what’s happening more and more today is that workers are transitioning from a work/life balance mindset to a melding of work into life, work-life. The two are no longer weighed against each other or separated by the punching of a time clock. This mindset drastically changes the dynamics of the workplace and, thus, work culture. Organizations that foster and support “work-life” will stand to gain a competitive advantage in talent management, but it is imperative that they first consider the impact such a change will have on their existing work cultures.
Sea Change In Work Culture
I believe that the majority of business leaders in our country are aware of the changing nature of work and the workplace. I am less confident that these same leaders have considered how embracing these changes will impact their work culture. Sure, organizations may be introducing elements such as flexible work arrangements and telecommuting as part of their work culture, but how many have fully established them?
The reason I bring this up is that, while many organizations are testing the waters of this oncoming sea change in the nature of work and the workplace, they will very soon be engulfed by it. This is because, over the past decade, changes in work culture have largely been a matter of choice for employers, but going forward they will be demanded by a workforce that has new expectations of its employers and more options for employment.
According to the Intelligence Group, their survey of Millennials found that:
Want flexible work schedules.
Want “work-life integration”.
A Culture That Accommodates All Talent
With so much competition over talent it’s understandable that organizations could decide to change whatever it takes to attract the type of employees required for continued growth. However, there is a danger in a “whatever-it-takes” approach to adapting work culture. The danger is twofold:
- Drastic change to attract and accommodate new talent (Millennials) can alienate existing talent (Baby Boomers) and disrupt existing culture;
- Your organization could miss the opportunity to build a framework for managing future growth and change (Generation Z or Baby Boomers forgoing retirement).
So, yes, adapting work culture is a solution to managing talent and removing it as a constraint to growth, but it is not a simple solution. Business leaders would be wise to first consider the nature of their existing work culture–what makes it work? what is lacking?–before making changes that could eventually disrupt operations and, ironically, lead to increased turnover.
ExactHire provides hiring and employee onboarding solutions to assist organizations in attracting, hiring, and retaining talent. To learn more about how you can leverage our SaaS solutions to optimize your talent management efforts, contact us today!