There is a new breed of employee becoming established in the workplace. They learn and communicate in a different way, with a growing emphasis on collaboration. They question the traditional paradigms of where, when and how they work. They have a more values led approach to work and a more socially conscious way of thinking. But why?
Due to the impact of technology.
Technology has shrunk the globe, made information freely available, altered how we communicate and fundamentally changed people’s behaviour. Initially it was Millennials who demonstrated this ‘new’ behaviour as they grew up as digital natives and did not know any other way of behaving, but now this mindset change is growing amongst older generations as technology permeates more people’s lives in and outside of work, giving rise to the modern employee.
Businesses must recognise and respond quickly to this rise of the modern employee, otherwise they face becoming irrelevant and uncompetitive. With this in mind, what are the mindset changes of modern employees that businesses need to be aware of?
1. THE WAY THEY LEARN
Modern employees no longer need to have such a deep and instant understanding of a subject unless they are a time critical specialist (e.g. Doctor), as they can now easily get access to the world’s bank of knowledge via the internet. This instant access to information has changed how many people learn, with more people now having a breadth instead of a depth of knowledge. This access to information also changes how modern employees can evolve their career as they can easily learn new skills online – for example, I originally learnt how to create websites by using YouTube and other internet sources. As such, the new skill-sets that are now prevalent and required in the digital age are to be good at interrogating information in terms of its accuracy and bias, joining the dots between disparate sets of information and interpreting it back into the work environment.
2. COLLABORATION & COMMUNICATION
We are in a world of always on communication and social media. Instant updates where everyone is an author and has the ability to express and share their latest thoughts with the world in seconds. The whole notion of ‘social’ media is about sharing and collaboration and is an innate behaviour outside of work amongst modern employees, yet inside of work communications are often governed by strict rules e.g. You cannot talk to X until you speak to Y first or you need to have three meetings first before you can share this idea any further. Outside of work information is shared, but inside of work it is held back. This is why new business communications tools such as Slack are growing so quickly as they address this very issue. Businesses need to recognise this disconnect and adopt new technology and ways of communicating that fit the behaviours of modern employees.
3. WHERE THEY WORK
With widespread accessibility of new technology and connectivity, it means the modern employee can pretty much work anywhere and still do their job. With the increasing adoption of teleconferencing whether this is Skype or the more professional offerings, fast broadband, wifi hotspots and 4G tethering, the notion of going into a fixed place of work to do what you could do at home seems outdated. Sure there are some jobs where this is not possible and the element of team work is crucial too, however businesses need to recognise that employees can have a much better quality of life and in turn be much more productive and loyal if they are offered flexible working options and do not have to be office based 100% of the time.
4. WHEN THEY WORK
In an environment where employee’s personal computers and home broadband are as good if not better than what they have at work, and the fact that most employees are accessible via their smartphone at anytime of the day, the notion of having to come into work between 9 and 5 is no longer applicable. The reality is that different people work better at different times of the day or have different lifestyles and schedules that they need to accommodate which traditional work schedules do not cater for. Also, in jobs that require an element of original thinking, being able to switch on creativity between 9 and 5 is simply not realistic. Therefore the ability to work remotely with a flexible work schedule, where your work is judged on the value you deliver and not the time spent in the office is what is needed by modern employees.
5. ACCESS TO NETWORKS
In the past, the opportunities that were available to people were heavily influenced by their personal network. This is why so much weight is put on getting into prestigious schools, universities and companies as they will give people access to a network that could benefit them in future. However, the internet has now ‘shrunk’ the globe and made access to a diverse range of networks much easier, especially from an employment perspective. Now it is much easier to find like minded people, get insight into what working for a certain company is really like and discover new job opportunities (or even have jobs find employees) than ever before. In an environment where modern employees can search for new jobs and seek out new opportunities with just a few clicks of a mouse, it means businesses need to do more to cater to the needs of their employees in order to keep them, otherwise they will start to look elsewhere simply because they can.
6. BROADER PERSPECTIVES
In the past, information was dictated largely by the mainstream media, primarily TV, radio, newspapers and academia. However, a lot more information is now freely available across the internet allowing anyone to access and see first hand, footage of atrocities on the other side of the world, the plight of one group of people to serve another or to hear opinions that are against the mainstream. With such widespread access to global content, it has broadened the collective perspective of modern employees as they are seeing things they may have never seen in the past. This has made them more aware of their impact in the world whilst also making it harder for the traditional gatekeepers of information to cover things up. The impact of this on the attitudes of the modern employee is significant in terms of shaping how they live their life and the way they want to work, which is why there is now such a shift towards more socially, ethically and environmentally orientated businesses.
Sadly many businesses have failed to realise this growing mindset change, or even worse, if they have realised it, they have decided not to do anything about it. The result is that workplaces are still operating under old systems and thinking that were relevant to the pre-digital age but not for the needs of the modern employees that now work within them. This is leading to high levels of employees becoming disengaged, unmotivated, unproductive, unhappy and leaving as soon as the opportunity arises. Businesses must adapt to the impact technology is having on the mindset of modern employees. And fast!