The 2020 Workplace

"The 2020 workplace will be fluid, diverse in age and ethnicity, flexible, collaborative, mobile, global, and above all, hyperconnected. Get ready to live it."

- The 2020 Workplace, page 233

The 2020 Workplace is a must read book that maps outs what innovative companies should do to attract, develop and retain great talent by highlighting real-world organisations already working towards becoming tomorrow’s workplace of choice.

Observing increased pressure within businesses’ operations to balance multi-generational employees working with evolving digital technologies, the authors Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd, founders of Future Workplace and experts in recruitment, have written The 2020 Workplace to help workplace transformation.

Combining insights from their exclusive “The Generations @ Work” and “Workplace of the Future” surveys; together with findings from more than 50 leading-edge case studies, it is packed with best-practice tips and strategies centred around talent management, learning and development and leadership practices to give businesses a competitive edge.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Age diversity is a good thing

"Employers who adapt the fastest to a multigenerational workforce will be able to attract the highest-quality employees when the war for talent is in full swing."
- The 2020 Workplace, page 44

So here’s the thing. The generation balance in your company is changing right now. That means you need to explore the challenges of having an age-diverse workforce coexisting in the workplace. You need to consider the best way to develop company-wide support for the different communication styles, career aspirations and collective knowledge sharing benefits that a diverse workplace will bring.

According to the authors’ extensive research, innovative companies successfully working towards an environment focused on talent management are offering new future employees of all ages and backgrounds (Generation 2020), a deeply personalised and engaging work experience, putting their business at a distinct advantage in the new world of work headed our way.

Here’s a snapshot of the five generations that Meister and Willyerd believe will be actively collaborating in our 2020 workplace.

  1. Traditionalists: Fiercely loyal workers born before 1946 who defined innovation by the arrival of the fax machine.
  2. Born between 1946 and 1964, the Baby Boomers are influenced by events like Woodstock and the JFK assassination, while the personal computer was a key technological moment for them.
  3. Generation X, the self-reliant group representing 1965-1976, were exposed to MTV, the AIDS epidemic and the invention of the mobile phone.
  4. Millennials: hard-wired into technology since birth (1977-1997), their digital skills are inherent.
  5. Generation 2020 are approximately 15 years of age today and have grown up in a hyper connected world.

Consider your workplace diversity.  What do your co-workers care most about at work? Findings from the The 2020 Workplace reveal that members of all these generations have three distinct, common needs. They want to feel valued, empowered and engaged at work. They need their business leaders to feel confident in their ability and effectiveness in their designated roles and job functions.

Getting your company’s multi-generational workplace transformation underway begins with understanding the ten forces shaping the future workplace today. These include:

  • Shifting workplace demographics
  • The knowledge economy
  • Globalisation
  • The digital workplace
  • The ubiquity of mobile technology
  • A culture of connectivity
  • The participation society
  • Social learning
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Millennials in the workplace

Diversity is a great thing. Businesses who can make it a priority to appreciate the individual characteristics of each generation and find a way to successfully communicate with different employees will be having a positive impact on future employer-employee relationships.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Build (and share) a social media strategy

"Creating an environment that is collaborative, authentic, personalised, innovative and social, requires leaders whose management behaviours create and reinforce that environment."
- The 2020 Workplace, page 187

It’s incredible to think that there are still companies around the globe restricting their employees’ access to social network sites. The authors reason that businesses who continue to enforce complete lockdowns will definitely impact profitable recruitment of top talent, while forward-thinking companies will “attract new employees, develop new skillsets, support team knowledge sharing, drive collaboration and improve innovation” by leveraging the power of social media.

Why do you need a social media strategy for future success? Simple. At the time of publication, two-thirds of the total global internet population were members of a social network. In fact, a 2009 Nielson Online report in the book reveals that web-based communities and blog content is now more popular than email as a form of communication.

Uber-connecting your organisation is a fantastic concept. The foundation for successfully connecting your employees is ensuring you have a sound strategy in place and you can get started today by using Future Workplace’s easy 7-step framework:

  1. Strategy > Identify business drivers
  2. Alignment > Form a coalition of stakeholders
  3. Choices > Host a social media boot camp
  4. Implement > Create a launch plan
  5. Fast Start > Develop a pilot offering
  6. Communicate > Design a communication plan
  7. Measurement > Agree on metrics

Without doubt, identifying what your company wants to achieve (step 1) by starting on this journey, will be the single most important step of your social media strategy. Uber-connection will absolutely change the way work is done within your business. You will be offering your team the opportunity to be social via an interactive, real-time, engaging environment.

We know that Gen Xers and Millennials bring digital expectations to the workplace. So it makes complete sense, heading towards 2020, for you to introduce and drive social technologies in your workplace that encourage employees of all ages and qualifications to have conversations with each other, share ideas and experience, brainstorm new products and services, and proactively contribute to business proposals and initiatives driving business growth.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Be socially responsible

"The quickest way to kill your brand is to communicate externally something that does not resonate internally…"
- The 2020 Workplace, page 84

Just as social interaction is driving learning, corporate philanthropy is now business-driven and integrated into the social, ethical and environmental agendas of many companies. This is known as corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Commitment to CSR was one of the top ten factors that influenced all generations’ choice about a potential employer according to the Future Workplace “The Generations @Work” survey.

To build your reputation as a brand whom future employees will feel certain prioritises being socially responsible, start by selecting a specific social issue (if you don’t already have one) and then highlight your company’s ongoing obligation to CSR as part of your core business strategy, not just a gimmick. Be clear on what your CSR is, define how success and effectiveness is measured and be inspiring in the way you communicate your commitment.

As an alternative CSR approach, create a policy that allows employees a set amount of days in personal time each year to volunteer with an organisation of their choice. This option will encourage people and teams to share how they are giving back to the community, visibly positioning your brand’s reputation as being invested in not-for-profit programs.

In the workplace of 2020, an increased focus on people, planet and profits, also known as the triple bottom line, will become a key element for businesses to appeal to and keep hold of new hires.

The 2020 Workplace was published in 2010, and you will notice that some of the USA-centric reference points and “trend” mentions are outdated largely due to our technological, hyper-connected world that is moving so fast. However, the authors’ acknowledgement that “there’s little that can be said with certainty about the future except this: sometime over the next decade your company will be challenged in a way for which it has no precedent” rings true as we head towards 2020, a mere four years away. Is your business ready?

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Kate Cadet

ABOUT Kate Cadet

I have built my sales, advertising and marketing experience across a successful career spanning more than 16 years. Having been employed by world renowned, innovative companies including Hallmark Cards, Sanpellegino, Fairfax Media (SMH, The Age), NewsCorp (The Herald Sun), and Newsmodo; delivering exceptional results for my clients' products and brands is in my corporate DNA...
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