The 2020 Workplace – Leading With Focus on Technology and Adaptability

Evolution is another word for ‘adapting to change’ and thriving and evolving to the next level of success.

Diverse industry workers have experienced more change or evolution in the past five years than their parents experienced in a lifetime. Technology has increased the speed of work and has caused an increase in the pace of how we do our work. The workplace is evolving due to shifts in values of the Generation Y (those in their 20’s) and the Millenials (those under 20).

Generational values differ among all of the Generations and are also contributing to the fast pace of change. Zoomers (baby boomers who refuse to age and those in their early 50’s to late 60’s) and Gen X (those in their 30’s to early 50’s) are feeling the pressure from Gen Y’s and Millennial employees and customers to create a new and more evolved workplace.

There are clear trends as we head to an evolving 2020 workplace including changing behaviors shaped by social media and a large number of Gen Y’s and Millenials.

Consider this:

50% of the world’s population is under the age of 30

Kindergartners are learning on tablets not from chalkboards

Britney Spears has more Twitter followers than the entire populations of Sweden, and Canada

And… What happens in Vegas ends up on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube…

There is no denying the impact of technology and social media on business over the past decade.

So what came first? Generational values shifting or technology?

The answer is: technology- the evolution of the workplace has gone from the post war era of the 1950′ and 1960’s where the workplace was about autocratic leadership and command and control and the jobs were primarily task focused and repetitive.

The 1950’s workplace had workers who did what they were told, leaders who expected to be respected and jobs that were mundane. The values for those working in that era were gratitude for their jobs and workers would often start young and work for the same company for life and then retire.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s workplace it was an environment of creating structures, exceptions to rules were established and leaders got his or her position based on being a good ‘doer’. Training was a new concept and in the lack of structure created the need for ongoing restructures and changes to the workplace. The leadership style was more of a ‘manager’ approach with the autocratic edge of the previous era of leadership. In this era the customer followed what companies put in place and employees followed the structures put in place by leadership.

In the 1990’s and 2000’s the workplace began to shift to the power of stronger leadership. Leadership that was visionary and inspiring began to be valued. This was the era of strategy, lean workplaces, visionary and coaching others to performance. This was the beginning of workplace culture becoming a hot topic as well as employee engagement and motivation. This was also an era of job lay offs, companies merging and restructuring within organizations. It was in these decades that employees mostly Zoomers began to see that they would have more than one job or career in a lifetime and that retiring from one employer wasn’t as likely as it was for the Traditionalists (those in their late 60’s and older).

The decades of 2010 up to the 2020’s began the advent of massive technological impact and the workplace began to morph into a place where the ability to adapt to the speed of change was of high value. This includes generations working together better, shifting to adapt to a workplace where leaders are not ‘better than’ the workers and that he or she has the skill of innovation, teamwork and synergy. Also in these past two decades the world has become smaller through technology as well as business becoming global versus local. With Gen Y’s entering the workforce there began a focus on having fun at work, working smarter not harder, using technology to leverage tasks and working together as a team.

Where the workplace might have had the luxury in the past of having the time of a few weeks to get a project completed or completing a performance review now we are living and working in a ‘real time’ reality. The speed of the evolving workplace is causing a need for leaders and their teams to adapt their mindsets increase the ability to be agile and focus on a 2020 vision.

When we look at the impact of technology we have to look also at the impact of social media and how it’s changing the way we all communicate. Gen Y’s and Millenials are constantly connecting through Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Instagram and this has added to the desire for instant recognition, having a voice and democratizing the workplace. Social media has greater influence on a Gen Y or Millennial than any other form of communication. 87% of Gen Y’s and Millenials surveyed trust peer reviews more than advertisements.

Let’s fast-forward to the 2020 workplace- with the influence of technology and the increase of Gen Y’s and Millenials in the workplace what will it look like?

The future and evolving workplace will have more fun, flexibility of roles and teams working together on ‘parachute projects’. To keep Gen Y’s and Millenials engaged the workplace will be a creative environment and there will be a work scenario that helps them to merge their work life with their personal life. This is in contrast to the Zoomers and some Gen X who focused on keeping ‘work separate from personal’.

In a briefing with MediaDailyNews, Nick Shore, senior vice president-strategic insights and research at MTV, said, “[Millennials] have a strong worth ethic, and in some ways, integrate their work lives with their personal lives in an even bigger way than Boomers have.”

Study results showed 93 percent of Gen Y’s and Millennials are looking for a job that fits with their lifestyle. It is a fact that the young people of today grow up surrounded by a high-speed, social culture. Is your workplace tapping into that energy? Eighty-nine percent of Gen ‘s and Millennials responded that they want a workplace that is “social and fun.” To highlight the significance of that stat, only 60 percent of Baby Boomers have the same mentality.

The future workplace will have a heightened focus on leadership’s ability to engage and coach and ‘circulate’ high performing people. The days of employees staying on the job for five years are more are dwindling. Gen Y’s and Millenials are looking to continue to learn and grow by working in diverse industries and in diverse roles. Research shows the average Gen Y/ Millenial will change jobs up to 15 times in his or her lifetime compared to a Gen X who will change 5-7 times in a lifetime and a Zoomer with 1-3 jobs in a lifetime.

This means that workplaces and the leaders need to learn the skill of managing a constantly changing and revolving employee base. Industries such as hospitality and restaurants attracts Gen Y’s and Millenials and it is important to note that the leadership style needs to morph from managing a fixed employee base to managing a constantly changing and dynamic team of people. Gen Y’s and Millenials are looking for constant learning and growth opportunities and are causing leaders to have to adapt to this reality.

A company that does a great job of responding to its Gen Y and Millennial workers is Earls Restaurants. They look for employees who are students and they know that most of the Gen Y/Millennial hires may not make the restaurant industry a long term vocation. Rather than see this is a challenge Earls focuses on providing the Gen Y’s and Millenials with flexibility, fun and learning opportunities. Interestingly Earl’s has a higher rate of Gen Y’s making restaurant work a vocation than other similar restaurant brands.

The newest generations of workers are always looking for ways to engage, improve and advance. Three-quarters of Gen Y’s and Millenials would appreciate having a mentor at work. This is not just someone who trains them to bus or wait tables, but an active mentor who helps them develop their career.

It’s important for the employee and their mentor to connect socially to build an interactive foundation in their work life. This ties in closely to the fact that Gen Y feels they need specific directions from their boss to do their best work. It’s not that this generation lacks independence or drive, but they are looking for the path to success. In fact, a whopping 89 percent of Gen Y’s and Millennials think it is important to be constantly learning on their job.

The evolving workplace will shift from the influence of Gen Y’s and Millenials on performance evaluation.

In the past, many businesses in the a variety of industries glaze over performance reviews. However, for Gen Y and Millennial hires the study shows eight out of 10 prefer regular feedback from their supervisors, with over 50 percent wanting feedback at least once a week if not more frequently.

With high turnover rates, not every employee makes it to an annual evaluation, and it’s assumed those who do typically know what they are doing. In his interview MTV’s Shore made the observation, “Gen Ys and Millennials are like, ‘Can you give me daily reviews?’ Their drive to self-improve is extremely high, and it reflects the world they grew up in, because they’re in a constant feedback loop.”

In fact real time performance reviews are now created by a Gen Y no less with the website which used to be where the technology allows leaders to provide daily feedback, recognition and coaching via text and also group text to give higher recognition.

Gen Y’s and Millenials will continue to leverage technology from now until 2020 to be even more productive and to increase results.

Technology is one of the biggest differentiators for Gen Y. They are the first generation to grow up with consistent access to high-speed Internet, social media, e-commerce and interactive digital media. Eighty-five percent of Gen Y’s and Millennials think their mastery of technology makes them faster than their older coworkers. And two-thirds of this generation thinks they should mentor older co-workers on technology used in the workplace.

It’s no longer a question of “should” technology be used in the any industry; but, in what ways can we incorporate technology to streamline operations. Gen Y’s and Millennials are bringing a technology-infused work mentality to the workplace. Innovative, competitive businesses will let this generation help guide the way into modernizing practices.

The future workplace will also have evolutionary HR practices and rather than it be human resources it will be a focus on human resourcefulness. In other words Gen Y and Millenials will focus on how to help people be resourceful, agile and quick to adapt to change. Every aspect of the business is being impacted by the changes caused by technology and generational attitudes.

The impact of technology and Gen Y’s/Millenials on all industries cannot be denied.

The evolution of the workplace requires new mindsets, new skills and most of all willingness for every person to evolve.