Now is a good time to be asking whether your workplace is ready for the generational changes the millennials will bring.
Already millennials make up about 50 per cent of the workforce and that number will rise to 75 per cent by 2030. This will inject both new energy and expectations to workplaces across Australia.
For example, a strong interest in jobs offering flexibility is a defining characteristic of the new generation of workers both here and abroad.
Indeed’s economic research team, the Hiring Lab, has been analysing global online searches for flexible work and found a 78 per cent increase in interest among Australian jobseekers over the past two years.
Furthermore, in a recent survey, Indeed found that 55 per cent of Australian job seekers (across all demographics) identified work flexibility as one of the most important factors to them when finding their next job.
And just because the new generation place a high value on job flexibility, doesn’t mean they are not prepared to work hard, or expect never to have to show up at the office. It simply means most younger workers expect to have rewarding lives both in and outside of work, and want to harness the flexibility that technology provides.
The challenge for business is to find the balance in providing a flexible and enjoyable work environment, while also ensuring a productive and engaged workforce.
Here are five tips on how to unchain your workers in a productive and forward-looking way:
1. Embrace technology
We have unbelievable access to technology that can make us work better, faster, and more productively, all at relatively low cost. If you haven’t already, companies should invest in video conferencing, shared file folders and documents, as well as instant communication such as chat capability or information sharing tools.
More importantly, if you have these tools, use them! Have the necessary training and systems in place so that, if a new technology is useful, people can understand and leverage it to help with efficiency and results.
2. Trust your employees
In the old workplace, hierarchies ruled and people were expected to punch the clock. In the new workplace, results are valued over appearances, and getting the job done trumps showing everyone you’re doing it.
It’s true that, given free reign, some employees will take advantage. But the fact is, if your dedicated workforce feels well treated and appreciated, this won’t be an issue. Most workers will act like adults. Not only that, they will be happier and healthier if given the right tools to do the job. Which brings me to my next point…
3. Let the mission lead the way
If a company lacks a solid mission and goal, nothing else will go well. If employers are focused on a common, clear goal, they’ll be driven to do their jobs no matter where they’re sitting, or how they’re scheduling it.
At Indeed, for instance, our mission is simple: we help people get jobs. Everything flows from that core message, and our employees respond by knowing exactly what they’re working toward, and how to accomplish that goal.
4. Let them take time off
Last year Indeed put in place unlimited vacation days. This new policy has been a success. Employees take the time off they need in coordination with their managers. They are no longer worried about managing how many days leave they have.
People don’t take advantage of the system, because the majority of us need and want to work. We just want to be able to plan time off according to our life needs, and without worrying about whether we’ve gone over or under an arbitrary limit. Now that’s flexibility we can all understand.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask
It can be hard to allow someone to work from another location and really believe they’re working. But in a positive work environment, managers should have an idea of what employees are doing, and employees should have expectations about what is required.
If flexibility appears to result in missed deadlines or dropped projects, ask the employee about it and figure out how to get better metrics and measurements of their work. With that tweak, you’ll know for sure whether working remotely is the problem, or whether the employee just can’t meet expectations.
We all want a good work-life balance in which we can excel in our careers and also have a life outside of them. In the modern workplace, the tools are all there. We’ve just got to put them to use.
Paul Wolfe is Paul Wolfe is SVP of Human Resources at Indeed.