It’s that time again. You know, the one where we all turn to each other and say, “Where has the year gone?” … all the time peddling like crazy to complete all the things we set out to achieve in January 2019.
And what a year it’s been! As I write this, I am none the wiser as to whether Brexit will finally be agreed or delayed further. I also cannot quite believe we’re slap bang in the middle of a general election campaign. I’m not a politician, nor an economist, but what I can say is this: monumental distraction and challenge to our society and businesses, both on a local and international scale, has left many scratching their heads and wondering what next?
So, let’s be sensible, we can’t change what’s happened this year (or since that crucial vote back in 2016) but there is plenty to look forward to in 2020. I’m excited about the year ahead because, despite the many challenges in 2019, I believe we’re witnessing an evolution in businesses and how they choose to operate. The next year, and indeed, decade looks to be exhilarating and here’s why:
The world in which we work within is changing dramatically. A job is no longer for life and our ability to adapt and be dynamic is absolutely critical in not only today’s job market but also the future. As Blair Sheppard of PwC recently said, “…to stay ahead, you need to focus on your ability to continuously adapt, engage with others in that process, and most importantly retain your core sense of identity and values. For students, it’s not just about acquiring knowledge, but about how to learn. For the rest of us, we should remember that intellectual complacency is not our friend and that learning - not just new things but new ways of thinking - is a life-long endeavour.” Furthermore, the application of knowledge is absolutely vital in today’s highly competitive business environment. Companies need to not only have knowledge but also a clear understanding of how to apply it in a practical way to address problems now and in the future.
Women are finally breaking through the glass ceiling. As Business Insider recently reported, women now hold one out of every five seats on corporate boards for the US’s 3,000 largest publicly traded companies. This, coupled with the continued fight by notable female figures, such as Samira Ahmed, for equal pay means that big businesses and the long established behemoths such as the BBC can no longer get away with paying women less than their male counterpart. This challenge to the status quo is rippling throughout businesses and will continue to force them to rethink their out-dated attitudes towards women. That one in five will increase, fast.
It’s not just women that are making waves though. Millennials now make up half of the workforce (rising to 75 per cent by 2025) and are rising up through the ranks with their adaptable and collaborative approaches to employment. They don’t want a ‘job for life’ in a ‘great’ company, they want to be part of an organisation and a culture that stands for something specific, that respects and rewards its employees while striving to do more, environmentally, politically and economically. If that company doesn’t, they will be held accountable as Google’s employees recently demonstrated when they questioned the company’s involvement in the Pentagon using its AI for Project Maven. This drive for more ‘purpose-led’ business and business strategy will continue to dominate the corporate and smaller enterprises in the future.
Having grown up using technology, mobile apps and a variety of platforms, this group (and the ones that follow) are transforming the way in which we work. They don’t fear tech; they embrace it and with that comes the ability to better collaborate with their colleagues. Their desire for more flexibility is also pushing the trust agenda between employer and employees. According to a Deloitte study, nearly 75 per cent of millennials believe that a ‘work from home’ or ‘work remotely’ policy is important. Presenteeism may be dying, finally!
There’s also another interesting twist to our modern workforce. Undoubtedly driven by economic pressures and poor pensions, we’re seeing a rise in the over 70s workforce. In May, The Guardian reported that people who are over 70 and still working has more than doubled in a decade to half a million in the UK.
As Lily Parsey from the International Longevity Centre commented, “To maximise the longevity dividend of our ageing society, we need to provide more opportunities for flexible working to allow people to juggle work with health and care needs or caring responsibilities… And we need to create inclusive and supportive workplaces, to ensure that we all can benefit...”
The world we live in today doesn’t consist of Reginald Perrins lining up on train platforms, in their pinstripe suits, commuting to their desks from their Surrey semi while wondering when it will all finally end. The structure and indeed the culture of the 2020 workforce (and beyond) finally reflects the reality we all live in. Any business unwilling to adapt and rise to this challenge and the diverse make up of society, will surely struggle to attract and maintain the talent that is critical to its survival.
The rise of understanding and compassion
You would have to be living under a rock over the last 12-24 months not to have noticed how attitudes towards mental health have changed. No doubt related to how our workforce has dramatically evolved over the last decade we’re now opening up about mental health issues. People are no longer scared to hold up their hand to their managers, peers and families to ask for help.
And what’s more is that big businesses are recognising that they need to overhaul the treatment of mental health in the workplace. Lloyds Banking Group, Unilever and the John Lewis Partnership are among 30 big employers that have pledged to make this change and improve the standards of mental wellbeing among their workforce. Companies are recognising that it’s better to nurture and care for their staff and retain or indeed develop their talent rather than let them burn out beyond all recognition.
We are living in a time where, thanks to the immediacy of news and social media content, accountability and transparency is becoming a must.
What can I say about technology that you haven’t heard before? Technological advancements continue at a pace that we mortal humans struggle to keep up with. However, I believe we’re getting smarter at how we use it to our advantage and how, with a little bit of balance, we can take the best elements of technology to help us thrive in both our work and personal lives. We don’t need to become slaves to it.
Our recent conversation with Thomas Davies, CEO at Temporall, providers of organisational insights, shows that we can use company data to make insightful decisions about how we run our business and in turn how we support and retain the talent in our organisations. The truly smart business leaders of today and the future are creating a path where AI, automation, robotics and much, much more can be used to enhance the workplace.
We have the best in technology, software and hardware devices at our fingertips, all while costs are becoming lower and lower. The barriers to adopt remote or flexible working no longer exist. However, a word of caution, we need to remain compassionate and adapt our behaviours to respect our peers and employees. Just because I can email or message my colleagues at midnight doesn’t mean I should. And I certainly shouldn’t expect an immediate response. The advancements need to come with social guidelines or indeed parameters, led from the very top of the business.
When it comes to 2020, I’m enthusiastic because the opportunities are endless and we’re already on the path to making great changes to the way in which we work. I am, however, a realist. The probability of a recession remains high, as is the distraction of the December general election, and the lack of tech skills will continue to threaten the advances of even the most innovative businesses.
The businesses that will thrive during these turbulent times are those that are thinking smart. They’re using that data at their fingers tips to plan and adapt. They are creating a culture unique to them that gets people excited to come to work each day (either in the office or from home) and they’re embracing change with a purpose. The coming year will offer greater understanding for employees, a greater share of knowledge across all walks of society and a greater drive to endure the next raft of challenges. The employers and employees that persist as a collective, purpose led collaborative team through all of that will be the winners.
- Why HR and IT must join forces to achieve a modern digital workspace
Phil Rose, business consultant, Ignium