Preparing for the Next-Gen Worker: Is Your Organization Ready?
Contributed by Tamara J. Erickson, Mark Livingston, James (Jimmy) Livingston & Stephen Clarke
With the emergence of more social and collaborative ways of working, organizations need to amend their hiring, onboarding and employee engagement practices and fast, if they want to remain viable in the 21st century.
Both the workforce and work itself are changing, dramatically. New collaborative and social technologies and applications are already reshaping business operations and just as importantly providing the resources for a new generation to work in ways that fit more naturally with its digital upbringing.
Already, technologies that are only a few years old (or less) are enabling individuals to interact more often and more easily with their colleagues, even if they are half a world away. They also prompt employees to think differently about what it means to lead, as well as how to inspire and empower the people they manage.
Is your organization ready for this new workforce and new ways of thinking about work? Most organizations are ill prepared because they are structured to respond to a very different set of business conditions than the ones they face today. Correspondingly, hiring, onboarding and engagement practices are designed to attract and retain a very different workforce from the one that's already at work and the one that’s close behind.
Here are eight questions you should be asking regarding your organization's readiness for next–generation workers.
- What will make or break our business success over the next decade and are we optimized around doing it well? While businesses will continue to need to make, market and/or deliver a large volume of goods at low cost and consistent quality, the principal differentiator for companies going forward will be the ability to attract and develop employees with both the skills and desire to adapt the business to rapidly changing customer demands via innovation.
- Have we built an organizational capacity for collaboration? Nextgeneration workers are true digital natives. In this world, realtime virtual interactivity is taken for granted. Leveraging intelligence requires building your organization's ability and willingness to share information, ideas and insights productively.
- Are we leveraging technology to improve performance? New technologies promise significant improvements in generating, capturing and sharing knowledge; finding helpful colleagues and information; tapping into new sources of innovation and expertise; and harnessing the “wisdom of crowds.”
- Are we able to tap the best available talent? Increasingly, work for your organization will be done by individuals who are not considered “employees.” The workforce will include individuals with a diverse array of work arrangements, some parttime, some cyclical, some fulltime, some contractbased a dizzying array of relationships between businesses and those who perform work.
- What does it mean to work in our organization? Knowledge work requires a leader who can set the stage, provide the necessary infrastructure and create an environment that engages players from multiple communities. Companies must inspire, energize and get the best out of the people who perform work.
- What do our “managers” do? Today, the quality of knowledge work can only be judged in terms of output, rather than the traditional inspection of work in process. Workers are essentially performing “invisible” tasks: dealing with rich content that flows through infinite links, making decisions about what to share with whom, and digging deep for innovative ideas. Nextgeneration workers are keen to work at organizations with flattened hierarchical structures that encourage thinking outside the box.
- Are we basing our decisionmaking on the best possible input? Today's collaborative technology offers the possibility of making decisions in ways that are very different from the corporate norms of the past. Through these collaborative approaches, more people are able to bring their diverse experiences to bear and provide input on key decisions, yet the decision process can still be swift.
- Is our organization ready for the future? Many companies have organizational structures that are perfectly designed to meet the needs of businesses in the last century. Hierarchical decisionmaking and corporate strategies of vertical integration hinder the activities that are most important today sharing information and leveraging intelligence. With a technological assist, organizations can coordinate asynchronous work across time and space, resulting in higher productivity, faster cycle times, reduced facilities costs and greater freedom for employees and employers to structure work arrangements that are beneficial to both.
Leverage Next-Gen Workers for Competitive Gain
What's important for companies today and over time is the ability to leverage the rich, untapped veins of collective intelligence within its walls (real or virtual) and to capitalize on that intelligence for a specific purpose: rapid, highly focused innovation. Nextgeneration workers are no longer willing to simply follow along and hope for the best. They want challenge, inclusion in decisions, collaborative work and a vision for future advancement, with the development that can take them there.
Companies that fail to recognize the changes under way and those to come will not compete and the timeline for adaptation is shorter than ever. Our experience suggests that a suitable strategy for the business and its people, operations and technology must be put in place to create the next-generation enterprise.
For more information on how to prepare for the next-generation workplace, read the full white paper, Preparing for the Next-Generation Worker: Is Your Organization Ready (PDF) or learn more about Cognizant Business Consulting.