5 Things Employees of the Future Expect From a Workplace

6 minute read

Upland Admin

Employee evolution that’s enhanced by technology

Technology has changed not only the workplace, but the employee as well. We’ve hit a point where just about everyone has access to tools that lets them connect anywhere and truly collaborate. Just as a case in point: The SMART Kapp is a dry erase board that lets teams separated by distance work together on the same dry erase diagram. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Videoconferencing, Google Drive, and so on are transforming work behaviours, and often at no (real) cost to the user.

So, how will this change employees? To be honest, a good chunk of the change has happened already. We’re seeing more than just glimpses of the employee of the future in the workplace now.

As we’ve written before, the more Millennials enter the workforce, workplaces have to had to adjust to their ways of thinking and working. Companies need to do so in order to align with preferences their latest (and incoming) employees developed from their personal lives. That sets up a number of big expectations on the employee’s end.

Recently, I came across an excellent article and infographic by Jacob Morgan on this subject. I’ve reproduced his infographic on the right for illustrative and educational purposes (this should fall under “fair use” provisions).

Now, I agree with much of what he’s said, but not all. And so, here’s my own take on the subject.  If you’re a manager of any sort, you need to know the expectations of your future employees. Read on to find out!

How does the employee of the future want to work?

1. Everything becomes “social”

Silos. Knowledge hoarding. Lack of transparency.

The employees of most companies can still be described as working under these constraints. After all, before everything was easily shared (or Googled), there was neither incentive nor means to truly work together and/or share knowledge. If anything, hoarding information made someone more valuable, even if it harmed the company to hoard this information. It gave these employees power.

At this moment, there’s only one slight problem to that: It’s the age of Google spliced with the age of smartphones. Pretty soon, nearly everyone in the world will have a smartphone that taps into Google’s search engines. Knowledge about just about everything can be looked up in seconds.

Knowledge hoarding stops making sense in this context. Here, for the employee to add value, s/he must actively share information, both to plug in any gaps not addressed by Googling a topic, and to help other employees get answers to their questions faster (after all, no Googled article will be able to have a real conversation with employees (yet) to efficiently direct their learning).

Collaboration platforms like Lync make it pretty painless for employees to share information. It’s also very easy to do in-house webinars, demos, or other training events just by recording workflows directly off smartphones, tablets, or computers, and sharing the video to everyone in the company (or directly on Youtube, if it’s helpful enough). There’s an immediacy to teaching and learning that just wasn’t there before, and it’s getting to be more so.

More to the point: It’s what employees will want, regardless of your preferences. The smart thing to do if you manage employees (or the whole company) is to embrace this social IT way of interaction. The sooner you jump on something like this, the sooner you see benefits of democratized teaching and in-company learning!

2. Analysis becomes the key skill

Technology really has made most information complete commodities. What’s going to count much more is the ability to put together a big picture from information and then drawing out a useful conclusion about what to do with that information.

Just learning information for use in one context isn’t enough – employees have to be able to make use of all parts of the knowledge canvas. Good employees (or prospective employees) will be developing this skill just as a matter of course, and will be expecting to be evaluated on it.

3. Any employee can become a leader

Part of being a great leader lies in having good communication skills. Let’s just take a look at that idea from another angle: Having something to say, and saying it well, can make you a leader. Collaboration technologies that let a particular employee share important ideas, insights, and so will open the door to that person becoming a leader within the organization.

It would follow patterns in real life. There are people who have gained big followings just because their social media postings have attracted many, many hits. And because that’s a real possibility outside of work, employees will be expecting that fanbase-building possibility at work too.

4. Anyone can bring innovation to the table

It used to be that, you’d have to work at companies known for their innovation (like 3M or Gore) to live a workplace culture where everyone with an idea can contribute. This is changing, and pretty quickly at that.

Companies are starting to create initiatives such as internal incubators to promote good ideas being brought forward. Big, non-technology companies like Shell have their “GameChanger” program. Richard Branson’s Virgin will go so far as to take good ideas from outside the company!

Small and medium sized businesses can get in on the act as well, just by having open-door policies that encourage free exchange of ideas between executives/managers and regular employees.

5. Genuinely flexible work and schedules

Flextime was fairly rare a decade ago, but it’s entered the mainstream now. Giants like Unilever are leading the way by focusing on an output-oriented work culture. As more companies get on board, it’s a safe bet that most employees will only work in this way in the near future.

Cimpl is a company of the future

Now, I don’t like to brag (I really don’t), but I’m happy to say that we practice all of the above in a pretty substantive way already. It’s one of the reasons why we’re among the 50 Best Small and Medium Employers in Canada for two years running (and also why other companies have been coming to take lessons from us on how to engage employees). If you’d like to join our team, check out the jobs we have open. And if you want to see how to better manage employees and improve business performance, come visit us!

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