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The challenges in managing today's workforce

One of the key complexities introduced in the workforce is a rapidly-changing dynamic created by the entry of youth. Studies have shown that in the US, Millennials already comprise as much as 36 per cent of the workforce and, by 2020, may form more than half of the entire workforce.

Shirish Deodhar | March 24, 2015 | Updated 20:56 IST

Shirish Deodhar
"The emerging workforce is not interested in command-and-control leadership. They don't want to do things because I said so; they want to do things because they want to do them." - Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Mondelez International. Enterprises are becoming global. As their interests expand around the world, they are faced with an increasingly heterogeneous workforce. The interests of workers around the world converge in some areas but in many ways they have different motivations and goals for themselves, and their managers have to address this complexity to be able to lead effectively.

One of the key complexities introduced in the workforce is a rapidly-changing dynamic created by the entry of youth. Studies have shown that in the US, Millennials already comprise as much as 36 per cent of the workforce and, by 2020, may form more than half of the entire workforce. This skew is even greater in several industry sectors, such as high tech, where Gen Y employees, in the 20 to 25 age group, may form as much as 60 per cent of the workforce across the globe. Some preferences of this younger workforce generation have to be taken into account when devising plans and strategies for managing them.

>>For one, they are much more comfortable with digital technologies and adept at using these in every sphere of their life and, as inevitably follows, at work too. The proliferation of devices like smart phones and tablets fuels this digital habit.

>>Recent research by furniture design firm Knoll suggested that Gen Y workers rated "having an engaging workplace" highest among the various features of an office. This substantiates a preference for more open and collaborative workplaces.

>>Heather Schuck, author of 'The Working Mom Manifesto', said: "You will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied by life." This may well represent the keen desire of the younger workforce for work-life integration.   

>>Research shows that the Gen Y worker spends 20-25 per cent of the time at work in communicating or collaborating - the days of the lone worker toiling away in a cubicle is dated.

Research conducted by Stanford University at CTrip, a large Chinese company, showed that employees who participated in a 'Work From Home' trial showed a 13 per cent increase in productivity and were 50 per cent less likely to change jobs because of increased work satisfaction. Companies have been paying heed to such trends and, as a result, flexible work arrangements are growing. The other growing part of the workforce is remote or field-based employees who are not tied down to a physical office location. Market intelligence firm IDC suggests that by 2010 the worldwide mobile workforce was already one billion strong. A larger mobile workforce represents a set of management challenges that are unique to them.

An MTV survey, intriguingly titled 'The No-Collar Workforce', brought out very clearly the social leanings of the new workforce - 89 per cent of the Millennials surveyed want work to be social. It has been said that they want work to be 'an experience' rather than just the source of funds. They are also always connected through their smart mobile devices. One of the challenges that emerge for managers at the workplace, from this behaviour, is the sheer number of digital distractions. Various studies have identified that as much as 30-40 per cent of the work day is lost to distractions and that distracted employees may take as many as 10-12 breaks in the course of a work day. When you add in the 40-50 per cent of time that today's workers lose to meetings and communicating, it emerges that they may be spending as little as 35 per cent of their work day on core activities. The stage is set - clearly the workforce is changing in many ways, bringing in fresh challenges for the manager to deal with. The leader who wants to get the most out of the talent at hand will have to consider what matters to them, and plan accordingly.

The author is Co-founder, Sapience Analytics

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