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The global workforce is undergoing a massive shift. By 2020, Gen Z—those born between 1995 and 2012—will make up roughly 20 percent of the workforce; by 2025 it’s expected that Millennials will account for nearly three quarters of the workforce.
With such trends upon us, we need to consider what Gen Z and Millennials want in an employer. Both groups (but particularly Gen Z) have grown up always connected. They can FaceTime friends and family anywhere in the world, collaborate seamlessly and in real-time on projects, and get answers to almost any question instantly. With such hyper connectivity in their personal lives, it’s no wonder that they want a similarly connected experience in the organizations that they join.
A connected workplace provides an organization with a strong business benefit. If employees feel connected, they become more engaged; this, in turn, drives up productivity.
But not all businesses are delivering a connected experience. According to some studies, fewer than a quarter of businesses are actually delivering the workplace connectivity that employees say they want.
From my point of view, companies need to deliver in three areas:
• Technology – Technology enables workplace connectivity. But technology doesn’t necessarily require a big investment. It’s about finding solutions that allow employees simple and easy ways to connect and collaborate and then (and this is the key) getting them to adopt them. We’re looking to do this in a number of different ways at BMO; one example is what we call workplace enablers— software and programs like Skype for Business, One Drive, and Yammer. Programs like these give employees a chance to connect with colleagues and customers, much more effectively and seamlessly than if they just had a computer and a mobile phone. On adoption, organizations need to look at whether their team members are adequately trained and that they are getting the most out of the solutions they are using. Hosting training sessions— these can be virtual or onsite—and actively soliciting feedback from employees are two good ways to help measure and make sure that team members are getting the most out of what has been introduced.
• Re-thinking the physical space – Teams are working differently – people work offsite or from home, catch up on things in between meetings, or chip away at work on their phones. Re-thinking physical space to fit more effectively with how people are spending their time when in the office can have a big impact. Earlier this year, BMO unveiled plans to introduce a new urban campus which will have advanced digital technology, open floor plans, and a variety of collaborative work areas. This space will enable our team members and give them what they need to work the way they want.
• Process and Policy – The way we do our work is governed by official and unofficial rules. In many cases, the rules and guidelines were established when times, tools, and expectations were very different. Taking the time to understand ‘how’ work gets done and focusing on simplification will deliver unparalleled speed. Our CEO recently challenged senior leaders to look at our operations holistically and he made a statement that stuck with me: ‘don’t just make it simpler, make it simple.’ How we work matters, it’s essential to look at policies and process to ensure they are re-designed or automated for simplicity, speed and wherever possible, human delight.
We know there’s a correlation between employee engagement—how invested team members are in what an organization is trying to achieve—and employee productivity. If engagement is higher, productivity rises as well; one report found that more engaged employees were 22 per cent more productive. The benefits don’t end here either. Workplaces with better engagement and productivity typically experience less turnover and employees tend to work harder—translating into improved financial performance.
With digital natives both entering and already in the workforce, it’s never been more important for organizations to meet the expectations of employees and deliver a connected workplace. To do this, look to technology first, consider the physical workplace and, finally, the criticality of processes and policies. The benefits aren’t just for team members: with a connected workplace, organizations will see better engagement and productivity out of their team members. It’s time to look inside and see how modernizing technology and mindsets can radically improve engagement and experience in the workplace.