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The Changing Nature Of Work

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The Changing Nature Of Work

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In my current role, I am responsible for content marketing and content development at SAP on the topic of the . One of the areas that I am finding really fun to work on and also really important to today’s leaders is the Future of Work.

I’ve talked about how HR is becoming the marketing department. And I’ve covered how engaged employees are critical to driving new customers and higher revenue and profits.

Here are some additional insights on the changing nature of work – something important for business leaders in any size organization and in any role.

The Changing Nature Of Work

Generation Y is taking over the workplace and it’s happening sooner than you think. By 2025, they will comprise 75% of the workforce.

Due to demographic shifts, including more experienced Baby Boomer workers retiring, it is essential to engage Generation Y now so they are able to fulfill expected talent shortages in the near future. Developing a strong leadership pipeline and expertise are key to business continuity.

Unfortunately, many organizations are not prepared to attract, engage, and retain Generation Y employees because they continue to use management practices that are off target.

Only one in three employees is engaged in their role, costing organizations billions of dollars in productivity. Neglecting to engage Generation Y will result in talent shortages, turnover expenses, and a damaged reputation.

Generation Y had a different upbringing than the Baby Boomers and Generation X; however, much of what they demand in the workplace will engage the entire workforce, not just their demographic.

Engaging Generation Y is as much about modernizing your workplace as it is about creating an environment to capture the best new talent; the ROI is far-reaching.

Three forces are shaping the future of work: Globalization (Global access to markets and talent will reshape business), Demographics (5 generations will be working side by side in organizations) & Social Web (social media will connect employees, customers & partners for immediate connection)


Many people have conducted research and written about this topic, especially if you’ve read the work of Thomas Friedman.  We all need to recognize that talent markets are global.


There are 5 generations to consider: Traditionalists (born before ‘46), Baby Boomers (born before ‘64), Generation X (born before ‘76), Millennials (born before ‘97) and Generation C or Z (born 97-?).

In 2011 the first wave of Baby Boomers turned 65 and 10,000 will retire a day for the next 19 years.  This is the largest exodus from the workplace of any generation in history

There are nearly twice as many Baby Boomers as there are Generation X and more Millennials than Baby Boomers

So even if every Gen X’er were to take a job vacated by a Baby Boomer, there simply aren’t enough Gen X’ers to fill all the open jobs, so a Millennial with very little work experience will end up taking big jobs vacated by Baby Boomers with 40 years of experience

By 2020, when the crest of the Baby Boomers turn 65, the Millennials will be the dominant generation in our workforce.

As Millennials will soon be the most influential group in our companies – we should know what’s important to them: 1) help me develop my skills, 2) has strong values, 3) offers customizable options in my benefits and rewards package, 4) allows me to blend work with the rest of their lives, 5) offers a clear career path.

The # 1 way they want to learn is through mentoring and coaching

The Social Web

Research shows that people from across the globe are more similar to others in their generation, than to people across generations in the same country.  A teenager from India is more similar to a teenager in the US than to a Baby Boomer from India.

World wide, no matter how rich you are, if you’re old, you think a smartphone is optional and if you’re a Millennial, no matter how poor you are, a smartphone is a necessity of life

The older you are, the more you’re sending email, and the younger you are, the more you’re not reading it (but getting news, updates & information from other social web sources)

In 2010, 10 trillions emails were sent and 89% of them were spam. We send 8 billion texts a day, and the average Millennial sends 3,200 texts a month.

In March 2012, 2 Billion YouTube videos watched a day. And when Facebook allowed videos to be launched from their site, the number doubled overnight.

Of the 7 Billion people on the planet, 2 Billion own an internet accessible device. So for people who own devices they’re watching 400 YouTube videos a month.  Who is doing this?  Retired people?  No, Millennials.

There is a shift happening in how people are consuming information. And if the Millennials are connected, the next Generation C or Z, will be even more so – 92% of US children have an online presence.

The Millennial generation expects that their social experiences and tools they use in their personal lives are equivalent to what they use in their work lives.

This generation is very comfortable rating and tagging their experiences and this is no different from how they want to engage at work.  Glassdoor.com and ratemyprofessor.com.  Not too much of a stretch to have ratemymanager.com.  There is a strong trend of employees choosing their managers, putting managers on performance improvement plans.

10 years ago Google had just moved out of the garage and Facebook didn’t exist, we can only expect the same rate of change in the next 10 years.

Most Gen Y workers are forgoing the biggest companies in favor of smaller companies. The highest concentration of Gen Y workers (47%) are at small companies with fewer than 100 employees, followed by midsize companies that have no more than 1,500 employees (30%). Just 23% of Gen Y-ers work at large firms with more than 1,500 employees.

There are many myths about Gen Y:

  • They lack organizational loyalty. But in fact, Gen Y has about as much loyalty as other groups. And statistics about frequent job changes match the same rates of change of other generations when they were younger.
  • They don’t respect authority. But in fact, they just define loyalty a little differently from other generations.
  • They are only motivated by perks and money. But in fact they are more motivated by development opportunities. Older generations value money almost twice as much as Gen Y. Their goal is to find work and life that has meaning.

But Millennials are different. They think and act differently from the generations before them due to their considerably different upbringing:

  • They are the first generation to grow up with computer technology.
  • Millennials employees just entering the workforce will barely remember film cameras. They’ve had daily Internet use since early in grade school and a mobile phone in their pocket before they could drive.
  • Their parents were more hands-on. – Their Boomer parents recognized the competition, and wanted to do what they could to give them help. They were more involved by encouraging their children, helping them with homework, helping to find part-time jobs, and enrolling them in extracurricular activities.
  • They have been trained to be involved and contribute their ideas. – Participation in University and College classes is often mandatory and evaluated as a percentage of their grade. Group work is woven into every course evaluation.
  • They are more educated. – On average, Millennials is twice as educated as the generations before them.

What can businesses do to prepare?

  1. Deliver employee experiences that strengthen knowledge of and appreciation for the customer value chain
  2. Values in action and transparency facilitated through social media/collaboration, open financial books, full disclosure on pay
  3. Nurture employee relationships that align with needs of every generation at each life stage
  4. Offer innovative practices aligned to organizational strategy
  5. Provide fun, engaging work environments (virtual or physical)
  6. Encourage use of social media tools/techniques that allow employees to enable workplace performance and support life interests

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