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New Year - new approach to work?

At this time of year many people think about improving themselves and their life: eat healthier, take regular exercise, lose weight, spend more time with those we love, move house and get a better job.

In today’s context a better job does not necessarily mean earning more and more money. People of all ages are finding they are time poor. Once we reach a level where we can pay the bills we start to look for a more balanced lifestyle. Like many in the 90s and early 2000s I worked long hours and was often too tired to socialise using time away from work to concentrate on keeping the rest of my life functioning – paying bills, washing clothes and looking after the house and garden. When you are in the middle of that life you don’t notice it - just like the apocryphal frog - you stay there until you or the system breaks. Younger generations watched us as we drove ourselves into the ground and many learnt from our experience. They want to have a satisfying job, enough money to pay the bills and socialise but they also want time to enjoy their personal life. They are talented, prepared to work hard when at work but have the view that life is for living not working. So how can organisations respond to this shift in employee expectations?

Giving staff control over their working life is one way. The new generation will work long hours but when they choose and then they will want to have time off to enjoy their personal time. They understand that the business can only pay their wages if it makes money so, if they understand the figures, they will accept the contract. I have used ITC at work for over 25 years so they are not the first cohort to grow up with technology but are probably the first generation with ubiquitous access to reliable ITC in all aspects of their life. They will happily work away from the office, upload work and information and use social media to communicate. They expect to be able to work in that way and find it frustrating when organisations say no or put barriers in their way. The momentum is towards staff using their own technology not having to having duplicates of everything (Bring Your Own Device). Especially when their personal ITC is more advanced than that provided by their employer.

Senior managers are often not as familiar with the technology and fear losing control. This can of course happen but with well managed processes and good communication it does not have to deliver anarchy. Continuing to put barriers up or proceeding cautiously, always looking back over your shoulder with an escape plan to return to the old ways, will leave your organisation vulnerable to new entrants to the market and facing to do major change and investment to catch up.

Harness the talent and energy of your staff. Involve them in designing the future. But don’t leave it all up to them, set the goals and boundaries. Ask them what would help them work more effectively. How the existing procedures and rules could be tweaked to enable increased productivity. The changes may be small or fundamental but unless you ask you will never know. Trust your employees to want the best for the organisation. On the whole this will be the case and where it is not, then your first job is to build that trust.

So make your New Year’s resolution to look to the future not the past and encourage new ways of working and innovative process for delivering whatever it is you do.