Technology and the intergenerational workforce: transforming business with Holly Ransom Part 2

13 Feb 2017 |

Holly Ransom, Emergent CEO, was one of the keynote speakers at the Mobile-ising Women in Business event in Canberra in 2017. Ahead of the conference she spoke to Biz Better Together about how the rapid pace of change and the intergenerational workforce is shaping the future of business. Here is part 2 of her interview.

The importance of culture and engagement

Culture is paramount. People are at their best when they are working within a culture that allows them to be at their best and bring their best to work every day. But if you look at the engagement data that Gallup have put out around the engagement of the average person in the Australian workforce, only 13% of Australians are engaged at work. That’s consistent with numbers internationally when you look at the UK and the US workforce but it means a big difference in productivity between the top 1% of engaged organisations and the median placed organisations.

It also makes a big statement about the picture of Australian business that people are feeling disengaged or at least passive about their work environment. A lot of that falls to leaders and how it is we create great thriving cultures that people want to work in every day.

What we know of the evidence base right now is that we have major room for improvement in Australia.

The first step is to get an accurate picture of your baseline. It’s no use bemoaning low employee engagement surveys because that becomes like a scorecard, rather than a truly informed piece of work. You need to ask, “What does this feedback teach us?” and work out how to have a proper conversation with your people around why you’re getting this result. Focus on how do we understand the key drivers of employee engagement and how do we bring them more to the fore of the way we work.

For some companies this involves looking at how they can structure their work and projects differently, for others it’s thinking about how to bring in more flexibility. Sometimes it’s literally a change to the physical space they are operating in. It’s different for every company and it’s difficult to make broad sweeping statements around what it is that a particularly engaged workplace looks like. It’s important that organisations know it’s critical not just to do that deep diving for themselves but to also seek out environments where they have highly engaged workforces and ask what they can learn from what those organisations are doing, and how they could apply that in their own companies.

Intergenerational Workforce

Depending on how you split the millennial/Gen Y group, we now have either 4 or 5 generations working together in the workforce.

Millennials became the biggest generation in the workforce in late 2015, but that is still in the 20% range. However, what we are going to see is that 50% of the workforce will be millennial generation by 2025. With the ageing population transitioning out, the lion’s share of the workforce will become this younger generation.

It’s really important that organisations think about how they can have a thriving intergenerational culture. There is an enormous transition coming in the makeup of our workforce and in our leadership and we need to strike the balance of welcoming these fresh ideas coming in with capturing all the experience and wisdom as it’s going out.

Over the next 5 to 10 years while we have this shared period of leadership, that’s going to be key in which organisations come out stronger at the 15 year horizon. The organisations who manage their people development and their leadership transition really well in the next few years will be in the strongest position going forward.

People matter more than technology

We have the digital technology and the phones and social media and cloud connectivity but it’s the people who matter in business. It’s easy for the tech to grab the spotlight and we’ve lost the conversation on the importance of people because we’ve been so focused on technology.

And that’s had to happen though, we’ve had to respond to that demand to understand and integrate the technology into every part of our businesses, but it’s people who make the decisions in business. It’s people who decide how to use that technology. We still need great people to make the decisions on which direction we head in and how we weigh off competing demands, to deliver value for our communities and customers and staff. We can’t lose sight of that, so it’s important that we turn attention back to our people.

Just like every year we have to ensure we’re making an appropriate investment in the technology, we have to make an equal investment in our people.

We have to offer a competitive value proposition to get the best people in through our door and we have to develop them to the best of their ability and then work on keeping them.

If you missed Part 1 of this article you can read it here.

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