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The future of the workplace

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In a time of changing context, the workplace is changing more than ever before. There are four main categories that are driving this change: shifting demography, technology, environment and society, and competition. Shifting demographic includes the shift in generation, expanding female workforce and wider ethnic mix, whose life priorities and view towards work is different to the traditional workforce. Technology is also changing how people work including having flexibility over location as well as more power to do things in their hands. Environment and society is another factor that is affecting work as companies now have to behave in a more responsible way to retain credibility in the eyes of their consumers and employees, both existing and potential. Finally, the growing competition is impacting work culture strongly as focus on higher productivity intensifies leading to a high performance culture.

Some factors are having more profound impact on the workplace culture than others and the outcome we see on account of the changing context is more often than not a combined affect all these variable.

The Changing Demographics

In 2030, the global population will consist of 15.3% of Generation X, 19.6% of Millennials, and 21.2% of Generation Z. With this huge shift, the population will be mostly comprised of Millennials and Generation Z. There are several definitions for Millennials, but they are roughly born between early 1980s to early 1990 and are young adults in the 21st century and the generation that follows Millennials is Generation Z. This will create a shift within the workplace as Millennials and Generation Z have different life priorities. They tend to be more adventurous and ambitious and less tied to long-term employment.

Along with an increase of Millennials and Generation Z, there is an increasing of females in higher education. In 2017, there were 7 million more female students in higher education than men. With an increasing female participation in the workforce, the workplace culture is expected to change to accommodate their work style and help them improve their productivity.

Environment and social challenges puts pressure on business to be ethical

Companies cannot ignore the wider ecosystem within which it operates. Climate change is at play and we are witnessing depletion of finite resources at a faster pace than which they are replenished. This raises the risk factor for companies, which means that investors are likely to be more wary of investing in a company that is exposed to supply chain risks. If companies are seen not to care about the wider ecosystem, they risk losing credibility particularly in an era of deep penetration of social media which can cause information to spread like wildfire.

Technology leads to greater flexibility

The growing penetration of internet particularly broadband as well as digital devices such as personal computers, laptops and smartphones is having a profound impact on how people work. Technologies such as cloud computing mean that people can store and access documents remotely using the internet. This provides work flexibility in terms of location – so coming to a specific work location is not as vital as before since employees can access work documents remotely. There are some interesting work concepts on the rise such as the use of coffee shop as office space.

Increase in market fragmentation increases competitive pressure

An interesting outcome of technology is the empowerment of small business, which is intensifying competitive pressure. Big businesses can no longer take the power of their scale for granted. The growth of technology is giving small businesses a strong platform to fight the larger corporations. As a result we see some large, traditional consumer goods companies struggling to compete in fast-changing markets. We see small, niche players disrupting markets almost overnight. Think about Dollar Shave Club and its impact on a category that had been dominated by two major players for years.

The contemporary and future workplace

These four categories are changing the workplace to become more dynamic. The discussion around women being paid less than men or hitting the glass ceiling before their male counterparts is gaining momentum in most western countries.  As more women enter the workforce, the momentum will continue to increase and there will be greater clout to demand equal pay and opportunity.

Environmentally, businesses are increasingly realising the importance of their role in combating environmental and social challenges. This comes in various forms including making manufacturing process and internal operations more resource efficient. Some office buildings are becoming smart office buildings by installing sensors which automatically switch lights on and off, thus helping to conserve energy.

Companies are also increasingly relying on data for every aspect of decision making given the ease with which it can be captured and stored in greater volume and detail.  To this end, it is increasingly becoming important to have people who can improve how big data can be stored, accessed and interpreted. With an increase in technology, we are seeing strong competition leading to a high performance culture. This involves setting up a work environment that drives employees to perform at their highest level. To achieve this businesses are introducing strong motivational schemes including a good package, interesting job descriptions, robust career development path, good training programmes and all types of necessary support to help clear all forms of obstruction to good performance.

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