"The urgent challenge to HR leaders is to apply a consumer and a digital lens to the HR function."

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Jeanne Meister is the founder of HR advisory and research firm Future Workplace. In 2015, Jeanne was named to the list of the top 50 Influencers in Corporate Human Resources and Recruiting by Glassdoor. She will be keynoting at Learning Live on September 6th and 7th on what employees will look for in the future workplace and what this means for organisations.

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: What's  your advice to organisations who don't know if Millennials are different or whether differences have been magnified to date?

Jeanne Meister, Founding Partner, The Future Workplace: By 2025, millennials (born between 1982 and 1993) will comprise more than three quarters of the global workforce. In the United  States, millennials became the largest generational cohort in the workforce, but this is not the case in Europe.

According to Pew Research, millennials are the European Union's minority population with Eurostat estimating that the retirement age population in European countries will be larger than the working age population by 2040. But in India, the demographics are quite different. Morgan Stanley estimates that India's millennial population is at 407 million today, the largest Millennial cohort in the world, and this is estimated to grow by another 100 million by 2020.

But the question continues: are millennials different from the rest of the generations or are they representative of young people at this stage of life? At a macro level, millennials want what we all want from work: flexibility to work where, when and how they want, purposeful work and access to continuous on-demand learning.

While I believe age is more a matter of mindset rather than a number, I do think millennials are giving voice to the changes we all see needed in the workplace. These changes can be summarised as:

Personalization in the workplace

Millennials want a personalized employee experience and this demand is for personalization in all aspects of the employee life cycle from finding a new job to new hire on boarding, learning and career development and rewards and recognition.

Career development and work life integration

These are more important than financial rewards.

According to PwC global survey of  4,364 millennials, they are intensely committed to their personal learning and development and this remains their first choice benefit from employers. In second place they want flexible working hours. Cash bonuses come in at a surprising third place.

Customisation of employee benefits

In the United States, student loan repayment assistance has been called the hottest employee benefit for 2017. A survey by American Student Assistance finds that 76% of millennials said that if a prospective employer offered a student loan payment benefit, this would be a deciding factor in accepting a job offer.

To date, ten companies have offered this benefit to attract and retain millennials and they include: PwC, (the first to offer this) Fidelity Investments, Aetna, Penguin Random House, Natixis, First Republic, Nvidia, Chegg, PowerTex Group and Staples.

The need to merge the consumer and employer brand

PwC finds that millennials are overwhelmingly attracted for employment to to employer brands that they admire as consumers.

Because of this we are seeing HR and Talent Acquisition leaders using some marketing techniques such as the Net Promoter Score for recruiting and Hackathons to develop new ideas to source and on board employees.

Provide internal career mobility

As more employees work in cross functional teams they are requesting opportunities for internal career mobility. Future Workplace research among 2,147 heads of HR and Hiring managers found that companies that embrace career mobility increase employee engagement by 49% and improve employee productivity by 39%.  

Finally, companies are developing new programs and employee affinity groups to focus on generational similarities rather than calling out differences. Examples include IBM Millennial Corp, open to both millennials and those with a millennial mindset and Bank of America Inter Generational Group offering generational intelligence training bringing millennails together with other generations in the workplace to focus on new mentoring and coaching programs. 

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: How can you make remote working "work," and bridge the psychological divide of not sharing the same social space at work?

Jeanne Meister, Founding Partner, The Future Workplace: Remote work, or the practice of working outside of a traditional office, is on the rise

According to FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, there has been a 115% percent increase in telecommuting between 2005-2015 (3.9 million employees in 2015, up from 1.8 million in 2005).

Increasingly, employees see remote work as an "expectation and 21st century way of working," rather than an employee "perk." For employers, remote working has become a strategic effort to access a global talent pool, boost productivity, decrease real estate costs, and improve employee satisfaction.

Adoption of the latest technologies from Slack, BlueJeans, Cisco Spark Rooms, Google Hangout, and Skype For Business have contributed to the ability of companies to improve remote work collaboration and drive results.

For many, the ability to work remotely is becoming an expectation of employees rather than just a desire. A new global survey of over 23,00 employees conducted by Polycom in collaboration with Future Workplace, entitled The Human Face of Remote Working, found that nearly three out of four employees say their company offers flexible working, and 32% said they regularly work remotely.

The Human Face of Remote Working uncovered a stigma to working remotely with 62% of remote workers responding that they fear their co-workers do not think they are working as hard as them since they are not in the office.

Companies that want to embed remote working into their culture are adopting the following three strategies:

Strategy 1: Offer training for both virtual workers and virtual managers.

Companies that are seeing business impacts in workplace flexibility have designed policies & training to prepare both virtual employees and virtual managers for how to work in this new world of work.

American Express realizes the job of creating the workspace for tomorrow requires a robust set of policies, training and communications governed by a cross functional team.

Key areas covered in the American Express virtual work training include: training on using new technology tools, tips and tricks on being a mobile worker and how to lead a virtual team in a mobile work environment.

Strategy 2: Invest in and train on state of the art digital technologies to promote remote working.

Research shows companies adopting remote working also invest in online collaboration technologies such as Skype for Business, Google Hangout,  Yammer, Slack, Microsoft Teams.

The implementation of these tools are especially beneficial for teams dispersed globally.

While agile is a new way of working, employees who are trained in how to use these digital tools can collaborate online despite working in different locations.

Strategy 3: Craft robust communications plan for remote working

Creating a flexible workplace policy is just the beginning. Working remotely for many managers is a change in management issue and has to be treated as such. Additionally, many workers are unclear on their company’s workplace flexibility policy.

According to Future Workplace Multiple Generations @ Work Survey, less than half of all workers (44%) are aware of the workplace flexibility/telecommuting policy offered by their company.

Johns Hopkins University has created a Workplace Flexibility landing page on their career web site which addresses these issues such as: Manager Resources, an FAQ on how to respond to flexible work issues, a guide to publically available training courses on managing remote teams, and how to create a win-win arrangement between a remote worker and the rest of the team. 

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: To be able to cope with the future, what do you think HR should be doing now?

Jeanne Meister, Founding Partner, The Future Workplace: I opened the first chapter of my latest book, The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules For Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees with this call to action:

The Future of Work is happening now. It is not waiting for you or your organization. In times of constant and accelerated change, organizations that do not adapt, that do not anticipate the future and take actions, are in danger of irrelevancy or worse, extinction.  

This view of the future applies to all aspects of HR, from talent acquisition, to new hire onboarding, learning and career development and employee engagement practices.

The urgent challenge to HR leaders is to apply a consumer and a digital lens to the HR function creating an employee experience that mirrors their best customer experience.

According to Forrester, 47% percent of executives surveyed believe that by 2020, digital will have an impact on more than half their sales. We see how digital has transformed media, retail, transportation and education. Now it’s HR’s turn. Digital and consumer marketing are permeating new ways of recruiting, working, learning, and engaging employees.

Applying a consumer and digital lens is much more than just investing in new HR tools. Being employee-centered and digital is about having a new set of consumer-focused and technological skills, as well as a new mindset, one that is iterative and takes a human centered approach to creating new solutions.

Above all, it requires a belief in the power of leveraging the latest consumer technologies inside HR. This can start with how a company engages with prospective new hires. Consider how Zulily, an e-commerce company selling clothing, toys, and home products, invites candidates applying for a job on its social media team to submit an Instagram post that best represents themselves and what they would bring to the team.

Or consider how DBS, Cisco and BMO Financial Group, create new HR solutions by conducting hackathons to co-create new ways forward with employees.

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: What do you think are the most culturally significant learning trends that are shaping how learning takes place in the workplace?

Jeanne Meister, Founding Partner, The Future Workplace: I see three key macro trends having the most impact on how learning takes place in the workplace. These include:

Need for rapid skill development

According to MIT Sloan research, nearly 90% of CEOs believe their company is facing disruptive change driven by digital technologies, and 70% say their workforce does not have the skills to adapt to the magnitude of this change.

What this means is a rapid need to re-skill employees where job skills are becoming obsolete at an accelerating rate. Software engineers must now redevelop skills every 12–18 months.

Professionals in marketing, sales, manufacturing, accounting, and finance report similar demands. Some organizations like AT&T are making a radical talent overhaul. At AT&T where the average job tenure is between 12 and 22 years, CEO John Donovan is advocating for serial learning as the answer to rapid need for skill development.

As described in my book, The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules For Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees, serial learning is defined as owning one's learning and seeing the connection between learning and career advancement. Serial learners possess some of the same qualities as serial entrepreneurs.

They are intellectually curious, not satisfied with business as usual, always reaching beyond their current role to learn something new, make connections out of seemingly unrelated topics, and seek out different networks and experiences.

Move the focus of learning from creating transactional learning programs to designing transformational learning experiences.

As shown in the chart below, the vision of learning  is now broader and more holistic with a expanded mandate to build, curate and design learning experiences for employees. 

Jeanne Meister, Future Workplace

For decades, the leaders of corporate learning have been the gatekeepers of what is included in a company’s corporate university. The process of identifying the skills and capabilities needed for success on the job has resulted in a fixed set of learning offerings pushed to employees.

This is changing as learning leaders shift their focus to create more of a consumer experience, similar to Netflix in how, when, and where workers access learning. And the scope of the corporate university is expanding to culture and community building rather than solely content curation.

Apply a consumer marketing lens to corporate learning

We are seeing the “yelpification” of the workplace, where employees can rate a company’s culture and management just as they rate a hotel, restaurant, or movie. This yelpification is now finding its way into corporate learning. Consider that tools such as Glassdoor keep metrics on whether a company provides opportunities for career development.

Prospective, former and current employees evaluate these ratings and include the quality of a company's career development opportunities into their decision of employment.

Forward looking HR and corporate learning leaders are monitoring these employer rating sites and leveraging a range of design thinking techniques to re-think and re-imagine the employee life cycle from sourcing to on boarding, developing and engaging employees.

Cisco's Breakathon engaged the global HR team to re-imagine several HR practices and to create a more personalized employee and learning experience with the design of prototypes for new hires on boarding and corporate learning.

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: How can L&D impact the development of the triple bottom line across businesses and society?

Jeanne Meister, Founding Partner, The Future Workplace: A growing number of companies are combining leadership development goals with sustainability efforts to provide future leaders with firsthand exposure and experience in regions of the world where the company is growing.

At Dow Chemical, the program is called Leadership in Action, combining global citizenship goals with HR leadership goals.

Employees work in teams of five to solve some of the most critical challenges facing local organizations in regions where Dow Chemical is poised for growth, such as Ghana, Ethiopia and Indonesia.

Dow high potential leaders work on projects such as increasing STEM education, and ensuring access to safe drinking water. While these programs are good for society they also benefit Dow's talent acquisition goals.

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