7 November 2018 | By Gordon Wilson Community

It's time to reimagine the role of 'leader'

Younger generations are driving change in companies. It’s up to leaders to embrace it, says Advanced's Gordon Wilson

Whether it’s attitudes towards technology, perspectives on workplace structures, or approaches to work itself, the latest generation of workers is considerably different to its predecessors. For a start, these younger workers are seasoned technology users and therefore already familiar with (and keen to adopt) the tools that can make the workplace more efficient.

And, rather than looking to begin their career within a large organisation, many are preferring to make their mark in small, agile start-ups. They offer the flexibility, work-life balance, and the non-hierarchical development that many bigger corporations supposedly lack.  

That raises the question: how can leaders of these corporations attract the latest generation? Because, without these workers, they risk falling behind the curve.

Here are four key areas to help redress the balance:

It is time to embrace differences as opportunities

As digital natives, the newest generation of workers depend on technology to stay connected and solve problems, introducing new ways of working that many of their older colleagues feel uncomfortable with. If companies hope to embrace and benefit from a multi-generational workforce, it's critical for leaders to engage more with younger workers and be ready to adapt. This can mean introducing new ways of working as well as changing workflows and how different departments operate together. It could also be the key to unlock productivity.

It is time for everyone to recognise technology as a positive force to drive innovation

Businesses are pressing ahead with digital transformation but does everyone see the value in the impact of this technology? Are employees confident about their future roles, and how these will change – and provide them with opportunities?

Business leaders need to be driving this cultural change so that its impact ripples down positively across the organisation. Otherwise the danger is that staff won’t embrace digital tools, invest time in developing their skills, or adapt to new ways of working that are fundamental to driving productivity.

That’s not to say that today’s more linear workforce doesn’t also play a vital role in driving innovation. Last month, for example, Advanced ran its first annual global hackathon to harness the creative talent of its staff to drive its products forward in new directions and into new markets. It’s about sharing the responsibility.

It is time to foster a more agile, open and collaborative culture

The new generation of workers want opportunity and respect, and won’t hang around without it. It’s time leaders rethink the way they use this entry-level talent base. At our recent roundtable event looking at the trends around digital transformation, Andrew Turner, CIO of Tideway, talked about the importance of developing higher value jobs. His view was that technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) offers the possibility to alleviate the drudgery of low value processes, allowing employees to focus on higher value activities. This would benefit the UK economy by improving efficiency and creating more opportunities for organisations to nurture the talents of their people.

For this to be successful there will have to be a greater focus on skills training, to help people realise their true potential. More investment in apprenticeships and training can be the antidote to current concerns about job losses caused by AI and this is something that employees and employers will have to take more seriously in the future.

Leaders need to endorse a more open and collaborative culture that rewards workers on merit, not time spent in a company. Sadly, we are still seeing talented people entering the workplace full of new ideas put off by hierarchies based on age rather than knowledge. Leaders mustn’t ignore their ideas and the contribution they can make.

It is time to create a better work-life balance

Many new workers value work-life balance above a higher salary, so leaders need to also look at how technology can help them achieve this goal. Progressive organisations allow staff to use technologies like automation to work in a way that suits them best, which ultimately boosts productivity and employee satisfaction. In the same way, leaders need to understand the true strategies behind reducing today’s culture of busyness. They should encourage people to step back and change ingrained habits, such as regularly working late. Reassuringly, some have already done so. According to our recent survey, 35 percent of decision makers already use the Cloud, mobile technology, AI and predictive analytics to automate processes and maximise the effectiveness of their time.

The reality is that the workplace is changing faster than ever before, and the latest generation of workers are leading that charge. Leaders must embrace this change. Rather than something to be wary of, it should inspire companies to innovate and evolve, recruiting fresh talent that can drive the business forward. Thinking differently, taking time to recharge and reimagine the workplace to better suit this generation’s way of working and communicating is critical to achieving an engaged, productive and collaborative workforce that feels empowered to bring new ideas forward.

Advanced’s third Advanced Annual Trends Survey Report, examining transformative digital trends and their impact on UK organisations, will be launched at this year’s CBI Annual Conference. Please find last year’s report here.

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