Three trends are gathering momentum in the workforce. Neither you nor your business can afford to ignore them this year.
1. Diversity Is Destiny
Workforce diversity has obvious business benefits, including in-house access to a varied and broad range of skills and a market presence that says you are committed to acquiring, developing and retaining top talent from every possible source. For companies that strive to become more consistently innovative, diversity is essential to bringing new ideas to bear. And for companies designing apps for a global marketplace or delivering e-commerce services to global customers, having staff that represents the many languages, cultural backgrounds, races, genders and ages your business is trying to serve just makes sense.
But two dimensions of diversity are particularly important to address this year.
First, you must create a workplace that is geared to attract and retain women. For companies seeking a workforce with higher education, women will be essential. In the U.S., the Department of Education estimated that
women earned 62 percent of all associate degrees in the graduating class of 2013, 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, 60 percent of all master’s degrees, and 52 percent of all doctorates.
Today, women are educated in higher numbers in most major countries throughout the world, and the gap is expected to grow, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Second, for more than a decade, Hispanics have been the nation’s largest minority and, by 2050, will represent more than half of the nation’s workforce. In sharp contrast to Gen Y’ers as a whole, our research indicates that Hispanics are particularly likely to be drawn to larger, well-established firms with recognized brands. This cohort will be an important — perhaps even the single most important — source of talent for major corporations over the years ahead. Developing an environment that is attractive to Hispanics should be an immediate priority for every large organization. This will require a mix of traditional values — including well-thought-out career development options and status-related recognition — and forward-thinking practices, such as a wide variety of flexible work arrangements and options for exercising personal choice.
2. Contingent by Choice
More and more people are choosing a contingent work style — that is, temporary work that may be project-based or time-based — over full- or part-time work. The numbers will continue to grow. Yes, some will be involuntary; not everyone can find full-time employment. But, intriguingly, many people are choosing a contingent work style, seeking a better work/life balance, the ability to design their own careers or choose projects of particular interest.
New technologies and services for contingent workers make it easier and less painful to make the choice to go independent. Companies can reach out flexibly to individuals, while new types of talent brokers — such as YourEncore, an online network of retired engineers, or InnoCentive, which offers crowdsourcing services to companies with innovation challenges — connect free agents with project-based work in virtual marketplaces.
Although the IT industry has used offshoring and outsourcing for years, the benefits for corporations of the growing pool of individuals available on an ad hoc basis are adding up: cost flexibility from adjusting staff sizes up and down based on business requirements; greater speed and agility as talent needs can change on a dime, and a boost to innovation as contingent talent brings in new knowledge and fresh ideas based on experiences outside of the company or even the industry.
To take full advantage of this important emerging cadre of workers,
get rid of any perception of contingent workers as somehow less important, less skilled or less committed
than “permanent” employees. Going forward, employers must incorporate contingent workers in meaningful ways.
3. Meaning Is the New Money
IT work today involves the successful execution of activities that managers cannot prescribe or even monitor. This work asks individuals to deal with rich content that flows through infinite links. Individuals must make intelligent, well-informed decisions about what to share with whom — and what to ignore — with little guidance from the hierarchy to simplify the patterns of interaction.
Perhaps most significantly,
IT work requires high levels of discretionary effort. People have to choose to do the work and have to want to do it well.
They must dig deep within themselves to form innovative ideas and put their best thinking forward.
My research has clearly shown that discretionary effort ties directly to the individual’s level of engagement. Engagement, in turn, occurs when our work experiences reflect a clear set of values that we share. It can’t be mandated or monitored through physical oversight, nor does it respond to monetary incentives. For most workers today, meaning is the new money — it’s what motivates people at work to go the extra mile. Clear company values, translated into the day-to-day work experience, are the strongest drivers of an engaged workforce. By strengthening meaning and increasing engagement, firms can inspire employees whenever and wherever they work.
Tamara J. Erickson is a McKinsey Award-winning author, a leading expert on generations in the workplace, and a widely-respected expert on the changing workforce, collaboration and innovation, and the nature of work in intelligent organizations. She has three times been named one of the 50 most-influential living management thinkers in the world by Thinkers50; has written a trilogy of books on how individuals in specific generations can excel in today’s workplace: Retire Retirement, What’s Next, Gen X? and Plugged In; and is working on a fourth book for the generation under 18 today. Tammy has also authored or co-authored numerous Harvard Business Review articles and the book Workforce Crisis: How to Beat the Coming Shortage of Skills and Talent.
She is the Executive Fellow, Organizational Behavior, at London Business School, where she has designed and co-directs the school’s leadership program for senior executives, Leading Businesses into the Future. She is the founder and CEO of Tammy Erickson Associates, a research-based firm dedicated to helping clients build intelligent organizations. Erickson has also served on the board of directors of two Fortune 500 corporations. She holds a degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Chicago and an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration.