Robert Stark: Workplace Transformation and the Next Generation Employee
With evidence that the move to automate and enhance productivity has accelerated the already shifting set of skills required from colleagues, Robert Stark argues that the key skill-sets of the future will be relational and data-driven based but sees little generational differences between the existing workforce and the next gen’ers in terms of expectations.…human needs haven’t changed much, but those needs should be meet and that’s where technology come into play.
There is a huge amount of effort being put into automation by businesses at present, including real estate, which by conservative estimates will displace more than 20% of current manual tasks in the near future.
Economists at the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) are already demonstrating that those firms with early adoption of automation are actually counterintuitively increasing total employment rather than decreasing it. Whilst this is not software automation, we can reasonably assume a correlation at this stage, and our experience to date with our own automation programme suggests this holds true. Strategically, we are aiming for productivity, not simply efficiency – the difference being that efficiency is doing the same with less, but productivity is doing more with the same.
What that means is the move to automation has accelerated the already shifting set of skills we require from our colleagues. McKinsey Global has articulated that shift, and real estate and construction specialists Holtby Turner further summarised here.
When implemented correctly, it means that teams have the ability to focus on the value add proposition. This means we need people who add the human skills that can’t readily be replaced, such as creativity and problem solving, above and beyond relatively simple and repetitive data entry skills.
And the World Economic Forum states that skills, not job titles, are the new metric. By which they mean that those businesses which can identify their needs at a more granular level will be able to capture an advantage during the recruitment process. This approach requires businesses to first identify what the skills are that they think they will need, not based on previous experience, but based on what is yet to come. Arguably no easy task.
From a technical perspective, we believe that there are two key areas of focus for human skills: relational and data driven. That is, we need people who are good communicators, relationship managers and who understand customer and client experience in order to deliver that. Second, we require people who are good with data and the technological and technical demands and requirements. The two are of course not mutually exclusive, but it is rare to find high levels of competence in both areas.
Those two archetypes are the templates for our next generation of employees. There will be generalists, who are competent in both areas, but I suspect we will largely be looking for one or the other in order to fulfil the specific needs of our clients and customers.
Culturally, we are looking for grit and the ability to problem solve. It seems simple but does require a certain mind-set. We want people who will stick with something and see it through, and who are happy to not only come up with solutions but also to implement them.
To attract those people, to provide the right culture, we don’t buy into the millennial myth, or generational differences in terms of expectations. Human needs through the ages haven’t changed that much and while the possibilities may be both accelerated by, and delivered through technology, it is those needs that we want to meet.
Bestselling business book author Dan Pink believes most will want Autonomy, as far as is reasonable, Mastery, as far as is possible and also Purpose. If your business can help facilitate these factors, and be genuine about it, then you can both attract and retain the right team. Most will find focus in one or another of these areas – some will want balance across all three.
Incentivisation, partially as a result of the above, has also become more granular. We all understand that different things motivate different people. To provide that level of flexibility you need to be agile – one size does not, and cannot, fit all. This is perhaps one area that has changed now there is a greater acceptance that a holistic approach can be taken to both career and life and that the fabled work/life balance can be achieved, as long as the individual knows what they want that balance to be.