As the world digitally transforms, how are generational differences to work/life balance making themselves felt? Are they positive drivers of change, or scuttling how enterprises adapt to the post-pandemic norm?
The post-COVID working landscape does not look the same for all ages, and the impact of the pandemic on each generation, in turn, is still being felt - across all age groups and demographics habitual changes to workplace expectations are still in the process of evolving.
Most acutely, ideas around what constitutes a fair, equitable and sustainable work/life balance is a perennial conversation - and it impacts business leaders up and down the country and across almost every industry, especially when considering workflow management, and recruitment and retention strategies across demographics.
The future of work.
Contemporary understandings of generational attitudes to work are important for any employer, no matter their industry. In the case of our roundtable, some context is needed in regard to how generational approaches to work differ:
- An Adobe work/life research piece found that “more than half of Gen Z respondents said they plan to pursue a new job in the next year”,
- According to a wide-ranging Pyn report, when it came to remote work “only 21.4% of Gen Xers and baby boomers wanted to”, whilst “48% (of 18-to-29-year-olds) said they’d prefer hybrid work”.
- A more macro-workforce view from McKinsey notes that “as many as 375 million workers—or 14 per cent of the global workforce—would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030”, with a BCG report noting “21 to 40 (year olds) are the most willing to reskill. The least willing are people aged 20 or younger…and those 50 or older”.
When it comes to work/life balance, the facts bear more illuminating fruit, described best through this Business Wire quote:
- “Both full-time and self-employed knowledge workers say that work-life balance is more important to them in 2022 than compensation”.
Generational line breaks.
There are clear generational line breaks in approaches to work/life balance, which, if poorly managed, can put undue pressure on recruiters, business owners and HR professionals looking to retain talent in-house, or bring new team members on board.
Simply put, this is because staff will not work at an employer where their individual demand for better work/life balance is not met.
But this shift is not universal. While to a large extent these changes have been driven by the shifts in workplace behaviours caused by COVID and furthered by the ongoing digital transformation of workplaces, we circle back to our initial point at the top of this blog - not every generation wants the same thing.
These generational differences were covered in our roundtable, especially when it came to finding solutions to shortages caused by the dearth of skills within tech.
Generational pressures, generational solutions.
Most of our roundtable agreed that with no other choice in the near future, near and offshore solutions to tech workforce problems are the only way to ensure business provision.
The need for more flexible, more accessible and more workable tech project workforce solutions is prescient. Demographics will play a huge part in the national effort to meet the demand of a tech-reliant future, but companies need talent now. When considering the importance of a positive nationwide strategic reskilling campaign, for example, the demand is there, but a sea change in “learning and development” mindsets has to occur across every demographic for it to work.
In the interim, solutions are needed, and as our roundtable discussed at length UK-based employers are increasingly having to lean on near and offshore solutions to bolster their tech capability and capacity
C-suite and beyond.
Our roundtable guests also raised the spectre of generational and demographic leadership, specifically in regards to older company owners and their reactivity to the changing mores of work.
Kirk Winstanley, COO of BankiFi noted that “the majority of people that run or sit at the C-suite level in these large organisations are perceived as much more traditional in their views than people that run the new age FinTechs” as an example of attitudinal differences between two ostensibly sibling business sectors,
This, he goes on to say, affects everything, including things like risk mitigation. Specifically, he refers to “traditional” financial institutions as being too risk averse. This was corroborated by Ben Nadel, Co-Founder of Credit Canary who spoke about risk aversion negatively affecting their ability to grab new opportunities.
In summary, it’s easy enough to extrapolate that legacy thought processes and business management is already having a huge effect on the ability of staff, especially younger, more tech-native staff, to ask for better work/life balance, even in the post-COVID age.
But generational issues lie at the top of the company strata - and effective change has to start at the C-suite level.