Posted by Juliette Sanderson Neil, Solicitor
Millennials are set to change the workplace – is your business ready?
We have heard a lot about Millennials otherwise known as Generation Y. But good or bad, the consensus is that Millennials are set to revolutionise the work place and that businesses better get with the programme.
Millennials are typically known as those born between 1982 – 2000. They have in the past been negatively labelled as an idle narcissistic generation prone to jumping from one job to the next. However, they are also proving to be the most technologically advanced generation yet, being described as dynamic multi taskers and team players who value their autonomy, purpose in the workplace and a good work life balance.
The story so far
Long gone are the days when an employee would work his way up the ladder at the same employer to eventual retirement. We are now more likely to work for numerous employers; and many of us work part time.
However that might not be enough to attract and retain Millennials, and keep a competitive edge. Recognising this challenge, big businesses are spending millions on new technology, spearheading innovative work practices and rejuvenating traditional work spaces to entice this new generation of workers and to make it better for the rest of us.
Facebook and Google are leading the way in developing office spaces to entertain employees, with gimmicks such as indoor slides, Xbox 360s, Ping Pong tables and rooftop parties, as well as offering cafes, gyms and accommodation. Netflix, Virgin and many companies in Silicon Valley have already implemented an unlimited holidays policy provided staff are still able to carry out their work.
The idea is that if employees can work flexibly and are no longer required to report to the office at the same time every day and sit at the same desk every day, they will be more likely to enjoy their work experience, productivity and client satisfaction will improve, and employees are likely to stay longer with their employer.
Tech firms have been concentrating on the next generation of employees for years and PWC have created an Agile Future Forum to help their clients implement agile ways of working.
Brave New World
What does all of this mean for future business and how can employers manage the changing workplace, and attract and retain high quality talent including Generation Y.
Employees have had the right to request flexible working for a number of years, although in some industries flexible working is far from the norm in practice, and there is still considerable pressure on employees to be seen to be working in the office five days a week. However the reluctance to adapt could cost an employer dear particularly given that many leading businesses now embrace agile working to give them a competitive and profitable edge.
Agile working is different from flexible working. Flexibility has been positioned as an employee benefit, and it usually relates to an individual’s unique working arrangement. Under current UK law, employees who have at least 26 weeks continuous employment can make a request for flexible working for any reason. An employer must meet with the employee but can turn down his or her request for one or more of the 8 prescribed reasons; most requests are turned down on the basis that it will lead to inconsistency in cover of work, which will have an impact on quality or performance.
Agile working practices focus on how a business can get the benefits from changing work practices which satisfy employees, new technology and creating new working environments. Working practices focus on:
- Time: when do employees work (allowing part time and variable hours to suit employees and businesses, particularly those which want to extend trading hours)
- Location: where do they work (with new technology and paperless files, employees can work from multiple sites including client premises and their home without the stress of commuting to work)
- Role: What do they do (introducing multi tasking, often aided by technology. Businesses can increase productivity and are able to respond to business peaks and troughs by redeploying staff to where they are needed)
- Source: Employees versus contractors (contractors may be able to carry out duties traditionally undertaken by employees, or to support employees).
It is clear that one size does not fit all, and while some working practices may not suit your business, others may pay dividends with the right leadership culture.
- understand your business, its goals, and workforce
- review and evaluate working practices; what is on offer, what could be changed, and what is the take up rate for flexible working arrangements
- consider ways to best utilise Generation Y and their technological and multi-tasking abilities
- consider new working arrangements to suit both the business and employees; working from home or abroad, client premises, hot desking, variable hours, holiday schemes
- change office space, and consider leisure space if sufficient room
- review office culture; office culture is often the product of leadership
- put in place sufficient management capacity and HR to deal with change strategy, employees require support and guidance from HR to explore new working arrangements
- review and change your staff handbook and contracts of employment
- take legal advice on current law and introducing new duties/multi tasking, policies and amending employment contracts
- support the right leadership and don’t leave it all to HR.
Kate Benefer, Partner in the Employment and Business Immigration Department, said:
“Generation Y, new technology and challenging economic times, will mean that business will need to adapt their work place and work force to ensure profitability in the future. It does not mean that they have to transform their office space into a playground, but leadership should pay greater attention to their current working practices and consider new policies to address business needs and to suit the changing work styles of employees alike.”
If you would like more information on how we can support your business and employment needs, please contact a member of the Employment Department on
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