Mind the gap by Dan Westley


danIntroducing Dan Westley, friend of Workspace and Associate Director at CBRE, London, who shares a frank – and rather entertaining – commentary on the spectrum of staff found in today’s workplaces and the challenges employers face to retain them.

Dan represents office occupiers on transaction and strategic advice within the within the Central London market. He is also head of the Creative Team which seeks to understand the psychology of occupiers and provide a focus on how the digital revolution has affected and will continue to affect them and the way that they experience the workplace.

As we are now firmly plunged into another new year, we start to look ahead to what the next few hundred days may bring; what decisions will need to be made, what people we may meet, what holidays we may go on. This, as the lovely Mrs. Pott’s from Beauty and the Beast once sang, is a ‘Tale as Old as Time’. Year after year we step into January with optimism, sometimes with caution, more recently with disbelief, but nevertheless the years seem to roll on and with that, we grow up, start careers, get promoted, finish careers, and not necessarily in that order – but it did make me think a little about the people I encounter and more so, the people I see day to day in the office, and the different age groups they belong to.

Fortunately, the various strata of the working population can be conveniently split into the following groups:

I acknowledge that these labels are somewhat immaterial, 10 years from now will we start again with Generation A or will we move on to Generation AA – I’m sure the Marketing team at Duracell are getting excited! But what do these labels actually mean, well I’d say not very much, they are a little meaningless, they don’t define, they don’t limit, they are labels dreamt up by advertisers in Trendyville Towers aimed at grouping and targeting certain ages of the population. But this does seem to be a topic that is getting more airtime, and more recently, bearing more significance in the workplace.

I recently watched an excerpt from one of Simon Sinek’s talks on millennials in the Workplace that was circulating social media, I am sure many millennials watched a few minutes of it on their phone before switching apps to Insta to see what the Kardashians are up to, and 3 weeks later it made its way into the inboxes of the baby boomers for them to watch on their desktop, cue streams of senior management plugging in their barely used earphones from their office drawers. Of course I am being facetious on purpose but this video did take a frank look at the characteristics and traits of millennials and the interactions that take place both socially and within the working environment. The stereotypes that exist around millennials are that they are entitled, tough to manage and lazy; who would want to hire that? I read that over 50% of hiring managers say it is difficult to find and retain millennials. Interestingly 58% of millennials expect to leave their jobs in 3 years or less so perhaps hiring managers are correct in thinking this but clearly there is a slight disconnect in what managers and what millennials look for in a job. But I don’t think the answer is to dig in heels, but to try and find a way to adapt, to reflect the wants and needs of a burgeoning segment of the working population. Deloitte has suggested that millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 and so it seems ill-considered therefore not to amend hiring requirements, rather than try and alienate this group of people.

But just to briefly address the stereotypes stated above, a lot of what is being described could probably be put down to perception. Where one says entitled, the other says striving for more, where one says lazy, the other says needing to be challenged. I don’t think it is a misconception to say that a trait of millennials is that they are impatient, but you can’t blame them, we live in a world where everything is instantaneous, save for building relationships and love – but there are always apps that help this. We expect to get a response to emails at all times of the day, get clinically depressed when the multi-coloured pinwheel does it’s thing on our screens and don’t get me started on when our phones don’t have 4G. But all of this leads millennials to feeling that if they are not making a big impact in the workplace and fundamentally changing the world, they are not a success.

Where does this leave us? Well it does make me question leadership techniques that are being adopted and the inability to adapt to the changing needs of the workforce of today. I wonder whether the exec generation of 50 years ago had the same feeling towards the ‘baby boomers’ in the workplace, it being a far less connected and social world, we wouldn’t necessarily know. But I do believe that in order to get the best out of a workforce, no matter the age, you need to give them not just the facilities, but the support, empowerment and ability to do their job how, when and where they want to.

I fully acknowledge the generalisations that are being made here, of course there are dynamic forward thinkers, companies doing all they can to stay ahead on the war for talent, and I also acknowledge that millennials are not necessarily the perfect employees, but this does seem to be a rather pressing issue that is increasingly affecting the dynamic in the workplace. As a challenge to ourselves how about we use 2017 to stop antagonising and dividing and try to understand the challenges that face everyone in the workplace, from the numbers driven manager who gets thrashed by investors if they miss a target, to the HR team who want to develop and plan a career lasting longer than 24 months, and to the 21 year old new joiner who knows that if they were old enough they too would have invented Facebook and have already made a significant contribution to the world we live in. We all have our stresses, we all have our challenges, let’s not make the workplace one of them.

For more about Dan or CBRE contact: Daniel.westley@cbre.com

So how exactly do we ensure we communicate, connect and retain the millennials? What does this workspace look like and how do we facilitate and support these needs? It is a sizeable consideration when approaching projects at Workspace Design. How the new generation workforce interacts with its workspace is not just an afterthought or an add-on, it is a prerequisite. Merging the old and the new to suit all palettes is something we take incredibly seriously, ensuring we blend the familiar and practical with the dynamic and flexible.

Think plug and play workstations, agile workspaces, sit/stand workstations, traditional desks and high backed comfy chairs, all of which promote flexible working. We don’t believe in trying to abolish the office and make it a playground but we do believe in making it adaptable to suit all expectations and reflect the needs and wants of the majority of your staff.

If you want advice on updating your workspace then give us a shout at: info@workspace-design.co.uk


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