As generational stereotypes give way to a more detailed and psychographic understanding of employees and their needs, work environments must also evolve to stay relevant, effective and up to the task.
Organisations’ best employees – those that are the most curious, relevant, knowledge hungry and committed – are increasingly referred to as Perennials. It is this group of committed employees that has the aptitude and appetite to help organisations boost productivity and commercial success.
However, catering for this knowledge-hungry, multi-generational and flexible group requires changes to the way organisations develop and manage their people strategies and, how they design and view the workplace.
Here are the seven main ways that workplaces must evolve in order to unlock the power of Perennials:
Activity-based work settings.
There has already been a movement to more activity-based work settings as organisations create spaces that reflect the full scope of employees’ work, be that completing confidential tasks, undertaking private study or working with others. By empowering employees to choose the right space for the task, activity-based work settings create dynamic work environments where interaction and sociability is enhanced. Stereotypical notions of what workers want e.g. fixed desks for older workers/beanbag break-out areas for younger workers, are out-dated and should be challenged to meet the real work-based needs of innovative and committed Perennials.
The idea of judging employees based on perceived generational needs could mean an organisation misses out on workers who, with the right level of support and guidance, have the potential to join the Perennial population. Perennials need employers that are committed to offering stimulating, changeable and challenging careers. Look inside the organisation and across all generations – who is interested, innovative, high-energy and keen to learn? Spot the Perennials, harness them and encourage these attributes across the rest of the workforce.
Mimic the educators.
Perennials love to learn, share skills with colleagues and mentor others. University campus environments are designed to make it easy to learn, pick up new skills, refresh thinking and translate ideas thanks to interlinked communal and private areas that are well-served by technology. Replicate this in the work environment, make mentoring and training hard wired into organisational DNA and use culture and workplace design to make learning as accidental as it is intentional.
The idea of professionalism was once very corporate, it had a uniform of suits and involved nine to five working in a fixed office location. Now, it has been reimagined to reflect how people live. Employers that choose to embrace the power of Perennials will have a clear people proposition that underpins their commitment to wellbeing, flexibility, professional development and how employees can live and work with parity.
The appetite for learning and the desire to stay relevant is strong in Perennials – a quality which employers should capitalise on. New experiences such as giving employees an opportunity to re-train for another role, lead on an innovation project or take a sabbatical will help to keep their energy and commitment levels high. Productive Perennials require organisations to foster greater interaction and honest communication with their employees.
Contribution and shared values.
Today’s employees have an increasing need to share the goals of their employers and Perennials, more than most, want a clear sense of purpose. They expect to understand and align themselves with the organisation’s objectives and recognise their own contribution within it. We can expect to see employers putting more budget and effort into finding ways to foster deeper and more authentic and connected relationship with employees – like minds, like values.
It’s time to start capturing meaningful qualitative and quantitative data about how people work, what they need to thrive and how they feel about the organisation’s vision, values and culture. Collected using a variety of tools from staff surveys to workplace studies and smart building technologies, data can reveal employees’ actual rather than perceived needs and provide the building blocks for a highly-productive organisation. Used regularly, these insights can set importance performance benchmarks year-on-year to ensure that the environment and processes continue to evolve in line with the organisation’s needs.
Use of the term Perennials has helped to shift the focus away from making general assumptions about employees’ needs based on the decade in which they were born, in favour of an evidence-based understanding of what they really want and need to thrive, irrespective of age. As more organisations strive to unlock greater productivity from their workforces, it will become even more necessary to consider how well the workplace is supporting how work is done and the needs of the people doing it.
If Perennials are a company’s best and potentially most productive employees, it’s to be expected that they should set the tone for workplace practices, culture and design. After all, they have the qualities needed to boost workplace output dramatically and have both the influence and reach to take the rest of the workforce with them.