Opinion

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Increased individual responsibility could be the future for workers

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Over the next decade, the number of economically active people aged 65 and over is projected to increase by one third, leading to the workforce potentially spanning four generations. Alongside changing demographics, technological advancements will also contribute to a workforce that must be more flexible.

Employees will be expected to shoulder more and more responsibility for skills development. Self-management, alongside core business skills such as project management, and the ability to promote your personal brand will become increasingly important.

As the workforce ages and older people stay in employment for longer, many young people will be trapped in low-level entry positions. This means that workers will have to learn to be more flexible when it comes to skills. Employers will favour staff that can adapt to and embrace change. Acquiring new skills and competencies will set workers apart. According to the report, 50 per cent of businesses already say that flexible working is now standard practice, and this looks like a trend that is set to continue.

The report suggests that the hierarchical structures of companies are giving way to leaner management, with more individual responsibility for tasks and processes. If this is the case, fundamental business skills, such as marketing and project management, will be required of all staff – not just those in more senior management positions. What’s more, the ability of workers to promote their own personal brand will become increasingly vital, particularly for young people who will be competing for jobs with those who stay in employment longer.

Whilst the report signals huge change for employees, there will also be big implications on HR and management practices for businesses in the coming years. With the erosion of hours-based contracts, and an increase in employees operating remotely, reward and recognition of staff may be harder to implement.

It is vital, therefore, that businesses are open with their staff. Communication throughout organisations will become increasingly important to keep remote staff in the loop. People working unusual hours must not be forgotten. In an environment where Gen Y staff have progressed through the ranks, and younger staff could feel stuck in lower level positions, reward and recognition will become more pertinent, and must be tailored to the needs of individuals.

Similarly, implementing successful health and wellbeing policies in offices where staff span a range of ages, with many based remotely, will be a challenge. Currently, small gestures such as fresh fruit in the office are popular and can even boost job satisfaction (cited by ten per cent of staff in a recent Investors in People survey).

However, by 2030, in-office practices may be redundant for some staff, and providing services such as health insurance or subsidised gym membership will show remote workers and in-house staff that their employer cares about them.

While many companies are already embracing change, with remote working, the use of cloud platforms and staff on freelance or temporary contracts, many more organisations will need to learn to accept it, and doing so now may give them a head start over others, and help them to attract forward-thinking staff. The introduction of remote working systems will give staff more flexibility and help them adjust to the idea of a more malleable work environment for the future.

With leaner management teams, the responsibility to uphold the organisation’s brand will rest more and more on the shoulders of individual employees. As such, businesses will need to ensure that their people have a good understanding and knowledge of the organisation they represent. This will require businesses to be more open with their workers, to ensure a more trusting environment where people feel valued.

While many of these changes may seem a way off, there are a number of insights in the report that businesses should take away and act upon now. Increased communication with employees is key – especially when changes are taking place in an organisation; retain talented staff by keeping them in the loop throughout periods of change to ensure they feel valued and trusted. Implementing new working practices, such as flexible hours and remote working, will keep your business ahead of the curve and ensure you’re ready for the future of the workplace.

Paul Devoy is Head of Investors in People.

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