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article ran in the August/September 2011 print issue of PA TIMES.
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Christine Gibbs Springer
The workplace of the future is being shaped today by a collection of social media technologies and by five generations at work. Employees are increasingly demanding that employers overhaul their approach to recruitment and engagement of workers so as to get and keep the most talented. To do so, public administrators need to better understand the forces shaping the future workplace and how to engage talented workers and the community so as to create a new organizational culture. Public administrators also need to become new and true leaders.
The five generations currently at work according to a U.S. Department of Census 2007 report include 46 million Traditionalists born before 1946, 78 million Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964, 50 million Generation Xers born between 1965 and 1976, 88 million Millennials born between 1977 and 1997, and 41 million Generation 2020s born after 1997.
While a record number of Millennials are entering the workplace, many older workers are also returning to it. Older workers may either stay in their current jobs longer or enter second careers. Increasingly, the federal government is one sector that appears to be hiring older, more experienced workers. Each generation brings a different lens to the workplace and different expectations regarding work, learning and communication.
My research indicates that five key forces are shaping the future workplace. First, Traditionalists and Baby Boomers are as likely as Millennials to be Web contributors usually by being active contributors to existing content while Millennials focus on creating new content. Second, Boomers and Generation Xers look for a work life/home life balance while Millennials see work as “part of life.” Third, Millennials and Generation Xers place high importance on working for an organization that develops them professionally. Fourth, Millennials are likely to choose to work for an organization based upon their ability to access the latest technologies at work such as Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. Fifth, Traditionalists and Boomers place high importance on management’s understanding and valuing having all four generations in the workplace.
Five key principles are increasingly critical to engaging future employees around the world, across industries and generations.
Creating this environment will require public administrators to be new and true leaders so that all of these key principles are supported and reinforced. Increasingly, information about us and those that we report to will be freely shared through Twitter, text messages, IMs and hundreds of sites where employees are able to publicly rate their bosses and the organization based upon consistency and authenticity as to what is said and done. As new/true leaders, we will be accountable to the governed, understand that everyone has a right to dissent and that leadership is distributed with hierarchies being eliminated. The democratization of information frees people from a hierarchial control of information and at the same time, challenges public administrators to respect confidentiality and honor organizational processes and procedures.
To build an organizational culture that enables performance at the highest levels in the future, public administrators will need to:
This kind of culture can be encouraged through initiatives like reverse-mentoring wherein two employees from very different cultures and backgrounds create a working relationship with one another and also by the organization sponsoring events that promote diversity and inclusion.
In the final analysis, the world of work is changing faster than ever and public administrators need to be prepared to take advantage of the shifting workforce demographics, the rapid expansion of the digital workplace, the increased use of mobile technology and a growing culture of connectivity wherein significant value is increasingly realized by organizations from social media deployments.
ASPA member Christine Gibbs Springer is principal with Red Tape Limited in Las Vegas, NV, and a former ASPA president. Email: [email protected]