Here is the next article on hybrid and flexible working from The Change Maker Group.  Stephen Newman shares these thoughts.

When Sky Brown won bronze medal in the skateboarding on 4th August, it was just another medal in a growing tally of the Great Britain Olympic Team.  What made it special was the fact that she was only 13 years old.  Great Britain’s youngest Olympian.  Apparently the average age of the top three medallists was about 14 years given that another medallist was only 12 and one was 19.  Her short TV interview confirmed her dedication to her sport.  She also came across as a happy and exuberant 13 year old should.  Her way of expressing her delight was not only engaging.  It was different.

A young sportswoman with her take on the sports world.  Some noticed how she and the younger skateboarding community refused to follow Olympic convention.  Some brought binoculars to the course to study other competitors’ performance.  Others noted how this community was so supportive of each other, sharing tips and tricks and how they encouraged and coached each other before they performed their personal run.

This collaboration and outbreak of mutual support is rarely if ever seen in any other competitive sport or at any other age.

The passion to win was still there but so was the culture of helping others.  Of course professionalism and mutual respect pervade every sport but with these skateboarding youngsters, the media reported a very different attitude. These kids were helping each other to “go out there and smash it”.

What we see in our youth communities very often points to what we can expect to see in future generations.  For years now, we have seen a culture in many walks of life of “I want, I want it now and if I can’t have it I am going to find ways to get it”.  This has led to incredible determination in some cases and in other cases anti-social / criminal behaviour driven by a focus on the self rather than “we”.

In the world of business Generation Z is growing in representation:

  • Diversity is their norm…
  • They are our first “digital natives”…
  • They are pragmatic and financially-minded…
  • Many factors contribute to their mental health challenges…
  • They are shrewd consumers…
  • They are politically progressive — even those on the right.

The signs point to a generation of people who can be independent and work anywhere, with anyone and on their own terms.  What leadership skills are necessary to help this generation explore its talent and contribute to society and the economy?  I don’t think the task focussed leader who cares little for their team as long as they deliver results, will find it easy to lead from the front.

In an article in CEO Today three critical skills needed to lead in a Generation Z world are reported as:-

  • Passion
  • Flexibility
  • Commitment to integrity and diversity

One can’t help thinking how much these attributes have been hidden alongside other calls to action in favour of doing whatever is necessary to make the numbers.

Generation Alpha is going to follow Generation Z.  This refers to people who are born after 2010.  This may not feel important now but the early signs are that across the world this will be a generation growing up and being even more dependent on technology.

By 2025, Generation Alpha will number 2 billion globally. It will be the wealthiest, most educated, and technologically literate in history.” – Robert Hannah, Chief Operating Officer at Grant Thornton U.K.

In summary from early research the conclusions are, this will be a generation who:

  • will be the most educated Generation in history…
  • are even more tech-savvy…
  • live where artificial intelligence is their reality…
  • for them their learning is highly personalised…
  • will depend on Social media as their dominant mode of interaction…
  • do not like the sharing economy…
  • don’t play by the rules.

There will always be exceptions but how business anticipates these changes and faces up to them will determine which organisations will grow and which ones will falter.

Leaders must not only adapt.  They must learn.  They must also come to realise that they will not have all the answers.  Leaders will need to build cohorts of middle managers with a blend of change making skills to be ready for any eventuality among these two generations including getting the most from diverse working groups who are not always expecting to be in view or within earshot during working hours.

Thought Leaders McKinsey have been quite outspoken on flexible working.

They describe this time as a “once in a generation opportunity to reimagine work”.  They suggest that employers might think the world is ready to go back to work as before but employees are less certain and are re-evaluating their relationships with work.

Pre Pandemic a survey of CEOs showed that 92% believed the average share of workdays in the office would be 4 or more days 8% believed it would be closer to 3 days.  Post pandemic 52% still believe employees will spend more than 4 days, 36% believed 3 days was more realistic and 12% thought 2 days a week could be the norm for office work – an amazing swing.

A similar survey of employees pre- and post-pandemic carried out by McKinsey showed that 62% of employees had a desired working model of being fully “on site”.  This fell to 37% when surveyed post-pandemic.  The Hybrid Work model of being partly on site and partly off site rose from 30% to 52%.

We simply must ask questions about the longer term.

  • What impact will Covid have on the demand for office space, especially in Cities?
  • Will there be an over supply of office space and what will that do to the commercial property market?
  • What will happen to the hospitality sector if restaurants, pubs and sandwich bars lose lunch time trade?
  • And, if we are seeing a lasting change, how will this be managed by Generation Z and Generation Alpha leaders in the years to come?

Being able to deal with change is work that needs to start now.  Don’t get caught out by predicting leadership effectiveness based on assumptions and gut feel.  We all have our own ways of working.  These habits are difficult to change.  It is both our strength and our vulnerability.  Instead now is the time to start a discussion about your managers and leaders.  You will need to assess them and assess yourselves.  What change making skills do you have inside your organisation?  Which are missing?  Look within your team for Game Changers with new ideas, Strategists with the skills to manage change within desired plans and frameworks, Implementers to manage change projects, Polishers who can make those projects even more effective  and Play Makers who can drive change by getting people to collaborate.

Stephen Newman

To continue this conversation about hybrid and flexible working, please click here to arrange a chat.

Email Stephen here