What Has Become Irrelevant In Corporate Culture?

There has been much written and said about the shifting workforce.  We see the Millenial generation (1983-2001),  entering organizations at an amazing rate, while at the same time Baby Boomers (1946-1964), are retiring.  In our research that involved multiple corporations and thousands of managers and Millennials, we identified nine perceived orientations that drive the behavior of this new workforce generation.1 One perceived weakness is that they put a high value on being autonomous.  One of the complaints was “they seem to disregard tradition and ignore the way things have always been done.”

One of the unintended consequences of this is a shift in the corporate mindset which consisted of…

  • a 9 to 5 job
  • sitting at cubicle
  • in a particular building
  • using devices provided by the employer

The shift in corporate culture just happens to be in parallel with the shift in the workforce.

Some have vilified this new generation of workers, in part, because of their desire for a more flexible workplace.  Yet upon further investigation, a focus on what gets done rather than how and where it gets done is turning out to be a good thing.

There are also studies showing that in some professions working from home increases, not only a sense of well-being, but also personal productivity.

One study involved 13,000 employees of a large Chinese multinational—China’s largest travel agency.2 Those working from home (randomly picked), were compared to their office-working counterparts.  The homeworkers had a 13% increase in performance. The top executives of the company were surprised because they assumed there would be a negative impact on performance.

These executives were also concerned about the 50% annual turnover of their workers.  Through this experiment the company’s attrition rate was cut in half, which resulted in reducing new employee training costs.  Office costs were also reduced in the areas of leased space and energy consumption.

The Millennial generation’s demand for greater flexibility is not in competition with an organizations desire for increased productivity. It has the potential to enhance it.

In the past, working 9 to 5 at a dedicated location with dedicated equipment was a way of assuring people would get their work done.  It provided accountability, especially with the lack of technology available.  Just think of the increased agility of an organization when people can do their very best work when, where, and how they want!

It’s no coincidence that work locations are increasing at the same time workspace costs are decreasing.  According to a new study by Citrix3, work-shifting is on the rise.  According to their survey of 1900 companies, allowing people to work at more optimal times and locations is having a positive impact both in cost-savings and personal productivity.  By the year 2020 there will be:

  • 20% decrease in dedicated workspace
  • 7 desks for every 10 office employees worldwide (6 desks for every 10 workers in the U.S)
  • 3 out of 10 who will work remotely
  • access to corporate IT networks from an average of 6 different devices

The office spaces of the future will foster creativity and encourage collaboration.  This includes the ability to work from anywhere—the corporate workplace, the customer’s workplace, the employee’s home, on the go, and with no particular eight- hour time frame.

In our research4 Millennials are the first real global generation.  They are Digital Natives.  They want to use their own digital devices to do work…. B.Y.O.D. (bring your own device). They are comfortable working from coffee shops, hotels, airports, home, and of course, the office.  They are naturals at telecommunicating.  All of this adds to a person’s wellbeing and work-life balance.  It’s no surprise that when given the choice, older generations want this too!

Leaders and managers need to look at their organization’s needs while at the same time playing to the strengths of this new workforce.  This will increase employee productivity and reduce the organization’s cost—including their carbon footprint.

This will also leverage a company’s ability to recruit, train, and retain their top employees, no matter what their age and regardless of where they live.

Promoting mutual understanding between generations in the workplace is, and will continue to be, a game-changer.

Work is rapidly becoming something people do, and not just a place people go.

1 Managing The Millennials: Discover The Core Competencies For Managing Today’s Workforce; Espinoza, Ukleja, & Rusch. Wiley & Sons. 2010.

2 “Does Working From Home Work? Evidence From A Chinese Experiment”. Nicholas Blooma, et. al.  July 2012.

3A Future Workplace Formula”. Citrix. September 25, 2012.

4Redtree Leadership & Development. Powerful Solutions For Today’s Changing Business World.

Mick Ukleja is partnered with Red Tree Leadership to work with organizations and companies who desire to more effectively manage their Millennial employees.

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