Today’s young employees are the engine room of today’s knowledge economy and are tomorrow’s business leaders.
Growing up in an entirely tech-driven world, this generation is vastly different from previous generations and already account for most of the current global workforce. The success or failure of business – and the global economy – will be in their hands.
We know Millennials and Gen Z – the ‘Born Digital’ – have the potential to drive an extra AUD $2.45 trillion (US$1.9 trillion) in global corporate profits. But to unlock this potential, business leaders today must focus on adapting their workplaces and working practices to reflect the shift in working needs of this generation; or face losing out on economic gains and higher workforce productivity.
In Australia, Citrix surveyed more than 1,500 Australian knowledge workers, complementing the global Work 2035 – The Born Digital Effect study. The Australian findings show that half of the youngest cohort of the ‘Born Digital’ generation (those aged 18 to 24 years old) entered the workforce during the pandemic, and therefore their first workplace experiences were shaped by lockdowns, mandated work from home, isolation and meetings via video conferences; lacking the interpersonal, collaborative office environment that work has traditionally been associated with. This has fundamentally impacted their perception of how and where work is done, ultimately altering their expectations of how technology should enable them to work the way they want.
Australia’s ‘Born Digital’ have admitted they feel more efficient (31%) and experience a better work-life balance (54%) when working remotely. It’s clear that flexible work arrangements will have implications on retaining talent well into the future, with this generation claiming they are also more likely to return to work after parental leave if given the opportunity to work from anywhere (51%).
Yet despite the notable benefits of flexible and hybrid working on employee lifestyle, workplace productivity and talent retention, a third (32%) of Australian ‘Born Digital’ employees don’t feel empowered to ask their employer for flexible working arrangements – an obvious disconnect between leadership and employees.
Some have even become disillusioned by current traditional leadership styles and work practices, with half (49%) of our respondents expecting that they will eventually go back to the ‘old ways of working’ instead of companies making a deliberate effort to learn from this experience and adapt to new ways of work.
Of the ‘Born Digital’ workers who have relocated away from a capital city during the pandemic, more than half have said they would seek a new role in order to maintain their newfound flexibility. It is essential that business leaders understand how valuable flexible working is to their employees, or risk losing them to an organisation that does.
Having the flexibility of being able to choose how and where work is done, will allow the ‘Born Digital’ generation to fulfill a desire for their preferred ways of working.
Globally, more than two-thirds of the ‘Born Digital’ generation believe the pandemic has demonstrated that businesses should invest in more digital technology, however only 22 per cent of business leaders feel the same. With this in mind, it is important that leaders come to understand these different mindsets and begin a shift to accommodate the needs of the ‘Born Digital’.
But while flexibility is becoming a new priority for workers in Australia, with it comes a slew of new challenges to employee wellbeing that must also be front of mind for leaders.
Companies must be mindful of providing the ‘Born Digital’ employees with the correct support, as this cohort is the most likely to be experiencing symptoms of burnout (40%) as a result of working from home. A large portion of this group is reporting an inability to switch off, difficulty focusing and feeling constantly tired.
This is why flexibility, employee experience, and digital wellness must go hand-in-hand for business leaders. By promoting digital wellness practices in the workplace including the right to disconnect, advocating for taking time to ‘unplugged’ and separating work and home lives; leaders can ensure the ‘Born Digital’ generation is supported to work in the ways they work best. And those that lead the way in this effort will be the first tap into the AUD $2.45 trillion that the Born Digital generation are poised to generate.
So, to all of my fellow leaders – let’s do our part to create an environment where the emerging powerhouses of the knowledge economy can reach their potential. This new generation has the chance to usher in a new era for productivity with flexibility, but first we must enable them to get there.