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Aug 1, 2013

Take a minute and look around you.

Gone is your corner office; you’re now sitting between the intern who started last week and your client who works from your office on Fridays.

Look down – suit and tie? Not in this office.

Open your desk drawer — oh wait, there aren’t any. What would they hold anyway? Files? Paper? How 2005.

Today, you split your work day between this desk, a mobile workstation, your client’s office and wrapping up a few loose ends from home before bed. Oh, and you couldn’t resist a few minutes on the office treadmill desk to get the juices flowing.

This isn’t some alternate universe – this is the new world of work. And if you’re not already gearing up for it, you’re late to the game.

The pace is accelerating

Recent decades have seen massive workplace shifts, with all the tools and practices that come with it. You can point to numerous causes for this transformation, among them cloud computing, advanced social and mobile technology, the Millennial mindset, virtual offices, and an increasing focus on best practices for managing the modern employee.

Dozens of workplace surveys and reports on the changing landscape of work – such as the 2013 PSFK Labs report, The Future of Work – are also driving this shift and predicting big changes for the modern workplace.

Far from slowing down, the pace of workplace change is accelerating. While research firms, futurists, the media and more try to predict what work will look like 10 or 20 years from now, there are a few emerging themes that forward-thinking leaders have embraced that will govern the way we work for a long time to come.

A new workforce

Everyone’s talking about “the rise of the Millennials,” but the future of work isn’t defined by a single generation; it’s defined by the demands and contributions of multiple groups of workers across generations.

The 21st century employee doesn’t believe in the office, doesn’t believe in the 9-to-5 grind, and doesn’t believe in stringent working conditions. Today’s workforce includes working mothers, cross-border teams and employees who will rarely, if ever, meet face-to-face.

They are digital natives who are used to setting their own schedules and having access to their work anytime, anywhere. They collaborate constantly, want ongoing feedback and training, teach each other, and want access to the tools and technology to master their jobs. Forget telling them what devices and platforms to use – you can probably learn a thing or two about cutting edge technology just by listening to them.

Take TGI Fridays. They’re empowering employees by using interactive simulations, just-in-time learning and self-service career maps that allow back-of-the-house workers, wait staff, bartenders and more chart their own development and career path – all the way from entry-level host to VP. Gone are the days of the annual review – employees want to master skills and grow quickly, far outpacing the feedback provided by a once-a-year check-in.

A new tool kit

The “consumerization of the enterprise” is shaping almost every aspect of business today. Mobile, cloud and social collaboration tools are changing the nature of how we work.

And it’s not just Millennials who are tuning in. Mobile use spans generations, cultures, and geographic borders. We’re working with colleagues around the globe using tools that provide real-time communication, file sharing, project and task management, team building and digital workspaces that simulate face-to-face interactions – it’s almost as if we’re sitting in the same room.

New gadgets like a pocket-sized “keyboard” that projects keys onto any surface or a next-gen modular smartphone that combines computer, phone and tablet in one device will allow employees to work from the train, the park and their home office as easily as if they were at “work.”

More organizations are experimenting with mobile as part of their blended learning mix to accommodate when and where their employees want to access content.

Denmark-based PANDORA sells its modern, hand-finished jewelry in 70 countries on six continents through approximately 10,200 points of sale. Providing its geographically distributed workforce with mobile, 24×7 access to behavioral training, campaign training, gem stone education and more makes it easier to provide a consistent, knowledgeable customer experience no matter where the location.

It’s certainly not just Millennials who are embracing these tools to get work done their way. With 60 percent of employees today using their personal mobile devices for work and 60 percent believing they have the right to work remotely with a flexible schedule, executives will either have to incorporate this new toolkit, or look on as innovative competitors take the lead.

A new manager

With the sunsetting of Baby Boomers and the rise of Millennial-thinking in the labor market, companies are managing a new breed of knowledge workers. Employers, though, are expected to manage the diverse expectations of their multi-generational and multi-cultural workforce with ease and simplicity.

Employees have high expectations, both for the tools they use to do their jobs (simple, accessible software, whether at home or work) as well as the companies for which they work (values-driven, ethical, honest, open).

As Gary Hamel and other management experts have argued, this shift requires a completely different way of managing people, one that must be agile and customizable at the core. The emphasis on social learning, continuous learning and learning-by-doing will continue to blossom as employees seek out mentors, collaborative working environments, constant feedback and ongoing opportunities for growth.

At TGI Fridays, managers are using gamification to appeal to Millennials, which serves two purposes: giving employees a fun and more engaging training experience while allowing management to gather data about how their employees are learning – an insight that was absent previously when new hires learned by studying recipe cards.

And with the following attitudes uncovered in MTV’s No Collar Worker Survey, it’s clear that the mindset will shift from employees proving their value to the company, to companies proving their worth to employees:

  • 92 percent of Millennials think their company is lucky to have them as an employee;
  • 80 percent of Millennials think they deserve to be recognized more for their work;
  • 80 percent of Millennials want regular feedback from their boss.

The New Work Order

Companies need to take a closer look at how they hire, manage and develop employees in this time of rapid change.

For many, it’s not about minor tweaks. It’s about a close examination and extreme makeover of company policy. Business is global, multiple generations show up for work, and consumer technologies have flooded the enterprise.

The future of work is here. For everyone from established brands to fledgling startups – ignoring that reality is no longer an option.

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