The modern workplace: a place that marries ambition and funKaustubh Sonalkar
Earlier generations had a social life. Today people, have a social life and a virtual life. People used to have ‘a’ career, now they have multiple careers.
Have you found your soulmate? If yes, then you’ll know how difficult it is. If not, know that it’s not a cakewalk, and it will certainly take its time. Now transpose that in the corporate world; there’s just one problem – time is a luxury you can’t afford.
I remember those excruciating days when we would try and find the right fit for open roles and positions, and a score of candidates later, we found ourselves no closer to finding Mr. Right or Ms. Perfect. Fortunately, remedies for matters of HR, like matters of the heart, have since evolved. For instance, technology plays the perfect agony aunt. Artificial intelligence and smart digital platforms now do a great job of ‘listening’ to the needs of employers, employees and job seekers – resulting in a much more time-and-cost efficient match-making exercise for all involved. Similarly, company culture plays the love guru. Apparently, teams that hang out together stay together for longer. Attractive workplaces, dedicated game zones, loaded pantries and employee-friendly policies like flexible timings, family days and extended maternity/paternity leave go a long way in fostering trust between employers and employees. So, while finding that perfect ‘rolemate’ has become easier in today’s connected corporate universe, here’s a look at the trends that dominate the landscape and the possible innovations that can bring you closer to your perfect match.
Work and home are mated for life
Talking of soulmates, this generation of young professionals has demonstrated that work and life are both immense fun and you really can’t have a ‘life’ without either. A generation ago, work was work, and life was fun. There was much talk of work-life balance, the ability to shut off, and a great respect for women who could manage both work and home.
Careers were serious business, and making your passion your profession was frowned upon, if not outright ridiculed. But sensibly, the tide has now turned. Flexible timings, work-from-home options, work environments that resemble home-like comforts etc., have blurred the lines between work and ‘life’. So, instead of work-life balance, there is now a work-life continuum, where it’s perfectly acceptable to leave your work desk for 20 minutes for a game of table tennis with your boss. It’s also equally acceptable to listen to a work-related podcast while sipping a drink in the comforts of your living room.
The world over, we see examples of young minds with great ideas starting working on a passion project from their backyard or garage and making millions when they figure there is a market for it.
There are others who identify basic needs of large groups of people – find a way to address those needs at a price that consumers crave. And now, as they say, there is no turning back.
If you have a teenager at home, it’s likely they’ll know a couple of YouTube stars better than they know the traditional film, television and sports stars. The last I heard, there was an 11-year-old reviewing toys on the popular video sharing platform, and raking in millions.
Married to the screen
That brings me to my next point. A movie by the name Screenagers explored growing up in a digital world, and I confess that it is now officially impossible to spend a regular day without encountering a screen. From smartphones to smart homes and smartwatches, we are willing slaves to technology. But what some call slavery, this generation calls ‘enhanced power’. What we could do without technology, the new screenager can do more efficiently, more practically and way better – by multiple degrees. Talking of wielding power, we earlier consumed content, and only the intellectually elite among us got the rare privilege of publishing their own content. Now, with social media, everyone can publish content within moments and broadcast it to the whole world. With the right kind of checks and balances, access to the best content globally will soon be a breeze. In the knowledge economy, this means democratisation of power by allowing free access to world-class content. The possibilities are immense. Imagine how the empowered talent pool can explode in the coming years.
Innovation keeps the romance going
It is now widely accepted that there is no such thing as staying in the same position for years. The world is changing so fast (consumers, systems and the environment), that if you aren’t pushing ahead to keep pace with change, then you’re falling behind. Status quo now means moving fast, and innovation involves a quantum leap. So what comprises innovation? Innovation doesn’t just mean a new launch. It’s coming up with a breakthrough idea that solves a real problem faced by a large number of people or businesses. It involves looking at a problem or an existing solution afresh, and coming up with an idea that is a game-changer (I confess this is a term that’s almost as loosely used as ‘innovation’).
Now, the exciting thing is that companies are innovating because the new generation of employees aren’t easily impressed. They want to be a part of a business ‘idea’ that will shake things up. The new generation asks a whole bunch of existential questions. They want to know their role in changing the world – whether they are a week into work or a decade-old in the company. And, it is the agile, innovation-led companies that offer all the answers, and are therefore attracting the talent that can help them change the world.
The trainee CEO
There was a time when management trainees would be scared-cum-awestruck-cum-nervous when in the presence of the CEO. Not anymore; now they have a keen ‘academic’ interest in them. The question being – how soon can I become a CEO?
To explain, not very long ago, there was a ‘path to success’. People joined as management trainees and worked their way up the management levels till after years of toil they had a shot at entering the coveted C-Suite. Those days are long gone. CEOs are getting younger. Top graduates of the most elite business schools often prefer to start at the top of their own businesses (personal passion projects) rather than tie their fortunes to the dreams of existing big businesses. The new challenge for companies with deep pockets is now to dig deep within their souls for a purpose that will resonate with the best talent of today.
Relationships are built on mutual respect
In the digital world of today, memories are short and relationships shorter. Where earlier positions and designations would command respect, now people in those positions have to prove their mettle in their offline and online personas to hold on to the respect of their teams.
But it’s a two-way street, and seniors too have grown to become more demanding. They expect new team members to come to the table not just with open minds, but with digital mindsets and new ideas. Seniors now expect to be able to learn new-age ways from trainees and give them the leeway to talk and be heard.
While these are just some trends, the honest truth is that the entire work scenario is in flux. Work marries fun, but courts ambition as a mistress. These are exciting times and technology is just helping us push the envelope. Life is beautiful and exciting, though the rigmarole of some days leave us feeling otherwise. The present reality is that youngsters today have many more options than the generation before them. Earlier generations had a social life, today people have a social life and a virtual life. People used to have ‘a’ career, now they have multiple careers. Behemoths can choose to see this as a threat and remain monogamous, or become agile and see this as the greatest opportunity there has ever been.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)