2019 was an important year; it was the year the UK finally decided to leave the EU, when climate change mitigation moved from a ‘nice to have’ to a strategic driver and when I sat next to my first Gen Z colleague. This means that there are now four generations working across my organisation with very different expectations around work and flex.
At the same time as Gen Z are entering the workforce Baby Boomers are exiting in large numbers. These two intergenerational shifts are going to lead to major changes not only in WHERE and WHEN we work but also HOW we view the concept of individual contribution. Flexibility will no longer be viewed as a niche employee benefit supporting locational and time shifts but will widen further to better support the wider portfolio career expectations of Gen Z.
I am a tail-end Gen Xer, born between 1965 and 1980. During my two decades in the workplace the concept of flexible working has emerged supported by the increase in two income households. Organisations have been slow to embrace flexibility and initially viewed it as a niche employee benefit to enable mothers to juggle working parenthood, leading to the idea of some roles being on the downgraded ‘mummy track’. In the last 10 years this concept of flexible working as a motherhood benefit has begun to be challenged as the Millennial or Gen Y generation have entered the workplace.
Millennials and Gen Z Want Flexible Working Options
Born between 1980-1994 Millennials now make up around 30% of current workplaces. This generation have begun to challenge the notion of flexibility as a niche employee benefit for mothers whilst at the same time widening its definition. Colleagues increasingly expect to be able to attend exercise and art classes at times that suit them, care for elderly parents or train to climb a mountain all without fear of losing their job. This desire for flexibility to enable everyone’s work-life juggle has been further reinforced by the appearance of Gen Z colleagues into the workforce. Currently only making up 10% of the workforce, this is set to rise to 50% by 2025. Job crafting is in their DNA, including a more fluid view of career mobility and flexibility as standard. This first fully digitized generation choose flexibility over stability, expect diversity of thought as standard and are happy to have several portfolio careers over their lifetimes.
The desire of gen Z to wear multiple hats all at the same time is going to be a key game changer in the world of flexible working.
Baby Boomers Move to Retirement
At the same time Baby Boomers, born between 1946-1964, are moving into retirement and are expected to make up only 10% of the workforce by 2025. Baby Boomers have often been sceptical of the value of flexible working as a generalised workplace norm and have preferred to keep it as a niche motherhood benefit. The intergenerational changeover that will take place over the next five years will see Gen Xs and Millennials, with their strong desire to normalize flexible working, increasingly moving into leadership roles.
It would seem we are entering a perfect storm that will ensure that flexible working might finally move from niche employee benefit to workplace norm. But as we all know cultural change in corporations is hard and Gen Z is the generation of rapid change and innovation.
Will Gen Z have the patience to wait for this normalization of flex?
Portfolio Careers Benefit From Flexibility
Portfolio careers supported by multi-job freelancing has already become a viable mainstream career alternative to working for large organisations. With their emergence, these alternative working structures are allowing Gen Z to skip corporate structures entirely whilst also leading to a brain drain of Gen X and Millennials seeking a better work-life juggle. Whilst many companies are now actively supporting time and location flexibility they are still very much tethered to the concept of individual contribution via individual roles. Part-time roles are still very much considered ‘mummy track’ despite the best efforts of Timewise. A widening of the definition of individual contribution to multiple roles is what Gen Z are looking for and Job Shares might provide the much-needed answer. These roles are not just for those seeking a reduced working week but also for those looking to expand their individual contribution into multiple roles, within and outside of their main employment.
Job Shares provide a viable alternative to colleagues looking to embrace a portfolio career, whilst also remaining in the corporate world.
The next decade will be a period of rapid workplace transition with new approaches to management and contribution emerging, focusing more than ever on individual contribution, collaborative innovation and hyper interconnectivity. The normalization and widening of flexible working to include Job Shares will support this new era of agile ways of working, allowing a focus on individual contribution over defined roles.
If you enjoyed this post please check out the rest of my blog here, including my post on how to encourage flex climbers and is shortening the working week the key to better employee engagement.
All opinions are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.