Leadership, Millenial Generation, Organisational development, Staff development

All present and correct?

In today’s increasingly fast paced; always connected, always ‘on’ world, it feels as though there are never enough hours in the day to get done what needs to get done. Time feels like it slips through the fingers like sand but suffers from the polarity of being both fiercely protected and recklessly squandered. A way of making the most of the time we have; our precious 168 hours a week; is to improve our work/life balance, but is that as easy as it sounds?

Work/ life balance is something we all talk about, but achieving the perfect balance appears to be the Holy Grail. The Millennial generation (those born between 1980 and 1995) are particularly protective over their work/life balance and as the Deloitte Millennial Survey (2014) highlighted, by 2020 75% of the global workforce will be millennial, and so understanding what they are looking for in the workplace is increasingly important.

An international study published in the Harvard Business Review report from February 2015 (https://hbr.org/2015/02/what-millennials-want-from-work-charted-across-the-world) demonstrated that the term work/life balance means different things in different parts of the world. Many interpret it as work/me time. Interestingly, except for Central/ Eastern Europe, in every other region, over half the respondents said they would give up a well-paid and prestigious job to get better work/life balance.

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Source: Harvard Business Review, What Millennials Want From Work Charted Across the World; February 2015

Broadly speaking, most Millennials across the world cited spending time with family and to grow and learn new things as the most important to them, if they could prioritise in life.

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Source: Harvard Business Review, What Millennials Want From Work Charted Across the World; February 2015

 

This is great in theory, and companies such as Google and Apple are famous for having mastered it, however many organisations still have a prevailing culture of presenteeism i.e. I have to be able to physically see you to know you are working. Frederic Laloux’s fabulous book Reinventing Organizations tries to tackle this very issue, citing the companies around the world that have moved to self-management; putting the power in the hands of the staff rather than the management. He describes these types of organisation as being evolutionally teal, the characteristics of which appear to be looking after the spiritual well-being as well as the emotional and financial well-being of their workforce.  In reality, these organisations are the exception rather than the rule, so the real challenge is how to move away from a culture of presenteeism to one that values effective outputs.

This demands a different kind of leader; one that is comfortable with a more collective or distributed type of leadership; who moves the power to where the skills, energy and motivation lie and creates the right conditions for innovation to flourish (West and Dawson 2014; Kings Fund).

Enabling staff to have more flexible and agile working practices is crucial to ensuring the recruitment and retention of the best talent. Unusually for an NHS organisation, over half of our staff are under the age of 40 (54% against the NHS average of 41%) and so understanding what is important to different generations, particularly millennials, is an important part of our workforce strategy. We are about to undertake some research looking at what is meaningful to the different generations and different professional groups in our organisation, so that we are better able to tailor our training and development; workforce policies and support different working practices. Moving our managers away from a prevailing culture of presenteeism to one where they are comfortable in treating staff as individuals; interpreting policy and managing staff on the basis of the quality and timeliness of their outputs will require investment in supporting our managers to think differently and will require our leaders to change the ‘ask’ in the organisation.

This feels like the right direction of travel and should enable a different type of workforce to emerge to ensure that we remain one of the best employers in the NHS and are growing a workforce that has the work/life balance they both want and deserve.

About the author

Sarah Morgan is the Director of Organisational Development for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

 

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