It’s no secret that in recent years the number of freelance workers and self-employed people in the UK has grown massively (from 3.3 million in 2001 to almost 5 million in 2017*) And if you want to attract new talent to your organisation now, or at some point in the future, this growing trend raises an important question. Is your business attractive enough for the right people, with the right skills to come and work for you? Most millennials are not afraid of working for themselves, they don’t see that there’s any extra security in having a full-time job and certainly not in the technology sector as their skills are so in demand. They know they can invent an app from their bedroom or go and work for a different client every few months if they want to. And this puts the big tech companies in a difficult place because these are the exact people they want to attract and retain. So how can you make your business as attractive as possible to the workforce of the future?
Firstly, flexibility is key. There’s now a huge demand from employees and potential employees to have the flexibility to work from home a few days a week or fit their job around the school run. The fact is if you’re seeing the freelance population rise because people like the flexibility working for themselves gives them – and as an employer you’re not offering that, then you’re very soon going to be outdated and you run the risk of losing staff. And if you allow people the flexibility to decide when they need to be in the office and when they don’t, you’re giving them trust, which empowers people.
This element of trust and empowerment links in with how the structure of businesses are changing. Leadership is evolving from the ‘do what I tell you’ model to giving people the information they need and inspiring them to make their own decisions. And that’s what future employees want – to work somewhere collaborative and agile where their input is valued. If your approach is too authoritarian, your workforce will switch off or go elsewhere. This in turn, links to information sharing within a company. The old way of working was to have your board at the top and company information trickles down like a waterfall and the shop floor where people get the information the board have decided they need. Now there’s a much more open, information sharing culture in tech companies. Linked In’s CEO Jeff Weiner for example hosts a weekly webinar where he can update his employees worldwide on all that is happening in the business. This type of thing is becoming increasingly common and it makes businesses more collaborative as a result.
Another change is the types of communication people are using at work. At many company’s email is fast dying out (or only used for big announcements) in favour of more immediate, or more collaborative technology. If you’re working on a project with a group of people, you probably wouldn’t set up a group email – you’d What’s App or use Slack or Google Hangouts. And obviously whatever technology you’re using needs to be mobile friendly too.
The actual environments people work in need to be good – and that’s gone up a huge level in recent years (and that doesn’t just mean whacking a table football in the corner!) For example, in most tech companies, kitchens are collaborative spaces, employees are encouraged to hangout rather than use formal meeting rooms and there’s an element of café culture to the business. Coffee shops are environments that potential employees are familiar with and are happy in. Spaces like this make organisations feel more open and collaborative.
Of course, you may not see the point of making any of these changes. And you’ll probably be fine – because a certain amount of people in your business will be happy with how things work currently. But over a period of time your workforce will become more aged and you’ll want to recruit younger people. And flexibility, open leadership, organisation structure and office environment are some key ways to help you do that. Either that or everyone in the UK will be self-employed
*Office of National Statistics
Would love to hear your thoughts on this.