By Paul Clarke, UK Manager, 3CX
In recent years, most attention has been on millennials and the generations following them – and why technological and cultural changes such as unified communications or remote working are key to attracting these workers into businesses. However, older generations of workers also need to be considered – as they can benefit just as much, if not more, from these developments.
For instance, members of the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation and even the first half of ‘Generation X’ are approaching retirement age and may be looking to slow the pace of their life down. Whether looking to free up more leisure time or reduce the time they spend commuting, more workers in these generations will start to lobby for technologies that allow employees to work from anywhere, at any time. These more mature workers are also likely to be the senior decision makers and hold the greatest experience in their organisations – meaning the business will be unwilling to lose what could be many years’ of irreplaceable expertise when they enter retirement.
As the workforce matures, sooner rather than later it will become increasingly important to make sure the options for flexibility that technology provides are available to all workers. For instance, a ‘Work Foundation’ report on how businesses can support their workers recommended that they should expand opportunities for flexible working to support older worker’s needs.
Giving the people what they want
It isn’t just the current older generation that needs to be concerned with flexibility. In the UK alone, changes such as the increase in the State Pension Age – with a third of the population estimated to be over 50 by 2020 – will only continue to increase its importance as people work longer, into their late 60s and early 70s.
It isn’t only a question of time: workers of all ages may also be concerned about what their financial situation will be when it’s their turn to retire A Department for Work and Pensions report found 60% of over 50s would like to work past the state pension age to secure their financial position. To accommodate this, they will need access to technology that allows them to be flexible with where and when they work so they can fit their employment around their individual circumstances.
Allowing workers to semi-retire or even work on a supply and demand basis will help employees enjoy part-retirement or even transition into a full-time life of leisure without the burden of financial worries. Showing a willingness to offer flexible working will help attract the best workers to your company and keep them there.
How to implement flexibility
With the advent of new technology and greater connectivity, we are seeing an evolution in the workforce: from office workers, to home workers, to ‘anywhere workers’. This has created a ‘third office’. To achieve a flexible workplace centred around the needs of workers, organisations need to be able to provide the ‘third office’ – one which exists wherever a worker happens to be and provides all of the tools they need to do their jobs. Critical to providing this is having the right communications in place – combining phone calls, emails, instant messaging and even video conferencing in a single, unified package. With this in place, employees can communicate with their colleagues as if they were sat at the next desk – even if the next desk is an ocean and five time zones away.
Organisations also need to ensure they have the infrastructure in place to make sure these tools work. For instance, are communications secure – so that sensitive information isn’t at risk of being intercepted? Are communications reliable – so that workers who have opted to work remotely or flexibly aren’t cut off? And are communications simple to manage and implement – so that the organisation is controlling its costs and in full control of its capabilities?
Crucially, whatever technology organisations adopt to communicate has to be easy for workers to use. The myth that older workers are befuddled by modern technology is just that, but as technology changes rapidly, workers of all ages need tools that they can simply pick up and exploit. Joining a workplace communications system should be as simple as downloading an app or even scanning a QR code, while workers should also always be given the option to use devices that they are most comfortable with. The modern expectation of technology, across all ages, is that it is pick-up-and-play, regardless of what the individual happens to pick up. Workplace technology needs to match this.
Having a happy workforce is important in the modern age of social media, when a bad news story about the way you treat your employees can either prevent the best and brightest from applying, or encourage them to leave. Research has estimated it costs £30,000 to replace an experienced employee, so whatever can be done to keep that wealth of experience in-house will be beneficial to the business.
If a company embraces flexible working for young and old, they will find that both their young up-and-comers and their more seasoned professionals repay the decision many times over.