BY By Andrew Robinson, Co-founder and Executive Director, SiSebenza 2 MINUTE READ
Every generation is shaped by its circumstances and none more so than the under 40s, aka the Millennials and Generation Zs. Their radically different technological and cultural landscape has given them a particular perspective that is changing the way we think of work. In the process it is also changing traditional employment practices. Employers who aren’t paying attention will struggle to attract young talent as this cohort will make up almost 60% of the global workforce by 2020 (Statista). 
This workplace evolution is on the scale of Henry Ford changing the 12 hour working day to an eight hour day in 1900 so that he could attract workers. Now these two modern generations are pushing highly flexible work environments to the top of the HR agenda. The upside is a much more productive and motivated workforce.
Technology has made working anytime from anywhere a real option, one that makes under 40s question whether they really need to work 40 hours a week to be productive. According to a Deloitte study, nearly 75 percent of Millennials believe that a policy which allows them to work from home or to work remotely is very important. As for Gen Zs, they want employment that enables a balanced lifestyle with the emphasis on flexibility and control of their own schedules.
In my experience, the mobile technology lifestyles of Millennials and Gen Zs means the way they spend their working time is more important than the hours they spend working. Quality wins over quantity. Flexibility boosts morale for a workforce that believes it doesn’t need to be in an office to be productive and even that flexible working should be the norm, not a benefit.
Technology isn’t the only influence driving this evolution. This is the age of the digital nomad who is more productive and engaged in less rigid working locations. Co-working spaces offer new and innovative environments in pleasant shared spaces where creativity is nurtured and they can socialise with like-minded people. This not only works for the independent workers of the gig economy and the entrepreneurs and start-ups of these generations, but also for small and medium enterprises owned or run by Millennials and Gen Zs.
Shared resources are a major plus of co-working spaces. They release businesses from the burden of being locked into long contracts and high costs, freeing up cash flow for more important investments in talent and expansion. They provide all the advantages of professional reception, training and meeting rooms, servicing, and furniture. Many also offer amenities that are attractive to under 40s, like yoga studios and gyms, without the burden of their full-time running costs.
It’s often difficult for SMEs to compete with large companies and corporates for talented tech-centric Millennials and Gen Zs, but they can give themselves an edge by using their agility to offer flexible working conditions and creative, sociable co-working spaces. It’s all about knowing what employees want, just as Henry Ford did.
Andrew Robinson, Co-founder and Executive Director, SiSebenza
SiSebenza is South Africa’s newest and most important change agent, bringing real and significant positive economic and social impact to the economy through the work they do with large and small businesses alike by successfully realigning them into the new world of work. SiSebenza are specialists in the future of work and invest in global workplace disruption models, bringing them to South Africa, and into the continent because accelerating technological change unlocks new opportunities and drives economic growth.