These three trends could define Australian workplaces in 2017

By Harry Allan

Email a step closer to the grave, novel engagement techniques for millennial staffers and a focus on managing remote teams.

These are trends likely to impact businesses in 2017 and beyond, according to the CEO of national offshore solutions specialist Diversify, and former Big 4 HR and people manager, Angela Vidler.

“The greatest challenges facing businesses are the global labour market, how to increase revenue without blowing out fixed costs, and maintaining an engaged and empowered workforce,” Vidler said.

“From these challenges we see trends emerging that are changing the makeup of your average Australian office.”

Trend 1: Goodbye email and office hours

With the growing number of millennials in the workforce, “old” technology such as email is losing favour as young people prefer instant messaging and a range of live chat tools such as Slack, Campfire and Yammer.

“These tools make it far easier to be collaborative. And it’s not just millennials moving in this direction. We’ve all been on the end of an unproductive email chain, and workers of all ages are recognising the inefficiencies of email,” she said.

Changing workforce demographics has also seen a rise in millennials working part-time because work is not seen as the defining element of their lives.

Business leaders will need to provide flexibility in working arrangements to accommodate this change.

Trend 2: Cubicle karaoke to chopstick M&Ms, whatever it takes for employee engagement

“More than ever, smart companies are focusing on improving the employee experience, to stay competitive in the job market. Younger employees have a different perspective on career. They don’t want a hard slog, they want their workplace to be fun,” Vidler said.

“We’ve seen everything from cubicle karaoke or a flash mob of a Friday afternoon, to collecting M&Ms from a bowl with chopsticks used to raise morale and decrease office stress. Of course, there are less out-there techniques for maintaining employee engagement (including acknowledging effort and strengthening health and wellness programs), it’s whatever works within the culture of your organisation.” she said.

Trend 3: Flexible workforces – so many options

There’s no denying the growth of the “blended workforce”, a mix of full-time permanent employees, part-timers and freelancers. Forbes magazine recently cited the blended workforce as the key HR issue for the coming year.

“The growth of freelancing in many industries, along with a move by employers to allow trusted employees to work from home, makes for a very disperse workplace,” Vidler said.

“Whether people are hot-desking, or working from home, or working while travelling, it highlights that one of the critical management components for businesses is the ability to manage remote teams.

“When you add to this a growth in companies offshoring parts of their workforces, managers face many challenges to create cohesive, engaged teams,” she said.

Vidler said it was important for businesses to have cost-effective, sustainable workforce solutions so they are better equipped to scale up operations and allowing local employees to focus on growth-related not process-driven activities.

This is the focus of offshoring, as opposed to outsourcing. With offshoring, the offshore employee is a true part of the business and identifies as a team member, with the employer playing a role (often through a third party such as Diversify) in recruiting and managing the employee to integrate them into the business.

“Success is a mix of the right people, right skills and right culture, connected by the right technology enabling a global workforce,” Vidler said.

“Adding offshore teams to your workforce is one way businesses can grow revenues without increasing fixed costs. This enables a business to hire very skilled offshore employees who are provided full support in a serviced office.”

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