Inside the workplace of the future

COVER - September 2017 - Photos6

Employees will be at liberty to define their terms of engagement with employers, dress code as well as working hours.

By TABITHA AREBA

In less than a decade from today, the popular term ‘permanent and pensionable employee’ in Kenya’s organisations may not exist. Reporting to work every morning and leaving in the evening will also be meaningless. Additionally, what you wear as well as where and how you sit while carrying out your duties will not count. The new workplace and workforce will have a brand new architecture.

At the Institute of Personnel Management of Kenya (IHRM), for example, a young, newly employed social media expert was advised to embrace his own dress code so as not to look awkward in official wear. He came dressed in a suit and tie for the interview, and later struggled to be at par with the company’s dress code.

In Kenya, the way you dress for an interview is key in determining whether you emerge successful or not. A 2013 article published in the Standard Newspaper about dressing for a successful interview indicates that 55 per cent of other people’s perception of you is based on your appearance. But trends are fast changing and as per a description given by Dorcas Wainaina, IHRM Executive Director, this young social media expert looked awkward in a suit and tie. Having noticed the disconnect between the age and profession of the young man and his dressing Dorcas invited him for a chat. “I told him, ‘please, don’t wear a suit and tie. How do you like it? Just wear your shirt, jeans and rubber shoes, except on the days when we are going out for a meeting.’”

If this new trend in the job market is anything to go by, a person’s appearance will soon be insignificant during the hiring process.

Dorcas who has worked in different countries across the world and interacted with diverse cultures disputes the notion that people in certain positions have to dress in certain ways. In the US where she worked for a few years, employers make it possible for staff to embrace any sitting position that makes them comfortable. “I had a normal desk but one of my colleagues had one that was raised up and she could work while standing. For others, their desks were elevated at an angle. Another one always wore coloured socks.”

She says that in the West, you do what makes you comfortable, deliver and get going – and that is the future workplace that we are staring at.

Major shift

There is a fundamental shift in jobs in the labour market globally, and the shift is more towards technology – automation, digital platforms and robotics. More jobs are being created in the technology world. Technology has changed the world of work, social networks have been accepted as a way of doing business and they could soon be approved as a formal means of communication.

Experts predict that in 10 years, the job market will have changed completely. In HR for example, reveals Dorcas, transactional functions will be outsourced, and only a lean team of employees will be tasked to focus on business strategy.

Banks are pushing people out of banking halls to the digital platform.

“People who are open-minded to learn and align themselves for the future are the ones who will survive,” she says.

Flexible schedule and freelance work

A report on US business hiring by Upwork, the world’s largest freelancing website, indicates that companies are using flexible workers, who comprise up to 48 per cent of their workforce. This trend is slowly gaining popularity in Kenya’s labour market.

“People are leaving work voluntarily for their own consulting projects. We are likely to see more collaborations in projects and assignments. Boundaries between employment and family are becoming thinner and thinner,” she says.

In future, contracting could change and this is likely to affect the employment law. For example, why would companies provide medical cover and pay for pension and other benefits when they can get people to do seasonal projects?

Actually, majority of millennials wonder why employers care about the future and concentrate on pension when there are more immediate pressing issues that need financing.

Dorcas believes that in future, there will be a shift of preferences towards co-payments and co-insurance, as well as having employers offer a basket of benefits from where employees will pick what suits their needs at specific times.

“This is a model that is already working in the western world where employees get into open enrolment and they pick what they want,” she says.

As the world shifts, the amendment of Kenya’s employment laws will be necessary. There will be need to accommodate people who may want to work for various companies in a day. Such an arrangement will pave way for retired workers to get back into the workplace. Dorcas terms as unfortunate the move by countries to send 60 year olds on retirement, yet these are people who have amassed lots of experience that young employees need. “Do these people look like they can’t think? Why are we sending away brains and lots of experience that young people need? In the West, a lot of these people are part-timers.”

Millennials as CEOs

Millennials will soon rise to top leadership positions and this is likely to give the corporate sector a new face. However, this will not fundamentally change the definition of leadership. “Leadership will never change, regardless of the generation you are in.” Therefore, millennials who will rise to top positions must have leadership attributes – patience, respect and focus to ensure targets are met.

Dorcas believes that their leadership will even be much more superior because they are open-minded. “For example, they will easily embrace flexi schedules and working from home. Their main focus will be on delivery of targets, whether you report to the office or not,” she says.

What is required now is identifying and mentoring leadership candidates in readiness for tomorrow. “In my view, institutions are going to be much stronger, superior, accommodative, family friendly. The younger they are, the easier it’s to deal with them,” she says.

Email: tareba@kim.ac.ke

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