Mar 05

Millennials have changed what today’s office looks like – Wichita Business Journal

We live in an “in-the-moment” world. Volumes of real-time information are literally at our fingertips.

With today’s technological and cultural advances, we are more efficient and more capable than ever and our lives are becoming increasingly automated. No one has to wait for answers any more.

To keep up with today’s world and an ever-changing workforce, small and midsize businesses must be flexible and open to change. If not, they will likely get left behind.

But what will the office of the future really look like? Here’s the great thing: the future is already here.

As millennials become a bigger part of the workplace, they may have thrown some businesses for a loop, but their creative energy and fresh approach to work has been a change for the better. The business traits millennials embrace are generally appealing and make good business sense. Who doesn’t want more flexibility in their work day, openness from the top down, and to feel more passionate about what they do every day? What company doesn’t stand to benefit from innovative thinking, technologically savvy employees and people that challenge the norm?

Fortunately, SMBs often share similar ideals and principles, positioning them to more easily implement the changes needed to adapt to the office of the future. Having gone through the process of starting their own business and the growing pains that go with it, small business owners are no strangers to the innovative thinking and unconventional processes that can build a sustainable business. They also tend to be more agile and open to embracing new ideas and processes that are analogous to what millennials can provide.

It’s a perfect match. Just as passion drives SMBs, the millennial generation wants to feel a deeper connection to what they do every day.

Focus on Employee Experience

Key to this is creating an environment where employees can create and collaborate. The look, feel, and atmosphere of the office should inspire. Think comfortable seating, modern lighting, beautiful art, lots of natural light, open spaces, and natural elements like plants and flowers. Get rid of those cubicle walls and open up spaces so employees can feel part of a team. Employees should feel comfortable adding their personal touches to their spaces as well.

Remember, the goal is for employees to be excited to come to work. They should feel empowered the moment they enter the office. Offer the best technology that helps employees get their jobs done from devices to apps and collaborative tools.

If you’re not sure if your office environment is up to par, ask yourself: have you done everything possible to create a space where employees feel connected and engaged? Team lunches, free sodas, and team-building activities are one thing, but in the end, employees want to be a part of something bigger and to be heard in the process. For instance, when eliciting feedback from employees, take what they have to say and do something about it. Often, employees can see issues in your business that you cannot and can find ways to make something better that you had never considered.

Look for ways to encourage teamwork and recognize a job well done by employees. This can be done with rewards like small bonuses, an overnight stay at a nice hotel, an extra day off, or tickets to a concert, play or sports game. Just saying “thank you” or sending a companywide email that recognizes their work can go a long way in showing your employees that you see their contributions to the business.

Finally, be flexible and trusting of your employees. As long as there’s wi-fi, employees can work from just about anywhere, so give your employees the freedom to work from home when possible.

Embrace Top-Down Transparency

Be open with your employees. Share your business plans, performance goals, and customer metrics. This top-down transparency will open up the dialogue with your employees and encourage them to share their ideas and feedback as well. By nature, SMBs have the ability to be more transparent than larger corporations. Take the opportunity by communicating openly and less formally with your employees.

Millennials expect transparency. They grew up with access to all kinds of information, and more importantly, they know how to find it. The Internet made sure of that.

But as you embrace transparency with your employees, it’s important to recognize what is and isn’t appropriate to share. Employees don’t need to knoweverything. For instance, don’t share specific pay rates, others’ career paths, work reductions or demotions. This kind of information is disruptive and does not help your employees. Also, don’t say things you don’t know for sure. If an employee asks you something you don’t know the answer to, tell them you don’t know and will get back to them with an answer.

What will empower and motivate them is your passion for the business. One of the best ways to engage their enthusiasm is to share yours. Tell them on a regular basis why you love what you do, why the work you’re all doing is important.

In the end, if employees want to know something they know how to find it, with or without your help. But if you are open, communicative, and have created an environment where employees can ask questions, you will earn their trust and help them be committed to the companies’ success.

Tap Into Distributed Talent

Finding the right employees should be easier than ever. When it comes to finding talented and creative employees, think beyond the local pool. Without geographic restrictions, SMBs can find the perfect fit anywhere in the world. From mobile apps to cloud to video conferencing technology, there are many ways remote workers can always be connected and accessible. Hiring remote employees or contractors and freelancers can be a great choice for both sides.

Even if you have the kind of business that requires more face time, consider looking beyond your city for talent anyway. Potential candidates may be open to moving to you.

Nine to five at a desk every day is not the office of the future. By recognizing that employees can get their work done from anywhere and on a more flexible time table, you can tap into amazing talent.

Make Smart Technology a Strategy

Having grown up in an always-connected environment, the rising generation has a unique view of what it means to be “connected.” For them, technology is a way to make life easier, efficient, interactive and fun. These things shouldn’t have to stop when they enter the workforce. On the contrary, technology should be at the center of your business practices.

Embracing technology is no longer optional for SMBs. It will help grow your business and retain exceptional employees. The last thing you want is capable employees spending time manually entering data into a spreadsheet or hunting down information across disparate systems. Rather, give them the tools to do their jobs better, with less frustration. Making it possible for employees to spend time on challenging projects versus menial busywork will empower them to be more innovative and collaborative.

There are so many time-saving apps, social networking tools and online project management platforms out there. With the right technology tools and apps in place, SMBs can automate, connect, and optimize many functions of their business freeing them up to spend time on what matters most: their employees and customers.

Be a Lab, Not a Factory

Putting these creative and driven individuals in an assembly line, mass-producing the same things over and over again, is a waste. Don’t waste their talent. Instead, reshape your business to be open to new ways of looking at things and more importantly, new outcomes.

Where factories focus on mass production, labs encourage forward-thinking ideas. Be a business that inspires employees to use their imaginations and push the boundaries of creative thinking. Just like in a lab, each employee should be given specific responsibilities with an overall goal that they work to reach through repeated experiments.

Lab-based cultures take people out of their comfort zones and get them thinking about real-world situations. For example, have your employees take your business processes for a test drive by going through the different parts or services of your business just as a customer would. If you have an online store, have employees make a purchase, a return and contact customer service. Along the way they should be taking notes of things that worked and didn’t work. Once complete, meet with your employees to review the issues and discuss creative solutions.

By challenging your team to find creative ways to deal with problems they encounter every day, you are putting the innovation in their hands. This kind of empowerment is exactly what your business needs to move into the future.

Every SMB should be working to shift the culture of their business to be more open. Understanding your employees and what they want to get out of work will serve you and your business well and will position your company well in the future.

Source: Millennials have changed what today’s office looks like – Wichita Business Journal

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