By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
As India steps into its 65th year of being a republic, India Inc celebrates the freedom to be an individual at the workplace…the most precious shift of the last 65 years.
The workplace has evolved sharply over the past 65 years. Hierarchies have crumbled and technology has bridged barriers that seemed unachievable. Demographic changes have brought in new cohorts of employees. The organizational pyramid has seen drastic changes. It is the combination of the tech savvy millennials and the easy access to technology that have made the workplace very different.
- Millennials: Those born in the post –liberalization era in India have a mindset very different from the older generations. This impatient and upwardly mobile group has been noticed by policy makers in every organization. These digital natives are leading the pack when it comes to using technology in everything we do in the workplace. They have blurred the lines between what is private and what is public by posting photos of everything from vacation photos to their relationship status for everyone to see. They “friend” their managers on Facebook. They have redefined the concept of how long one has to stay in an organization to be eligible for “long service” awards. They have led most of the change that we see in the workplace.
- Bring Your Own Devices: Clunky desktops with green blinking monitors have got replaced with slick color displays. The desktop has given way to laptops, iPads and mobiles that have changed the way we communicate. The mobile has become all pervasive. More and more organizations are adopting a Bring Your Own Device policy. Cybersecurity has become more important than ever before in the workplace. With hundreds of devices, operating systems and apps certainly the walls of the organization have become more porous. Intellectual property violations have increased when employees share details of projects and clients on their chat groups.
- Work and Play Have Merged: While the office computer could be behind the corporate firewall, the mobile provided an escape route to the world outside. This meant the freedom to have access to information that the employer could not filter out. From the ability to apply for a job to online shopping the mobiles bring the world to the fingertips. Work and play co-exist. There are numerous WhatsApp groups where colleagues share everything from office gossip and speculation to jokes and forwards. So if a colleague is laughing hysterically, the cause may not always be discovering joy at work. It could be the latest joke about the boss going viral.
- Openness: The social media revolution in the workplace has resulted in power equations getting altered. When a boss accepts a “friend” invitation to join someone on Facebook, the hierarchy at work is getting dissolved far more definitively than an “open door policy” declared by the policy manual. It makes the boss and subordinate see each other as human beings and not just as two designations interacting with each other. But it has led to dilemmas. If a manager gets access to some information through the social network is it ethical to use that information at work. After all everything from office romance to confidential information about projects is discussed (mostly inadvertently) on social media.
- Crumbling Hierarchies: There was a time when challenging the superior at work was taboo. In meetings the seniors spoke and the juniors took notes. Meetings today have become far more open and non-hierarchical. Every employee is a media house. They consume content and create content through their posts. Everything from details of salary and perks to questions asked in an interview and opinions about individual managers capabilities get posted online. The world has access to real time information. Information is power. Access to information redraws the power equations at work.
- Creativity in Rewards: Employers vie with each other to offer creative perks and rewards. Bring your pet to work, gourmet food, trips to exotic destinations and paying for dance lessons are all passe. Imagination is the only limitation when it comes to designing rewards and perks.
Employers are now really competing for talent. The word employee conjures up images of a faceless collection of people. The word talent is all about personalization and differentiation. The nature of work itself is changing. Part-time work, contract work as well freelance workers have all become acceptable forms of employment. Layoffs have been accepted reluctantly as a distinct possibility. New models of business have emerged. Freedom to be an individual at work is no longer just a dream. That is the most precious shift of the last 65 years.