Everyone Loves It Fluid: Cross-Generational Confessions About Work

By Frank Pagano, Sr Partner @ Jakala, Shareholder @ Tokenance, Contributor @ Il Sole 24 Ore

What do we truly think about our employers? What do we expect from our bosses? How should we reshape the way we collaborate at work, to maximize business results and meet the needs and wants of every generation?

Here are three truth bombs, which I am going to steal with pride from ‘Generations Debate’, recent European cross-generational research (Maize).

Spoiler alert: these truths hold true across all generations, from Boomers to Gen Z. I know the following statement is going to disappoint some people: we are more similar than we like to admit, when it comes to our business lives, no matter what life stage we are in. Chances are, you are exactly like your parents, on a lot of issues regarding work and money.

So, here we go.

The world has changed forever

Crisis is the new normal (the exact word for this is ‘permacrisis’), and the most valuable currency for all humans is time. We need to be kind with each other, says an adage, but it looks like we should be even kinder and extremely malleable with everyone’s time management, especially considering the effects of the recent Covid-19 pandemic. The future of work is made of creativity, problem-solving, and a completely new leadership style. In our new world, where nothing is certain, companies need a “vaccine” made of resilience and adaptability, all of that powered by high-tech, which must be a liberator of creativity and not a generator of a 24/7 and ‘always on’ etiquette. Companies will survive if they adapt to fluid schedules, which are the reflection of all generations’ newly fluid lifestyles.

So what? We, as companies, should want employees to solve consumers’ problems with a wow, and always in new ways, if we aim to make it through the current tough marketplace. Innovation beats strategy for breakfast.

“I am a digital girl”

Paraphrasing Madonna, we all have become a ‘digital girl’. The future of work will be more attuned to the holistic needs of employees, blending traditional work tasks with well-being and leisure. This reflects a broader trend toward a human-centric workplace. Despite finding value in some in-presence activities, younger generations (particularly Gen Z) are more open to radical changes and show less attachment to the conventional office, indicating a shift toward flexible and non-traditional work environments. Lots of CEOs are asking people to go back to their 9 to 5 facetime ritual. This is not where the world goes.

So what? We are talking lives, not people’s schedules. We are talking lives, again, and not buildings or offices.

Work it

When it comes to corporate perks and benefits, employees do not find them essential per se. They do not move the needle for your people. There will be some who use the company discounts to subsidize their passions or depend on it for lunch (see Gen Z). Benefits are cool – and employees are happy to help in defining a list of freebies, if the core is covered, namely solid salaries, a unifying vision and company values being truly lived at work, from top to bottom.

So what? As a CEO, your responsibility is to pay decent salaries and rally up your troops around a meaningful mission, which is in tune with the world and the communities you operate in.

What do I do now?

Dear CEO, here is your homework. Use that innovative and hyper-flexible human capital that the post-Covid 19 world has given you, across all generations. This is your lucky strike. Don’t fight it, and just work it.

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