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What does the workplace of tomorrow look like?

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Within EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), companies and workers are unprepared for the growing need for technology skills.

By 2020, the workplace will have undergone tremendous change to transform into the most diverse that the world has ever seen, characterised by multiple generations working together. Workers will possess different skills, experiences, habits, and motivations, with a larger percentage of these workers being freelancers and contractors rather than full-time employees.

This is the employment picture painted by an Oxford Economics survey sponsored by SAP, which takes a forward look at what employees and executives around the globe think about topics such as workforce development, the role of millennials, organisational leadership, and the skills gap.

This survey dubbed “Workforce 2020” was conducted with 2 718 executives and 2 872 employees and has revealed that most companies are not prepared to capitalise on the forthcoming workplace changes. Businesses are struggling with managing talent, cultivating leadership, encouraging learning, and understanding their employees. As a result, these companies may not be making HR a top priority.

Regional outlook

Within EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), companies and workers are unprepared for the growing need for technology skills. In Kenya for instance, only 53% of employees get ample training on workplace technology, whilst a mere 37% have access to the latest technology.

“The current need for technology skills (data analytics, cloud, mobile, social media) will only grow in future,” said Brett Parker, MD: Southern Africa for SAP Africa. “This means that both employees and businesses alike stand to benefit from better training and education opportunities.”

Overall, executives are rethinking compensation, training, and human resources technology, as 82% of companies within EMEA say they are increasingly using contingent, intermittent, seasonal, or consultant employees. However, only around 26% say that this requires changing HR policy.

Focussing on the local workplace environment 

At a local level, South African employees are concerned about their jobs. They feel that there are not enough opportunities for advancement in their careers, that their positions are either changing or becoming obsolete and that the staffing levels at their companies are not adequate.

The research highlighted the factors that help foster employee loyalty and engagement within their companies, with these being higher compensation, more comprehensive benefits, and assigning mentors to staff. These sentiments are being echoed around EMEA as well, as 43% of employees say higher compensation would increase loyalty and engagement with their current job.

On the other side of the workplace coin, employers looking to retain staff find success by offering bonuses and merit-based rewards, supplemental training programs for individuals to have them develop new and sought after skills, and benefit plans for the families of employees.

Leadership has left the building

Within South Africa, both executives and employees agree that leadership is lacking and also feel that local companies are not focused enough on developing future leaders.

This, as only 44% of employees say that leadership at their companies is equipped to lead their organisations to success, with just 40% of executives believing the same.

The need for having the right leadership in place is further highlighted by 44% of executives agreeing that their expansion plans for growth markets will remain limited unless the right leadership is in place.

The Millennial Misunderstanding

Millennials entering the workforce is one of the top trends impacting on modern workforce strategy, and yet only 20% of South African executives say that their companies give special attention to the particular wants and needs of millennials.

This goes against the regional trend, as 50% of executives within EMEA say they rely upon younger employees or recent graduates to fill entry-level positions and more than half (54%) of executives say that their companies’ workforce strategy has changed as a result of millennials entering the workforce.

“Much has been written about how Millennials are different in their use of technology, social networks and attitudes toward work, but the ‘Workforce 2020’ study shows that they are surprisingly similar to their non-Millennial co-workers when it comes to workplace priorities,” added Parker.

“For instance, compensation is viewed as an important benefit for both millennials (60%) and non-millennials (65%). Additionally, both millennials (39%) and non-millennials (33%) prioritise the meeting of their income goals. This illustrates that although millennials are different, they are not as different as companies may think.”

Darryl Linington

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