The workforce has changed. Not only has it been hit by a pandemic, but the generation dominating the workplace are now millennials and Gen Zers.
That’s right, the digital generation has arrived, and many companies are now struggling with providing strategies that appeal to the working masses. This is particularly as the cost of living soars and the eventuality of a collective doom in our lifetime draws ever closer with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
To discuss adapting to new generations and fresh methodologies of work, UNLEASH caught up with Scott Day who was appointed chief people officer of creative software company Corel at the beginning of the year.
Straight off the bat, Day noted that culture was important within the organization and part of the growth strategy included innovation, empowerment, the willingness to take risks. Day tells UNLEASH “these are all conditions that are necessary when you want to grow”.
Day reflects: “For us growth means growth in our product development strategy, serving new customers, or existing customers in new ways, growth by virtue of acquiring other companies and integrating those into our own.
“But all of this requires people to look at the future as one where we won’t get there unless we’re willing to try new things and do things differently than we have in the past.
And so a lot of the focus that we have is what are the conditions that bring about that type of mindset?”
Strategizing people growth
Day explains: “As a result of what’s been changing in the world, we are pivoting to an approach to work that says you can work from wherever you’re best suited to. Originally, people were referring to this sort of as the remote first or work from home kind of strategy.
However: “While working from home works for a lot of people. As a matter of fact, it works for the majority of our employees, we did a survey right before I got here.
“And 85% of the population said that they were interested in a remote work type of construct, and the 15%, who didn’t either agree or strongly agree, they were kind of neutral on the issue and wanted to see more in terms of what the company would do to support that.”
Unpacking these findings, Day says: “What really emerged through this study, was that when you look at the concerns people had about working remotely, the number one element that was shared across the company was this feeling of being disconnected from one another.”
As a result, Corel has focused on community and culture while enabling flexibility.
Day adds: “We want to be very purposeful about what we come together for, it’s not just to accomplish tasks, we will convene for the purpose of having a social interaction because that’s something that people are craving.
“The dynamics that we’re trying to focus on send a message, ultimately, of respect and trust. If you have an environment of respect and trust, then people will start to feel safe and empowered to make decisions on their own to take risks, and to be innovative.”
Adapting to the Gen Z workforce
Day acknowledges that millennials began pushing changes around ten years ago that have now been picked up by Gen Z.
He notes: ”With every new generation that enters the workforce, we see more pressure on this dynamic of my work is a part of my life, but my work is not the purpose of my life.
“We also see that irrespective of your generation, many people took stock of these exact questions in this dynamic because of the pandemic. Lots of people are questioning the role that work plays in their life.”
Day notes that this change in perspective is one of the “most fundamental shifts” he sees. On the back of it: “The response for companies needs to be in this domain of treating people like adults and giving employees the opportunity to choose more like how work does fit into their lives?
“When we talk about the millennial mentality or Gen Z mentality, it’s a kind of human mentality, as far as I’m concerned. This is what people want, and the time has come for employers to really understand and adapt to this.
Internally, Corel has adapted to this changing world of work and telling staff the office “is a place where you can come and you are more in charge of where you’re going to be working, and increasingly over time. You know what your hours will be, what works for you. I think fundamental to all of this, is an agreement on the outcomes that we seek”.
“If we can get really clear alignment with the employee and the manager who’s overseeing the responsibilities that that employee kind of fits into clarity around the outcome, versus how often I see you working, which is kind of an old school mentality, will become the defining factor. “
Ultimately, Corel wants to respect its employees and instill trust.
Working remotely and flexibly does raise concerns about employee engagement and the difficulty of separating work and life.
In terms of keeping employees engaged, Day reflects: “What we’re finding at Corel is that we’re being very deliberate; creating social interaction is perhaps one of the most important responsibilities of managers in this time to help employees feel connected and engaged.
“That means when we do bring people together physically when it’s safe to do that one of the primary uses of office space will be to convene people.
One way to keep staff engaged “is getting really clear on the outcomes that we’re here to deliver at an individual level, like what will I be talking to my manager about, and receiving feedback about that serves the attainment of goals that matter to the company?”
Day adds: “If I’m not quite sure about that, and what that is, then it’s less likely that I’ll be engaged in my pursuit of it.
“Getting crystal clear on outcomes is something that we’re working on. We’re using an OKR (objectives and key results) type framework, to organize outcomes and key results, sort of one-click down from the outcome.
Additionally, Day outlines that Corel is committed to a company-wide sense of purpose, meaning that individual work feeds into the greater business.
Day notes that he is enthusiastic and optimistic about creating a good workplace for employees. Part of this strategy naturally requires feedback.
To do this Corel has “a regular survey process where we gather their input and insights.” The positive outcome of these surveys is that there is a high level of trust in managers and a strong level of connection amongst colleagues.
A sense of collaboration is important to Day, he explains: “Even though we are a company that has largely come together, in its current form, by many acquisitions over the years, and therefore, we have many diverse different kinds of products, there is this unifying sense of one Corel and an ideal of collaboration.”
The benefits of this are clear when Day sees it in the way people work with one another. That shows up in how people work with one another.
Day adds: “It’s incumbent on us as leaders in the company to create that compelling vision for the future and the unifying purpose”
A flexible working schedule and a positive environment are key elements in that vision for Corel.
Is now the time you create a positive environment through flexibility?