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Workplace Trends – “I don’t want realism, I want MAGIC”

, March 24, 2017, 0 Comments

money-workplace-growth-marketexpress-inThese words of the famous Pulitzer Prize Winner Playwright Tennessee Williams are a reflection of what our Gen Next employees believe when they walk into the world of work.

During one of the rounds of brainstorming, the participants suggested that we consider the question, “How to make our work place look and feel like Google…”. The average age of that room was around 29 years with one or two outliers in the form of a Project manager who was 39 years old and an AVP around 43. Everyone jumped with glee for the discussion on this topic. In the 20 minutes that followed people came out with loads of suggestions ranging from open work spaces, health camps, yoga rooms, game zones, bring your pet to work policy, feedback room and much more. What struck me was the complexity and the variety in the expectations that today’s employees hold while they walk into the workplace.

Numerous reports and articles have been written on this topic promising a better insight in managing this multi-generational workforce. The recent report by Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) on Future Workplace Trends showcases a changing dynamic of the workplace settings, logistics and the culture at large. The new age employees expect much more from their employer beyond the regular salary, subsidized food and travel benefits.

The major expectations that emerge from the younger employees centered around a need for better work life balance, career advancement, technologically advanced work environment and a workplace that is attuned to the physical and psychological wellbeing of the employees.

Agility and flexibility in business are expected to be the done thing. Holacracy in the form of Self-managed teams were considered to be the best model for the Millennials, but has also been seen to create a lot of chaos and confusion for quite a few. All in all, organizations keep asking this million-dollar question of what do employees actually want when they decide to invest their time with the organization. Answering this question at this juncture becomes even more pertinent as the oldest members of Gen Y brace up to lead this multi-generational workforce, as the oldest of the Gen Z also eagerly join the work force.

As a management faculty, I come across hundreds of management students every year eager to join the world of work. Some insights gathered over the past few occasions through these interactions show that Organizations to provide enough MAGIC to the next generation employees if they are to be retained:


One of my favorite activities with students is to ask them to list down all the reasons why they would continue to stick on with their employer. The activity generates almost 30 to 40 points, including, career advancement, work life balance, Corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, leisure facilities, annual retreats. After a series of prioritization exercises, when they are asked to pick the top three, they always stick to the financial rewards segment more than the non-financial basket. This is not an earth-shattering revelation, but the simple truth that HR needs to keep in mind while designing initiatives for employee. Given that most organizations are likely to provide only single digit growth in terms of salary hikes, this is a challenging scenario. A Randstad and Future Workplaces report indicate that Gen Z are much more inclined than Gen y towards receiving financial rewards. Thus, providing a steady financial growth is definitely an important factor to consider while retaining the new age employee. This, coupled with rewards and recognitions becomes the glue for meaningful long term engagement.


Work life balance has by far been one of the biggest differentiator of the perspectives of Gen Z, Gen Y and the Gen X employees. Gen Y and Z continue to uphold the need to live life fullest and refuse to keep the work requirement as the prime compass for their life map. Personal commitment, learning interests and hobbies become a priority to this generation. A PWC report titled, “Millennials at work Reshaping the workplace Advancements” provides evidence of the importance attached to flexible work places that espouse a work life balance.


Career advancement and growth opportunities are the next in line expectation of Gen next. Most employees would engage with their current employer till such time that there is a perception of the growing learning graph and value addition in skill set and knowledge base. Organizations are bracing up to make the maximum use of technology platforms to offer a rich experience to the employees. The Gen Z employees are considered to be a bit more realistic than the Gen Y employees and clearly more interested in conversations centering on career advancement opportunities both in terms of growth trajectories and knowledge enhancement.


Gone are the days when mazes in the form of cubicles and cluttered work stations were considered to be happy places to work. Most employees are obsessed (if I am allowed to say so) about swanky work places which are opulent and provide a fresh breeze of innovative work layouts. Research has shown that workplace layouts are one of the major factors that make the employer attractive to prospective employees. An open layout that provides a chance for people to collaborate and huddle together as micro villages are much enjoyed than the conventional work desks that can at best be personalized with some selfies and trophies. Modern day employees expect to zoom in and out of work zones to enter and exit game zones, all of which co-exist at the same place same time. Meditation rooms, relaxation chairs, gaming zones may or may not be used by all but are the amenities that make the workplace look attractive to say the least


Gen Y and Z are known to be constantly connected to the external world using the various social media platforms. That might lead anyone to believe that face-to-face communication may be a thing of the past. However, recent reports on millennial expectations from workplaces report clearly indicates that the new age employees very much prefer the in-person communication and consider that as one of the necessary ingredients of a collaborative and deep meaning relationship with the leader. Valuable and frequent feedback with a personal touch and meaningful one-to-one conversations continue to appeal to the gregarious seed irrespective of the generation cohort to which one belongs.

The MAGIC that we discussed may not be the sufficient, but a necessary ingredient for long lasting and productive relationships. Today’s organizations with tomorrow’s generation need to ensure that this MAGIC becomes the DNA of their current realities to nurture an engaged workforce.