The workplace has undergone tremendous change since the coronavirus pandemic hit nearly a year ago. If the many experts on YouTube are to be believed, many of these changes are permanent which will require things to be done differently from now on.
For our office of about 25 people, it could not have come at a worse time. We were in the midst of moving into our newly renovated workplace, modeled after the emerging coworking spaces that seemed to cater to a new generation of workers. The pandemic put an end to that while the social distancing measures meant that half of our people could no longer sit at their desk at work.
The government’s movement control order forced businesses to adapt with many adopting work from home practices. Surprisingly, a lot of people found it nowhere near as wonderful as they had imagined.
Understandably among our staff, mothers with young children found it most stressful but the top complaint from our younger associates was the lack of face-to-face interaction, especially with their immediate supervisors.
Frankly, I did not expect that response from the younger group. But it got me thinking about the unfolding generational gap at the workplace as the oldest Millennials begin to take on management roles while those from Generation Z are joining the workforce.
As a business owner, and having racked up some years running a PR consultancy business, I have come to realise that ultimately it is always about managing people and getting the best from them. A driven and productive team usually delivers results that will keep clients happy.
It may seem simplistic but over the years, I have yet to meet an agency boss who thinks PR degree programmes are preparing graduates for working life in an agency. Not a single one. I gather my generation of fresh jobseekers evoked similar sentiments from managers, I still hear it now and have no doubt will hear it when I am well retired.
Which got me thinking of my own retirement and how planning for succession is becoming increasingly urgent with every passing year. But it is not only about finding someone within the company to take over my role. The succession chain goes further than that as the person replacing me will also need someone to take over his or her existing job. This means, succession planning should begin with every new hire at the associate level.
I have always found the newest members of our staff particularly interesting with regards to their expectations of work and how they view the business culture in a PR consultancy. What I’ve found is that over the years, more new hires do not expect having to work outside of regular working hours, which they feel is unreasonable.
At the other end of the chain, I find that those about to be moved into management positions generally feel unprepared, which affects their confidence. This is not due to professional ability, but more to do with having critical interpersonal skills especially when it comes to resolving conflicts at the workplace and among team members.
The key to people development is providing opportunities to prepare and train them to be ready so that they can and will have the confidence to take on bigger jobs. The good thing is that the majority of the people whom I have worked with are driven, ambitious and want to take on leadership roles.
I was trained by the best of them throughout my career, during a time when many bosses yelled freely every time you made a mistake. Things are much different now, but I can’t say what it will be like in the future. However I believe that in the long run, taking steps to help people learn from their mistakes and improve while providing the opportunities for personal and professional growth will always pay off.
Managing Director Weber Shandwick Malaysia