21st Century Workplace Realities Supervisors Should Know

21st Century Workplace Realities Supervisors Should Know

We are two decades into the 21st century, and the workplace looks drastically different than in previous centuries - and even from the start of this century. For instance, the simple act of driving to work, which used to be a mainstay for the average employee, is no longer guaranteed. Instead, some employees now work entirely from home. 


The workplace is drastically changing, and supervisors must be flexible and able to react quickly. As a supervisor, you must understand the challenges you will encounter. Please continue reading to learn more about some of the current 21st-century realities we now face.


The Skills Gap Is Widening


The skills gap is widening faster than we have ever seen. But you might ask yourself, 'What exactly is a skills gap?' It's simply the difference between an employee's skills and the skills/experience that the employer needs for the employee to have. The two don't match, thus creating a gap. A variety of factors play into the skills gap. A frequently occurring factor is a need for more industry experience. Today, only 30% of employees have the skills to do their jobs effectively. Another factor of the widening gap is the need for more training. As for supervisors, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics states that managers only receive 12-24 minutes of training per year on average. That is a staggering thought. By 2030, "Soft Skills or People Skills" will be needed for two-thirds of all jobs. Understanding skills gap challenges can help supervisors provide their teams with the required training to solve the issue. 


Training Strategies Are Outdated


Have you ever used YouTube or Google to watch a video on how you might fix or replace something? If so, you have just experienced micro-learning. Micro-learning takes small bites of learning content and breaks them into individual lessons or modules. They are intended to be delivered over a variety of platforms, to be brief enough to complete quickly, and to focus on a single concept. Long gone are the days of gathering your entire workforce into a training room and sitting through two to three days focusing on a single subject. Companies don't have the staff to do that any longer. What was once considered a great training strategy needs to be updated for today's 21st-century workforce. As a supervisor, consider how your training is delivered to employees and modernize the content if needed.  


Companies Are Understaffed


Have you been to a restaurant lately, seen empty tables, and wondered why you must wait? Have you seen the "Help Wanted" signs in front of almost every business? It seems like everyone is currently hiring. Companies are simply understaffed. As of April 2023, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states there are 9.9 million job openings. Many of those job openings come from labor-intensive industries. Organizations are using overtime to fill the void of being short-staffed, but that is often leading to burnout among workers. If your employees work longer hours with less time off and fewer breaks, look for signs of mental fatigue and burnout. If you identify employees in need, make sure you provide the proper help.  


Turnover Is High


Do you know anyone who has voluntarily left their job since the start of the pandemic? Perhaps they left work to stay home with children or took early retirement. A recent article by Gartner reported that the U.S. total annual employee turnover will likely jump by nearly 20% from the pre-pandemic national average. With new expectations of employees and the ability to work remotely, the attrition rate will only continue to rise. Remember that 73% of companies struggle to recruit employees, and 61% need help retaining them. Supervisors should consider all these factors when hiring employees. With today's workforce, employers must be flexible and open-minded. 


Generation Z Is Entering the Workforce


Generation Z is now entering the workforce. By 2030, they will make up over one-third of the workforce. Remember that a Gen Z employee has never known a world without Google. They have always been able to quickly find answers or information with the touch of a computer, phone, or tablet. Because of this, Generation Z has a very short attention span and prefers efficiency. Gen Z is truly shaking up the workforce because they bring unprecedented traits and characteristics to the table. Generation Z is also the most educated workforce ever, meaning they have more opportunities than previous generations. They like to grow continually - both personally and professionally. If their employer isn't providing the training and opportunities for growth, they will go elsewhere. Supervisors need to understand Generation Z and how they interact with others to retain employees successfully.


 Remote Working Will Continue to Increase


The Covid-19 Pandemic set a new precedent for employees to work from home. Employers had to learn and adjust to a new reality quickly. About 20% of employees work from home, but that number is expected to grow to over 60% over the next five years. From an employee's perspective, if they can work from home effectively, they can save money by not traveling, not eating out, and not having to pay for daycare. In the end, employees want to continue having the flexibility of working from home for all or most of the time, reporting to the office only periodically as needed. Supervisors must be mindful of the importance of flexibility for employees. 


Employees Are Working Longer Hours


The 21st century kicked off with the advent of the "smart device." Do you check your e-mail or phone when you are not working? Almost everyone today is working on their time off. Technology has made it nearly impossible to step away from the job, leading to increased stress and anxiety. Employees say they don't feel like they can ever truly shut down. Employees also say that their employers "expect" them to respond while they are off, adding to the pressure. Supervisors must understand that they aren't entitled to employees' attention 24/7. "Time off" means time off from the job.   


As you can see, there are many reasons why the workplace is rapidly changing. Knowing and understanding these reasons can help your teams be happy, healthy, and productive. In addition, being flexible and able to change your plans quickly allows you to be a better supervisor for your teams.


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