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09 November 2017

Why real estate and facility managers need a more in-depth approach to geographical diversity

Because the majority of all employees will be millennials by 2020, in my last blog I focused on the expectations and wishes of this group of young talents. Acquiring more in-depth knowledge about this group of people will actually let real estate and facility managers create the best possible workplace for a steadily-growing category of employees who thus deserve more attention. But workplace wishes and expectations are determined not just by the generation to which employees belong. The geographic environment and culture in which someone grows up or lives, puts an indelible stamp on the expectations an employee has with regard to his or her workplace and employer.

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In 2016 the ADP Research Institute published the study 'The Evolution of Work - The Changing Nature of the Global Workplace’ which considered the workplace of the future and how technological, cultural and economic changes are influencing the way we work. The survey was conducted in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia-Pacific among 2,403 respondents, to gain an insight into how work-related changes are influencing the workplace and employees’ needs. Changing needs naturally require changes in the way people work. Taking into account the differences between employees from different geographical regions will enable a facility manager to meet these differing needs better. This becomes increasingly relevant as people from different regions begin working together more often.

What typifies the Asian employee?

The survey showed that employees in the Asia-Pacific region have a very positive approach to changes in working methods. This applies particularly to developments arising from the need for freedom, such as being able to determine working hours and locations yourself. Because the professional population in this region is relatively young, there is a significant capacity and drive among organisations to adapt to such trends. That’s because many of the changes in working methods are driven by millennials, who prevail in organisations from this region. This group of employees is particularly enthusiastic about growing personal choice opportunities, which can offer them more avenues for self-management. They also believe that technologies already available now make this possible, or should be able to. It’s notable that millennials from this region have relatively little faith in organisations being able to keep pace with the speed of technological growth. This may be because of the correspondingly low expectation that perhaps because of the deeply-rooted cultural and social values, organisations will not be quick to relinquish existing hierarchical structures.

What typifies the employee from Latin America?

Latin-American employees are also positive about developments, such as locations where they can work flexibly and technological progress, but the slow economic growth in this region means its people do not have the opportunity to embrace these types of trends at the same rate as those in other geographical regions. The respondents are enthusiastic about the growing sense of freedom promised by rapidly-accelerating technology and flexible workplaces. The use of smartphones also keeps rising here too. After the Asia-Pacific region, Latin-American employees are the most enthusiastic about mobile working, and of all the regions, they have the greatest confidence that existing technology makes this possible. Also in comparison to other geographic regions, they expect to benefit more from the changes in working methods, like more flexible working hours. Despite this positive attitude, employees from Latin-America, and in particular its millennials, are the most sceptical of all the regions, that organisations will make working flexibly possible. They do however believe that organisations will deploy technology proactively to improve workers’ performance.

What typifies the employee from North America?

North Americans are generally positive about the trends offering more opportunities to choose where and when they will work, and improved access to information needed to work more efficiently. North Americans believe they are well on the way towards more control and flexibility to be able to perform their work where, when and how they want. They are enthusiastic about mobile working, because they also aspire to it. They think a good work/life balance is important, and are loyal to organisations which can offer them this. North Americans are want instruments that can help them to manage their time and performance better. Although they are enthusiastic about the growing automation, in comparison to other geographical regions they are less excited about this trend than about other developments involving work. This negative sentiment is prevalent in North America, in contrast to other geographic regions, particularly among the millennials group. They are fearful that over time, workers who perform repetitive tasks will become superfluous. 

What typifies the employee from Europe?

Where Asia-Pacific and Latin America are the most optimistic about work-related changes, Europe continues to be the region where people worry most about these changes. The survey shows this is because of the clear dividing line many Europeans draw between work and private life. It is also a consequence of the resistance to change which characterises a relatively old working population. The dividing line between work and private life is particularly apparent in Germany, where working hours are relatively shorter than in other European countries. Productivity is however the highest, because the time devoted to work is used intensively and purposefully.

Opinions are divided on whether people will be able to determine their own working hours in the future, or can perform their work from mobile devices. A quarter think not, while a quarter believe these changes are already underway. Despite what Europeans think about these changes, new technologies will determine how and where the work will be performed. Despite fear of such change existing throughout Europe, new technologies are indeed being deployed to prepare for the future.

Guide individual needs in the right direction

Although developments involving flexible and mobile working are apparent throughout the world to a greater or lesser degree, the survey establishes clearly that not all employees can be grouped together. After all, everyone is different and has different views when it comes to work. Depending on where people grow up and work, their expectations differ in terms of the workplace and the organisation. Personalising the workplace is a precondition for being able to meet everyone’s needs, certainly when employees differ not just in generations, but also in culture. It’s up to the real estate and facility manager to seek out collaboration with HR and IT managers to guide these needs down the right path.

Geert-Jan Blom
Business Consultant Planon Netherlands