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November 09, 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 allow real estate and facility managers to create the best possible workplace for a steadily-growing category of employees who 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 is assimilated into, sets an indelible stamp on the expectations an employee has regarding 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. Work related changes will naturally affect  the way people work and act. Considering the differences between employees from different geographical regions will enable a facility manager to better meet these differing needs. This becomes even more important as people from different regions begin working together.

What characterizes 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 and flexibility, such as being able to independently determine working hours and locations.. Because the professional population in this region is relatively young, there is a significant need for organizations to adapt to these trends. That’s because many of the changes in working methods are driven by millennials, who prevail in organizations 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 make this possible, or should be able to. It’s notable that millennials from this region have relatively little faith in organizations 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, organizations will not be quick to relinquish existing hierarchical structures.

What characterizes the employee from Latin America?

Latin-American employees are also positive about developments such as the availability of flexible locations where they can work and experience 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 the rapidly-accelerating technology and flexible workplaces. The use of smartphones has risen here as well.After the Asia-Pacific region, Latin-American employees are the most enthusiastic about working mobility, and of all the regions, they have the greatest confidence that existing technology makes this possible. Also, in comparison to other geographic regions, Latin Americans expect to benefit more from the changes in working methods, like more flexible working hours. Despite this positive attitude, employees from Latin-America ( in particular its millennials) are the most sceptical that organizations will indeed make working flexibly possible. However, they do believe that organizations will deploy technology proactively to improve workers’ performance.

What characterizes 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 their 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, think a good work/life balance is important, and are loyal to organizations which can offer both. North Americans are enthusiastic about instruments that can help them manage their time and performancebetter. Although they are enthusiastic about the growing automation, in comparison to other geographical regions they are not nearly as excited about this trend versus other work related developments. 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 characterizes 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 the mindset ofa relatively older 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, with the German government considering the banning of work e-mails after six p.m.. 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 in preparation 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 lumped together. After all, everyone is different and has diverse views when it comes to work. Depending on where are raised and work, their expectations differ in terms of the workplace and the organization. Personalizing the workplace is a precondition for being able to meet everyone’s needs, certainly when employees differ not just generationally, but also culturally. 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