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  • Sara Bean
  • 23 March 2015
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Employers need to plan now to ensure they can properly manage the global workforce of tomorrow

For her presentation at the recent BIFM London Region conference, which took place at the Churchill War Rooms, Emma Thomas Head of HR, Marketing and Communications at JLL EMEA, shared some very interesting insights on managing a global workforce and planning for the workforce of tomorrow.

As an experienced HR professional who works for a leading property firm, she was in the valuable position of being able to reveal some of the challenges faced by a global real estate consultancy which has more than 40,000 people based in more than 1,000 locations across 70 countries.

She explained this demands working with and abiding by each country's different laws and cultures:

"When you consider that within the EMEA region of JLL alone, we're dealing with 45 countries, from a people perspective that does present us with many different challenges every day."

For example within Saudi Arabia, women may find it especially difficult to operate in a region which forbids them to travel unless they are accompanied by a man or even to enter a building by the front door. Such a very different culture can prove hard for westerners to understand.

Syria she said is understandably, incredibly difficult at the moment because of the crisis.

She said:

"I have had an individual come to work for me who is a refugee, he was from a war zone, his house got bombed and he lost a lot of his family.

"From a Human Resources element, we have to be very sensitive about what these people have and are experiencing – even though we're sitting back in our London offices."

In another example, she said the Ukraine is also challenging at the moment with inflation up to 34%, which makes it difficult to pay people "without having to send round a suitcase of money."

Nigeria is an emerging market and more western clients are opening office there, but it can still be a very demanding environment, where hostage taking for instance is a real threat. This means that any employees that visit the country are asked to call into the office at the same time every day so that the firm knows they are safe and secure.

Closer to home, she said that you wouldn't think that operating in France would be that tricky, but the French have very strong work councils which requires some rigorous negotiations.

However, she added:

“The biggest challenge we will face is in managing the workforce of tomorrow. And you have to plan for it today if you're going to tackle it tomorrow."

According to the statistics, by 2020, 50% of the workforce will be made up of millennials. These younger workers don't want a boss; they want a coach, and they want to take leave when they want to, which is why for instance Richard Branson was inspired by his daughter's experience at Netflix to allow his personal staff at Virgin Group copying to take time off when, and as often as they want.

Millennials wants to have the autonomy to make their own decisions, so they don't want things like fixed holidays, they, like increasingly, the other generation of workers want to be able to make their own decisions in their working environment and have balance in their lives.

She revealed that JLL has introduced social mobility programmes, which aims to help capture the hearts and minds of the workforce of tomorrow.

There's no longer a cradle to grave mentality that you're stuck in one job, she said, and the workplace of the future needs to be prepared to accommodate their needs.

"If you give flexibility to your workforce, then you will get 1000% back," she said.