How the NFP sector needs to respond to the rapidly changing landscape of work

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that the world of work is changing fast – probably faster than ever before.

Driven by technological changes, generational shifts and increasing demands for flexibility from both employers and employees, we’re rapidly leaving behind the traditional idea of the workforce to make way for new ways of working.

These changes particularly impact young Australians who, upon entering the workforce, are finding that it barely resembles what they were taught to expect.

And given that a huge proportion of millennials – and, increasingly, Generation Z – say they want to find jobs with a purpose, it makes for uncertain times in the not-for-profit sector.

Alecia Rathbone is the deputy CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), an NFP committed to improving the learning outcomes and life opportunities for young Australians.

She spoke to us about the changing landscape of work and how it’s already impacting the not-for-profit workforce – a topic she’ll be speaking about at the Not-For-Profit People Conference in November:

Hi Alecia, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! To start us off, can you tell us about the main ways the Australian workforce has been changing?

Over the past two years the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) has compiled a series of research called the New Work Order, which looks at how the world of work is changing, and the implications this has for young people in particular. The research has revealed that we are currently seeing the biggest disruption to the world of work since the Industrial Revolution, driven by three economic forces: globalisation, automation and increasing casualisation.

In relation to automation and the global economy, we’re seeing that digital platforms are enabling people to work more remotely and collaborate with people across the globe.

Across the workforce – and particularly for young people – people are having what we’re calling ‘portfolio careers’. So you might have a casual job and a part-time job, and make up a career with a number of different jobs and a number of different employers, which is quite a shift from what we’ve experienced in the past.

As a whole, how is the NFP sector currently approaching these changes?

We know we need to adapt and change as employers in the way we’re hiring, working with people, and the way we’re providing new development opportunities.

I think the need to be more agile and flexible is a real focus for the NFP sector, in particular when you think about the kinds of work we can offer given our funding arrangements – we do need flexibility and agility in that, but at the same time we want to value our employees and provide upskilling opportunities.

A really big focus for the sector needs to be on ensuring the ongoing skill development of the team we hire. And with the different funding opportunities that come and go, and contracts that change, thinking about having a workforce that moves across the organisation and in and out of different projects is really important.

Why is the changing work landscape an issue that’s particularly significant to young people?

It’s really vital that we’re investing now in preparing young people for a future that’s going to be vastly different to what we’re used to.

Our work has shown that the average 15-year-old today will work in more than five different sectors across at least 17 different jobs – that’s significantly different to what we were told when we were at school. So we’re really calling for a national conversation around that, and, in particular, what skills young people will need to make sure they are prepared for the future of work.

Can you talk us through the kind of value young people can offer to not-for-profits?

One of the number one things is definitely new thinking and ideas. Young people often have really strong, different ideas, but they don’t necessarily get the support and resources to make these ideas a reality. So it’s really important that we ensure young people have a seat at the table. They really are entrepreneurial, innovative and creative, and bring that mindset to problems.

Two-way mentoring can also bring a lot of value to an organisation – giving employees with different levels of expertise or experience the opportunity to mentor each other.

And what are some practical ways a not-for-profit organisation could work to help future-proof its workforce through this period of change?

Definitely thinking about life-long learning – not just pathways in jobs, but the skills that are transferrable across different roles. Organisations really need to be committed to build the skills of their employees.

At FYA, we have a number of employees who are younger and in their first professional role, so for us it’s really important that we’re setting them up for the future and developing transferable skills that they can take with them throughout their career.

I think that’s a way organisations can also give back to their teams and employees in the sector. Often, NFP organisations aren’t able to be competitive with salary, so really recognising and articulating the benefits of developing more skills that are an additional benefit they can take across the sector – which also helps us to build and grow the sector for the future.

And finally, can you tell us what else you’ll be sharing at the Not-For-Profit People Conference?

I’d really like to cover all sorts of things, particularly around HR. So there’s the theory and the research, and then applying that, but also thinking about that conversation we’re calling for – in the NFP sector, in the education system, across industry, and how it’ll be really important for all of us to understand how young people can just develop the skills they need for the future and the implications of that for all of us.

Want to hear more from Alecia at the 2017 Not-For-Profit People Conference on November 13 and 14? Find out more and book your place here.

Image: flickr/buenosaurus

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