Connecting effectively
with today’s workforce.

The 21st Century Workforce


Russell jumps down from the yacht onto the sunbaked jetty, slings his pack over his shoulder and walks back towards the whitewashed village tucked into the Santorini cliffs. The last month has seen him barefoot for eight hours a day, sailing a group of six through the Greek Islands. Arriving back at his hostel, Russell takes a much-needed shower, then opens his laptop.

Scanning through the messages of the last 24 hours, he quickly prioritises the subject line ‘URGENT: EMEA contract clause 2.3’. Straightaway, Russell is back into the world of contract law.

Much has been written about the poster children of the 21st-century workforce – highly-skilled professionals escaping the shackles of corporate life, working when and where they like, and Instagramming the rest of us into fits of jealousy. But the reality is that the world of work has changed forever, as have the expectations of today’s workforce.

In order to remain relevant and competitive in the battle for exceptional talent, companies need to recognise these shifts, deeply understand the motivations of their audience, and personalise communication. Bretom’s driving mission is to help employers connect with the 21st-century workforce effectively and authentically. Here, we explore how work has changed, how people’s behaviour has changed, and what this might mean for your people comms strategy.

‘Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore’ How work works, today.

We won’t win any awards for pointing this out, but technology has transformed the world of work:

It’s transformed our access to opportunities, with literally thousands of search responses for a role such as ‘account director’ in LinkedIn Jobs. It’s transformed our expectations of the speed of recruitment, with apps like JobToday promising employment in 24 hours.

And it’s transformed how and where we work, with better-than-real-life conferencing systems, slick collaboration software, and super-speed wifi in the remotest corners of the world. By 2020, 50% of the US workforce will work freelance. And this is great for businesses too – specialist skills on a project-by-project basis, and reduced fixed payroll overheads. Next, the work environment has evolved. In the majority of industries, it’s more diverse than ever before – with equality in the workplace rising (albeit slowly), and a new melting pot of generations. With people globally retiring later, we now have teams consisting of Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z. This fusion of ideas, values and experience unlocks valuable innovation and new ways of working.

And finally, the very nature of how businesses operate is changing. The days of countless hierarchy levels and single-person decision-making are numbered – it’s ineffective, time-consuming, and disempowering. Models of distributed leadership and self-management, such as Holacracy, are rapidly moving into the mainstream. And with it, a more grown-up, person-centred relationship between employer and employee emerges

‘It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.’ How people work, today.

At Bretom, we develop people comms strategy actually centred on people. Not just because it’s the only way to win in a marketplace, but also because we’re fascinated by human behaviour. And we believe the changes in the world of work go hand-in-hand with changes in society.

People now spend two hours every day on social media – significantly more amongst Gen Y and Z. This constant barrage of information from facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn leads to one inevitable outcome: FOMO. We have access like never before to other people’s lives – their choices, their (filtered) lifestyle, their holidays, their successes. Our awareness of the possibilities in life and in work is at a zenith, as is our yearning to have it all ourselves.

The lines between work and personal life are increasingly blurred. The new generation of offices, with their luxury snugs, Michelin-starred restaurants, roof terraces and allotments (oh, to work at Google…) are often more comfortable than our own homes. Gone is the dress code of suit-and-tie or power dress, replaced by hoodies, box-fresh trainers and jeans. According to Next Generation, 60% of workers would leave their jobs if their employer restricted their ability to do personal tasks at work. Whether you’re living at work, or working in your home, the physical and mental boundaries are fluid.

Finally, the relationship between employer and employee has changed. People expect to be treated like adults and like individuals. talks about the consumer trend of ‘You-niverse – making your consumers the centre of their youniverse’. The same is true in employment – talented people want to exchange their skills for an energising opportunity, and a way of working that suits their personal needs and lifestyle. One size does not fit all.

‘O brave new world that has such people in’t!’ Brilliant people comms, today.

At Bretom, we believe there are three key strategies that all organisations should adopt, in order to connect effectively and authentically with this hugely exciting, talented 21st-century workforce:

  1. Know your people. Be curious and honest.
    Whether you are communicating internally or externally, avoid making assumptions about people’s experiences or motivations. Bretom’s unique approach to Employee Personas creates a deep, foundational understanding of your audience.
  2. Know your organisation. Be authentic and brave.
    Does your candidate journey align with your company’s true values? Does it align with the motivations of the people you want to reach? Bretom helps major employers like British Airways to be courageous and rigorous in answering these questions.
  3. Communicate to the individual. Be human.
    Brilliant people comms are not about broadcasting your employer brand to the world. You need to have conversations with individuals, embrace technology to ensure you find the right audience, and create advocates from your workforce. Bretom partners progressive employers such as Proxima to build strategies that foster trust and engagement with individuals.

Unlocking Understanding

To talk more about unlocking a far-reaching understanding of your people and connecting with them at a deeply human level, contact us at