Kath Hume: Mark McCrindle is a social analyst and demographer whose passions lie in tracking social trends, communicating insights and generational analysis. In addition to being the author of five books, mark coined the term for the latest generation, generation Alpha those born between 2010 and 2024. Since founding MacRindle in 2006, mark has presented thousands of keynotes and workshops in all major industries, including finance, technology, health, mining, energy and education, for top global brands and organisations. Mark is an advisor to executive boards and committees across Australia. As a sought after demographer, futurist and social commentator, he’s delivered over 100 keynotes in the last year alone.
Mark McCrindle: Mark, I’ve been following you for many years because, in my work in developing workforce planning capability in organisations, most Google search on demographics lead me to you. In fact, last year, i started a community practice by outlining the top trends for 2022 to help contextualise the factors that we need to consider today, utilising your research. I really find the resources you produce to be invaluable for planning for the future. What you probably don’t know, mark, is that it was your podcast that actually inspired me to start mine. I was training for half marathon last year and I really needed many, many hours of listening to get me through that, so I saw your podcast featured in the Australian Human Resource Institutes magazine and it really made me think, hey, i could do that. I could share some stories, because I’ve got some really cool people in my network doing some amazing things, and wouldn’t it be great if I could share that with my network? So, thank you. Thank you for starting what has become something bigger than I had ever imagined.
Kath Hume: I’m delighted to hear that, kat, that little thing that we were doing could inspire you. I think this sort of conversation and through the medium of a podcast is important. It creates great information for people out there, and so to have your podcast out in some way our little role in that is great to hear, and I’m glad that our research has benefited you over the years as well. That’s what we try to do is find out what’s happening out there, look at the trends and put that out for people to access. So I’m very pleased to hear all of that.
Mark McCrindle: I had an episode with Kieran Murrahi a couple of weeks ago and he was very interesting and very cautious to say this is what we’re looking at in the future. But we understand and appreciate that people also have to run their day to day operations and there’s real tension between that, and so I often contextualise this for people and say this is to give you those four sites to get you plant and seeds into your head around. Where are we going? Because then when you’re starting to plan, we don’t have to take everything on board, but really need these insights to understand what is going to change so we can make sure that our planning aligns with it, so we’re not going against the tide.
Kath Hume: So important. That’s what current business needs to do is have a view as to where we want to be, what’s the end state, what’s the vision, what’s the direction And, eternally, once we understand something of that, that we can prepare for the now. So I think, while it may not be 10 year planning that we do anymore, maybe not even five year, certainly two to three year planning is important, and that’s going to be impacted by the trends approaching now. So some sense as to where things are going is key, and that’s the strength that leaders bring. They bring that foresight. They can look down the road further than others by accessing that information. That’s why they’re the leaders, that’s why they’re a leader team with them. So foresight, insights, a picture of the future, analysing the trends That’s essential stuff for all of us.
Mark McCrindle: And it’s funny because I used to think five or 10 year plans were really a pipe dream. but I look back and I think, gee, i’ve been doing this in this organisation for almost five years, and so the things that we were looking at back then AI, for example it’s here now. So it’s not this imaginary world that might exist one day in a future that we won’t ever experience. It actually becomes reality very fast.
Kath Hume: Totally And for certain industries. That sort of 10 or even 20 or more year planning is essential for government as they set policies in place for developers and town planners for working out the future of our cities or transport. We’ve obviously got to build in forward forecast because these changes take a while And of course, the build infrastructure needs to last a generation. So we certainly need to have a future view of things And you can do that through demographics. We can know what the population of our major cities will be like or what the makeup of a population nationally or in a state is, by looking at the demographic trend of today. It’s pretty solid numbers from which we can extrapolate And therefore I think sure there’s ambiguity as you stretch the time horizon out, but even to 10 year planning, there are certain disciplines that you can use to plan for that future And I think it is important we do that.
Mark McCrindle: And thank God you do, because it’s so easy to access all of your content and it’s so readily available And it really does give you that picture quite easily and simply. So we’ve probably touched on a little bit, but could you mind just giving us a little bit of a background about yourself and McCrindle and what you do and how you contribute and how you support organisations today?
Kath Hume: Well, we try to bring clarity out of the complexity of the context in which we’re operating. We try to look at the environment, the current environment, and work out what are the impacts, what are the trends For organisations. we will help them understand the lay of the land. That might be researching customers. It might be understanding the staff sentiment. It might be looking at new markets by doing demographic modelling. It could be just observing the trends and guiding them as they prepare for a strategic planning process. But it’s trying to understand the context. if you like, give a map for the journey and then help guide that journey.
Kath Hume: So the disciplines we would use in that are quantitative research through surveys and data analytics. We would do qualitative analysis through in-depth interviews or talking to some of the key stakeholders. for them We will do that demographic analysis that I said. We now incorporate a bit of AI even in the process to help churn through a lot of data that might be relevant for their industry. Or maybe that organisation has collected a lot of information that they can’t quite make head or tail of And AI can help find the patterns in that data to give key insights as to how we can guide them in that process. So we’re research-based advisory. That’s what we’re about. Those research disciplines help them plan for the future and guide their journey.
Mark McCrindle: So I asked this of all my guests and I’m super intrigued to ask you, given that you’ve got such a view of the future and where we’re going, but can I ask you what your reimagined workforce looks like?
Kath Hume: It’s a place where people can go to achieve what we all want, which is thriving in our life. We want to see human flourishing, we want to be the best version of ourselves, and in years past you didn’t look to work for that. Work was the place you went. You exchanged a day of time for a day of income and you had your social needs met elsewhere. You maybe made contributions in other places, you volunteered in other places and perhaps you did some part-time courses where you grew.
Kath Hume: Nowadays, we expect all of that to take place in our workplace. We’re less connected to our community. We’re not part of a local service organization, perhaps a Rotary Club or something. People don’t know their neighbours as well. They’re not volunteering at a local community organisation. They’re probably not doing external study. They expect all of that to be achieved through work, and work is the one place through which, if you like, it’s a social bottleneck that we regularly pass. It’s where we spend the majority of our waking hours in any given week. It’s where we spend the majority of our years over our ongoing lengthening lives, and so we have to place greater weight on work than just income or earning.
Kath Hume: Now, for some short, work is just a job, and that always will be thus. But for many more it’s a lifeline to social interaction and purpose. It’s a place of belonging. It’s where they achieve much of their identity. It’s where they can make most of contribution and grow and interact and mentor and train and see that there made a difference in the world. And so that’s my picture of an ideal workplace is where they can walk away after a day and they can say, hey, not only did I have an impact and feel that I made a contribution, but I was celebrated for that. I had some great social needs, i contributed to others as I led or mentored them, and the world is slightly different, maybe just after one day, very slightly different than it was before the day began. And that is a day well invested. And that’s my vision for a workplace of well-being and contribution.
Mark McCrindle: And that is absolute music to my ears. I’ve got a client that I’m working with and we’ve got this one page and a pretty much lists off all of those factors that we say work contributes to well-being. So it’s about the staff experience and how do we actually make sure when people come to work that they leave better off And maybe that doesn’t happen every day, but on balance, and that because you have this job and you have social connection and growth and opportunity to achieve and live out your purpose, and the financial rewards and recognition, all of those things. Exactly what you’re talking about And I absolutely love what you’re talking about there about let’s create that future And I actually think that it is happening now And I think that’s on the whole.
Mark McCrindle: Shortage of talent in the marketplace has really shifted that and force organisations to consider how they add value And it has to be more than financial, because we’ll just enter into a price war if it just comes down to salaries And I think the whole pandemic really exposed everyone to there is actually a little bit more to life. How do we get that when the world we’re living in is changing so much? And, yeah, i think I love that. You’ve seen that place of work, in delivering all of those things that we used to get elsewhere. So can I ask you, with your research, what are the problems that you’re seeing on the horizon?
Kath Hume: Well, particularly around work, it’s that you’ve got people coming into 20th century structures. Maybe that’s in terms of leadership or in terms of HR or just in terms of how a career flows. And so a 21st century generation entering a 20th century structured workplace. There’s going to be a clash of expectations And we found, obviously work. People are looking for remuneration and to really grow, particularly cost of living challenges. That does matter. But as you said, kath, it’s more than that. It’s meaningful work and it’s purpose and impact and it’s the social connection that we look for.
Kath Hume: And it’s fascinating to see that the largest sector by employment in Australia today is the not-for-profit sector. It employs more people than any other sector. Now you go back two generations and it was manufacturing. A generation ago it was the retail space and now it’s not-for-profits. And that tells a story and that is that while those people more than one in 10 workers working there could probably earn more in a commercial for-profit space, they’re choosing the not-for-profit because the purpose, the meaning and the impact that’s what’s driving them, assuming that the salary and the remuneration is acceptable. It’s those other things that are making that final determination. That tells me a lot And so, if we can into our workplaces, ensure we can articulate our purpose, our why, if we can be clear on the purpose, celebrate the wins and ensure that people are able to contribute to that.
Kath Hume: That’s what people are looking for And that comes down to leadership. It comes down to leaders creating the right workplace culture. So it’s a place we want to go. So it’s a place that is positive, that’s got great social interactions And a place where they can be rewarded, recognised, celebrated and trained towards that end. That’s what people are looking for, and yet we tend to be hierarchical in our leadership. We tend to still have a lot of autocratic approaches, we tend to have people in narrow job descriptions and we tend to think that work is a place of work and your salary is your thank you, and if you want friends, you know we call them colleagues for a reason. You’ve got friends outside of work, all of that sort of mindset, and it just does not resonate with the 20-somethings that are starting their careers.
Mark McCrindle: And I think that that empowerment of people that we’ve seen this personal agency come through, and for a couple of years I’ve been drafting this book around.
Mark McCrindle: it’s called Holistic Learning or Harnisher Human, i’m not sure what I’m going to call it just yet, but it’s trying to help people understand that, that purpose, that innate purpose, when you find that, which is a really difficult thing to do, especially in our busy lives where we’re too busy to actually stop and reflect.
Mark McCrindle: But if we can find that purpose at a young age, like help people, help kids in schools to do that, give them the growth mindset, the belief in themselves that they actually can grow and it’s within them to create a future that they would like, then I think that that marries nicely with where we’re going in organisations, where we’re building this learning culture and supporting people in their careers, because we know that’s a critical component of retention and that’s so important to organisations today. So, yeah, i’ve actually partnered up with someone else at the moment. he’s going to help me do all the research and things, because I’ve got the research, but anyway, he’s going to make it a little bit more robust for us. But I think that there’s this marrying of how do we empower individuals, but then how do organisations leverage those people and optimise the whole workforce for the benefit of everybody?
Kath Hume: Yeah, and it brings about great outcomes, as you say, for everybody, including the employer. We wrote a book based on some heavy research, just launched it a year ago, called Work Well-Being, and it answered the question. Well, if I create a great culture, if I have a more flatter structure in the workplace, if I’m empowering teams, if I’m investing and training in them, if I’m the leader that’s developing talent, if I’m bridging those gaps in the team, that’s a lot of effort. And where’s the ROI on that? Where’s the return on investment? Where’s the that gap to invest time and sometimes money into that well-being in a workplace? What’s the benefit to what we’re about as a business, which is your profitability here or producing better things there?
Kath Hume: And what we found when we analysed all of this and surveyed employees and employers nationally is that organisations who have that engaged leadership, who have that better culture, who invest in the team and the well-being of them, had a better net engagement score. So the staff were more focused, they had a better net culture score, which meant that the staff were positive advocates for the brand, and they had a better net retention score. That is, the staff stayed longer with the company than those who didn’t have that. So we can prove the return on this investment in these areas. But even apart from that, it just makes life better for all of us And it does create that human flourishing that I was discussing. So whatever people’s particular motivation is, there is a reason and incentive to operate in accordance with this approach.
Mark McCrindle: And so important to have the data backing that, because I think a couple of years ago I think the world is changing a bit, but I think a couple of years ago the well-being was we’ll deliver meditation or yoga classes And it was potentially.
Mark McCrindle: It was good initially, but I think people innately knew that this isn’t the long-term thing And it could have been counterproductive in some instances. When people were feeling overburdened by work, being told to go and do yoga was a little bit of a punch in the gut. So I think that having that data to say, well, hang on, these are the things that have impact. These are the areas where we can be focusing. I actually feel like we could reduce our spend on well-being And I say that with inverted commas, because we’re actually focusing on what we know works and also getting insights from individuals around what’s important to you. So as we’re hitting the mark rather than having a bit of a scattergun approach and hoping that some of it works but without much evidence behind that, So true, and it does help leaders and managers navigate the new challenges.
Kath Hume: If they’ve got this clear focus and the research base on what makes a great workplace and how to create well-being amongst the team, then when it comes to things like, oh, should we have total work from home or should we have maybe gathered workforce, it helps navigate those questions. For example, our research has showed that wall stuff want flexibility, and so I think some level of adaptability and work from home and even flexible hours is key And what they look for a complete work from home environment cannot meet those broader needs of collegiality, engagement, mentoring, training, celebrating wins. We need to have the ability to be a scattered workforce on occasion, but also every week. There does need to be a gathered component to have that alignment of values, that motivation around purpose, the re-ignition of what we’re about and, again, rewarding and celebrating people together. As humans, we are social beings and we want to gather, not just through a Zoom call but face to face, and so some part of the week for most employees does have to be gathered.
Kath Hume: And when we surveyed by generation, we found the generation that least responded to a fully work from home environment, that found it quite tricky, was the very youngest, because they’re at the point in life where they need the social interaction, They want the mentoring. They learn best on the job. Those are the Gen X’s. We’ve developed those skills, we’ve maybe got the kids or other things going on and hope we could happily work from home for the rest of our lives. But the younger ones starting out are at a disadvantage if that’s the way we go. So I think for a more diverse workplace with more generations and people changing careers, we need to have that gathered. We need to be a learning organization. We need to have some point where we reconnect and employers can set their own metrics as to how much in the office and how much flexibility, but certainly some level of connections key.
Mark McCrindle: And what’s interesting and I’ll really be interested in watching what you discover over the next 10, 20 years.
Mark McCrindle: But that young group of the workforce I’ve got kids in that demographic, So I’ve got a 25 and a 23 year old. So one of them graduated from uni and entered the workforce during COVID, So was fully work from home, And the other was at uni, but everything went online And at the times when I felt it was most critical for them to be going out and getting that social support was the time when they were left on their own And I couldn’t provide that for them because I could provide sort of the how to and things like that, But that social connection and the context around what they were doing. But I’ll be really interested to see if that has a lasting impact. And they are returning to offices and things now, which is, you know, I’m really grateful for because I’m really worried about them, about what they would do to for their own wellbeing. But they’re also their ability to develop their careers and build those networks which is so critical for moving and progressing.
Kath Hume: Yeah, totally.
Kath Hume: And you know the very time where we’ve had more flexibility than ever, more ability to use technology to connect and indeed more ability to move across careers, And so this mobility is the very time that we’ve seen the mental health and wellbeing of young people really hit a low ebb And what we’ve ended up doing as a society is to medicalise all of that.
Kath Hume: And so, you know, get counselling and go to the professional to solve that. But some level of wellbeing comes just from social interacting with peers and colleagues and friends. And so if we can get back to some of that and put down some of those deeper roots, you know people can stay a bit longer and really develop some of those deeper friendships if they can see the impact they’re making, which can’t happen just in six months here, rolling across different jobs. But you do develop your skills, your expertise and really hit that sweet spot in making a contribution sometimes after a year or two, Then I think they’ll really see, from a self-esteem perspective, from a contribution perspective and from a social belonging perspective, greater outcomes And hopefully that’ll help their wellbeing.
Mark McCrindle: Who do I ask you to give us an example. I know there’s been confidentiality here, but could you give us an example of a workforce problem that you’ve been able to solve through your work?
Kath Hume: Yeah, well, there’s been a number of organizations where you know they’ve had the right ingredients in place, they’ve had the right, i guess, intention, but they haven’t just executed it well. And when we surveyed the staff, there’s been a fair bit of disengagement, there’s been a bit of cynicism and there just hasn’t been that engagement between the team and the management. And often we found that it’s just a communications issue, that they have not effectively communicated their goals, they haven’t maybe been open enough between management and staff, and so sometimes the problem is not that they haven’t got the right things in place, but they just haven’t shaped the right culture through open communication. So that’s an example with you know, a couple where when they’ve then opened that up, when they’ve had flatter structures or more open communications, when they’ve even used research as a communications means to ask people’s opinion, to have open-ended questions in the survey so people can share concerns, and then, importantly, responded back to everyone on that. Here’s what we found. You know we’re not going to cover this up. You know 28%, or whatever might be said, that they were engaged, but most didn’t. The majority said that they had an issue with management on this area, that they wanted more engagement in that area.
Kath Hume: You know, that sort of open communication builds trust. It builds a sense of respect in the management. It shows through transparency that they’re listening to us and then it gets people on the one team rather than, again, this division between the leadership and the and those that are doing the work, as they would say. So so you know, communication is often key. Other times it was through the research it helped management see that, wow, they really had no idea they were so disconnected from the team that didn’t even understand these issues boiling away. And better to have that come through survey or research or open discussions of focus groups, then for it to come through a glass door, you know recommendation, or a Google negative review, or maybe people just talking about their poor experience with friends, and so it spreads, you know.
Kath Hume: So when it comes through these channels, the team can do something about it, management can put in place the right type of process and then they can adapt. I think one of the best things that we’re able to do through research is, through organization after organization we work with, to bring some of those case studies or stories to, you know, clients so they can see while they’re in great challenge, if they, through the research, see where they sit with others. They see okay, so you know we can improve or not do too badly. Or here’s an example of someone who was where we are at and now they’ve moved up and got greater engagement turned around the culture. That’s of great encouragement to organizations. So, yeah, that’s that’s where I think research and case studies and and important sometimes guiding that that implementation based on the findings can be of great help to an organization and help them transform their situation.
Mark McCrindle: What I’m really intrigued about is the whole concept of survey fatigue. Yet you seem to be able to get into hearts and minds and capture this data. So how do you manage to do that?
Kath Hume: Well, sometimes surveys just too long, you know, and they’re asking the same question in multiple ways. I think that pulse type surveys are better now if we keep it shorter. I think it’s a mix also of maybe even having some open-ended questions so people can really share issues that they’re facing, because that might be just the one channel that they’ve had access to to really get that issue off their chest that they’ve been, you know, carrying around and it’s been a real grudge that they’ve had, sometimes moving it into maybe open discussions and we call them focus groups or in-depth interviews, but really it’s talking to the team or, for that matter, talking to the customer And, rather than an issue of fatigue, it’s very liberating if someone comes in and says hey, we want to talk with you and just have an open forum where you can share your views. Part of the problem of research conducted by organizations often is that they are conducting it themselves. You know they are the bosses sent out the survey. Please fill this in to Google, for what’s a survey? monkey or whatever? And people are thinking well, if I fill this in, they’re going to know who I am, or ask for my team, they’re going to know a bit about me Therefore not going to really be honest because I can’t trust the process. Or maybe you know the boss or the team says, hey, we’re going to have a town hall, we’re going to have a forum where you can share your views, but again, people aren’t going to feel free to share truly what’s happening when it’s the boss asking the question. So there has to be a sort of intermediated way of doing that. That’s where an independent researcher can come in and people can feel a bit more open, knowing that their confidentiality is assured and they can still get those points across.
Kath Hume: I think it’s also doing these sort of inputs a bit more regularly than just every five years. You know there’s higher turnover. The average person has been there for less than three years And so if we haven’t done something for three years, half the people have never had their voice shared. I think it’s important also that we take that research and share it back to the team. Often research is conducted and it never sees the light of day. Maybe the management read it and maybe implement things on it, but the research really does belong to the people whose data has contributed to it And we’ve got to give that feedback to the team or to the survey respondents, and also give a clear response as to what we’re going to do about it. Here is the way forward, and if people can see that they get the feedback, that they hear the responsive management and that they see implementation taking place, then when the next survey comes around, they say you know what? that last one was a pleasure, you know. I saw the impacts.
Mark McCrindle: Yeah.
Kath Hume: Definitely going to be part of it. I’m going to see that fatigue.
Mark McCrindle: Yeah, and even having that honest of conversation around. Okay, we understand that this is an expectation that you have or a desire. We might not be able to do that. However, we’re doing this and give people the why rather than just make them feel like, okay, i spent all that time completing that survey. You ask me all the time no, nothing ever happens. Why would I bother doing that next time?
Mark McCrindle: One of the things I was thinking about was how impactful even one stat can be, and there was an episode recently that Ashley did around and I might get this wrong, but it was 18 jobs, six careers, and she talked about the pendulum swinging, how this is probably at the greatest numbers that we’re going to see of this. So the fact that people entering the workforce today are likely to have 18 job changes and six careers in their lifetime, but the pendulum swinging is moving back to say, okay, people, that’s probably creating too much churn. It’s not giving people the opportunity to really build careers. It’s just creating movement that doesn’t necessarily need to happen. It’s not good for individuals or organisations. That episode I found amazing that just one statistic could provide so much insight and so much direction for what organisations need to do moving forward, and you know what I really love When I listen to your podcast how you can just rattle those stats off the top of your head. And what are the stats that you think are most critical today for organisations to really be grasping onto?
Kath Hume: Well, here’s one, that nearly two-thirds of the workforce was born since 1980. We talk about the emerging generations, generation Y, or millennials, generation Z. They’re not emerging anymore. They’re the dominant generations. Those of us born before 1980 are now in the minority of the workforce. I think that’s important to understand that. Actually, the baby boomers and us Gen Xs.
Kath Hume: We need to recognize not only the emerging generations coming, but the current ones there, the Gen Ys, the Gen Zs because they have been shaped in the 90s and 2000s, in a very different era to the one that we first began our workforce in. Therefore, we need to have the right leadership structures, the right approaches, the right technologies, the right flexibility to accommodate this 21st century generation. If we look at how quickly things move, it’s going to be generation Alpha, born since 2010. They’re only just turning teenagers, yet within a decade, they’ll comprise almost one in 10 workers. The generations just keep coming. Generation Alpha, who will be, as I said, with us in a decade in a significant way. As colleagues, they were born the year that Instagram was launched and the year the iPad was released. They’ve only ever known the internet. They’ve only ever known probably the second revolution that we’ve seen in our working life. If the internet was the first, smartphones was the second, where, through social media and devices, we just had access to information and impact everywhere. They’re also being shaped in the third revolution, which is AI and automation. That, i think, will be even bigger than the prior two digital revolutions. We’ve got a new generation coming that are intuitive to technology that interacts seamlessly with the devices around them, that get advice from chatbots and use generative AI to create content. They will continue to transform the workforce.
Kath Hume: I think if we can understand the changes, the speed of change and engage, that’s going to be key. It’s not as though we as leaders need to bring in all those changes. Part of the point here is that we’ve got to connect with the emerging generation to a more intuitive to this, who are closer to their peers of that generation, who can bridge some of those gaps better than we can and work together. Flat structures, multi-generational workforces, leadership that engages, mentoring that flows two ways, reverse mentoring, where the older sometimes learns from the younger as well as passing on their knowledge These are all the changes that we need to bring in. I think statistics like pointing out that the emerging generations are now the dominant ones, who like pointing out that we’re going to have high-turning careers unless we can engage and retain. We’ll hopefully motivate leaders to bring in some of these shifts.
Mark McCrindle: I attended a workshop with some of my colleagues a couple of years ago, but we went to some schools and we actually asked kids what they thought the future of health should look like. To be completely honest, i went in thinking the kids I think they were in year 10, how much value are we going to get here? I stand corrected. I walked away amazed at what their view of the world is and how important it is to shape the world according to this demographic. It’s interesting. My kids are 25 to 17. The difference when they were growing up as kids the one that’s 25, we didn’t even have a DVD. We had a video.
Mark McCrindle: When she was little, my son was the same age the now 17-year-old He had. If I ran into someone in the shops, i would just hand him my phone and I could have a blissful conversation uninterrupted. I’m paying the price now because then I’ve created a habit that is very difficult to break. It’s interesting that how quickly these generations are forming. What I really, really love is your focus on Gen Alpha and that you’ve written this book, because you also connect and consult with education. I think this is, if we’re thinking about the future of work and how quickly time is passing how critical this is to our future workforce. These are the people who are going to be running our government systems, our financial banking institutions, all of the things that we are going to be relying on. What is it that made you focus on Gen Alpha?
Kath Hume: Well, they will be the largest generation in the history of the world. for a start, we’ve hit peak children at the moment globally, that is that actually the birth, well, the birth rate globally has been slowing. The population has been larger. The point is that just over the last decade, we’ve seen the most number of births ever. Those births are now starting to decline as the population ages in most developed countries and the birth rate is declining in the developing world. There have never been more young people in the world before than there are now. There never will be as many as there are now into the future.
Kath Hume: It’s a unique point in human history. We’ve got this massive generation that are the biggest ever, but also the most technologically supplied generation ever, at a time where technology really is driving the future. they have the tools in their hands. You add to that that they’re the most formally educated generation ever and they’re the most globally connected generation ever. We’re seeing the biggest rise in the middle class ever, right around the world. They are the most materially endowed generation in history, which gives them economic influence as well as the demographic footprint and the technology leverage.
Kath Hume: There are superlative generation in so many ways. Therefore, we need to understand them. Not only that, they do represent the future. It’s great to look at an emerging generation because sometimes when we think about the future we’re a bit esoteric. around it It’s a bit vague. but if you can think about the future as being this generation, because they are shaping the future, they will inherit the future. they indeed are the future. It gives us some more tangible connection as to where we’ll be in 10 or 20 or 30 years by looking at their expectations, attributes and values of this generation today. That was really the Gracia why we researched Generation Alpha, why we coined that term for them and why we wrote the book called Generation Alpha to really understand them, the future and our future. And so you know, it was fascinating research we conducted and I think gives a good picture as to where our world is headed.
Mark McCrindle: Can I ask you and this could be a little bit controversial but when I did my Master of Education back in, i think it was 2008 or 2009. So 15 years ago, back then I was writing articles about the benefits of asynchronous learning environments and how they enable more critical thinking skills and higher-order learning. We had this fabulous opportunity, during COVID, i think, to encourage kids to learn independently or be supported. I feel like that was our opportunity to grab it and run with it and help kids learn in a way that they will have to apply when they enter the workforce.
Mark McCrindle: It upsets me, to be honest, that we’ve had the elastic band spring straight back into okay for and back in the classroom, that we haven’t leveraged that opportunity to build and grow those capabilities, because I do think some kids will really benefit from bringing in the classroom. I know myself and my daughter, who was doing the HSC at the time, really flourished when we had time to sit down and think, because I remember being in school and feeling like everyone knew what was going on except me, and it was only probably in about you knowing where I worked out. If you read the textbook before you go to the lesson, catherine, you’ll actually understand better what’s going on. But yeah, what are your thoughts and do you have any data on what happened to education and student outcomes over COVID and why we might not be harnessing that moving forward?
Kath Hume: Yeah, well, great point, and certainly the ability for students to take charge of their own learning is going to be key for their future. The ability for them to be organised and independent in that self-learners and self-starters is key because, as we discussed, multiple careers there’s going to be a lot of retraining, upskilling and career transitions. All will require learning. They really are going to be lifelong learners and not all of that learning, of course, will be in the classroom. No, so for them to develop those skills is going to be key, and you’re right, the learn from home and the flexible learning provided an opportunity for that.
Kath Hume: But I think the reason it didn’t take off as much is that for many students it just wasn’t a great experience. Schools were not quite ready for it. Obviously, pandemic didn’t give us much warning. Some didn’t have the right technology in their home, some schools just didn’t have the right resource, and so many were, in a sense, left to learn by themselves without the tools in their head, and so they felt well, if that’s independent learning, let me get back to the classroom.
Kath Hume: We know that direct instruction, so a teacher with a class, particularly when students are young, is important, but also it’s important to guide them from that dependent style of learning as they move through the middle years, hopefully more independent learning as we get them ready for tertiary study. And schools have adapted over the last few years. So I think that if we had more lockdowns or more learning from home, they will do better. But I think teachers were suddenly thrown into the deep end with no warning and said OK, you know all the stuff you’re doing in class, you do it online. And they’re like well, what is Zoom? again, none of us three years ago knew what Zoom was or how to share screen or anything else. Some did it better than others, but definitely teachers have got that message the education sector has and they’re implementing more development of independent learning skills amongst their students for their own future. So some lessons have been learned.
Mark McCrindle: And I think you’re absolutely right that it is a shame that there was no preparation time.
Mark McCrindle: So the pedagogy for an asynchronous learning environment is different from classroom instruction, so it needs to be designed that way.
Mark McCrindle: And you’re absolutely right, the experience wasn’t great And the inequities of resource allocation and also access to parents maybe, or siblings who might have been able to help there are all factors that played into it. I think we’ve got a new curriculum coming and there’s lots of learning units being built, which we haven’t seen in Australia before, and I just wonder if now is the time where we could actually start to look at intentionally designing remote learning so as we can build those skills that you’re talking about, because we need people to be agile learners, we need them to be independent and able to navigate their own careers but also have those conversations then with their employers or potential employers to say this is where I think I can add value, but then deliver on that because they’ve got the ability to do it, because we started them when they were young. And yeah, probably not primary school maybe, but definitely I think there’s opportunities for it in high school. I know it’s not the panacea, but I just wish that there was some elements of it that we’ve retained.
Kath Hume: True, and I think, as humans, we tend to replicate what we experienced and we tend to know what we know and do what we’ve always done. And if we look at the teaching profession, you’ve got a lot of experience in the teaching profession. In fact, it’s got one of the highest median ages of employee, second only to the health system, which you know, kat. So what that means is a lot of experience, but perhaps not a lot of flexibility in the teaching methods, because people have been at it for a long time, and so when we were suddenly thrust into online learning, a lot of teachers said well, i know classrooms, so I’ll do an online classroom.
Kath Hume: And again, it perhaps wasn’t the best use of the technology or didn’t implement all of the possibilities of the technology, but we are seeing change And certainly you’ve got some of the best and most adaptive teachers who have actually been at it for many decades. So it’s not just generational, but there is a flexibility that a new generation brings, who have been shaped in an era of technology and online learning and the new devices, and so they, as we see generational change come through the sector, are bringing some of these newer approaches, and I think that that multi-generational workforce of educators is therefore bringing a multitude of pedagogies and learning styles. I think that’s going to be helpful as well.
Mark McCrindle: And I do think maybe the digital natives who then expose the others to it, maybe they get to see okay, i can see why that works Whereas just being thrown in the deep end I mean, it wasn’t by any means the ideal scenario.
Mark McCrindle: One of the things I do think, though, there’s also this dual opportunity, because we’ve obviously got this teacher shortage, which is a massive issue, but, at the same time, we also know how important flexibility is, and I just also wonder if we were able to increase the amount of remote learning, if there was an opportunity to marry that up with flexible work practices for teachers, and if, therefore, we might actually attract a few more back to or into the profession because they can see, okay, i would have the flexibility to look after my parents because they’re aging or you know dough, and I don’t know necessarily how that would work, but I think that it’s an interesting one to explore, and I think companies like yours, who actually have some data, can help us, before we just, you know, throw the baby up with the bathwater and go to a different model, to be able to look at that and say, well, what might happen if we did that?
Mark McCrindle: And really, for people like me, then understand, catherine, this is why we can’t do that. And I’d be able to say oh okay, i get that now.
Kath Hume: Well, that’s a really good point, kath. That is the nut that the education sector now needs to crack is how they can build flexibility into teaching, which always has been place bound, Because most other professions have decoupled work from location. Education, for obvious reasons like the students are in a classroom waiting for the teacher hasn’t yet been able to do it. But if they can and they’re going to have to to some extent do that, it’ll be transformative. We’ve surveyed. Every year we run a future of education reports and pre pandemic we ran it. We asked teachers about their satisfaction of the role, about how engaged they are in it, and the majority of teachers said that they find the teaching profession better in areas of flexibility, work life balance, engagement, community, all of those, all of those factors. And that’s why so many people who wanted flexibility particularly mums, historically, you know, or women moving to the families, have chosen education because of the flexibility.
Kath Hume: But interestingly, since the pandemic, all the other professions have changed and education hasn’t. So in the pre pandemic, you know, you sit down. If it’s a young teacher sitting down with friends in other sectors, the other friends say oh, you’re lucky, you get to knock off at 3pm, you get six weeks holidays. At the end of the year you get all the school holidays. You know you’re. You’re laughing. Now those same friends sit down with this teacher colleague at a cafe and they say oh, how important for you. You got to go to work five days a week. You got to be there early. You can’t take time out in the middle of the day. You know we can.
Kath Hume: So the gains or the benefits that education had in terms of flexibility have now been lost and have fallen behind the colleagues that might be in law or financial or banking.
Kath Hume: And when we ran the survey this year and asked teachers how does teaching profession compare to others, it was the majority said it’s worse than the other professions around flexibility, work life balance, community engagement. So that tells me that teaching cannot rely on that strength that once had. It has to crack this nut of building in some level of flexibility, and the way that you’ve suggested, where you know some of the learning could be online, might be a way of that being delivered online. There’s other ways it can go about it, but I think that the educational leaders are now turning their minds to it And this next generation of teacher is going to want some flexibility around where they teach. Sure, there’s going to have to be the community. We discussed that early that we want to gather. We need to gather to learn or to work, but also there’s new expectation that there’s going to be some flexibility as to our work patterns, and even teaching should provide that.
Mark McCrindle: And the other thing I was also just thinking while you were speaking is around those demographic shifts that we’ve seen, where people have moved into regional areas And in. Yeah, the kids have turned up, you know, a week before school and said, can I come to school? and being coming in significant numbers, that just the mind boggles when I think about that as a workforce planner. How do you just magic up a teacher to teach these new students? like it’s difficult to anticipate that. If we had some element of remote learning still, maybe there’d be some way of managing that. Yeah, it’s just, it’s just an interesting puzzle. I think I like to call them puzzles rather than challenges or problems, because I think it’s fun solving them.
Kath Hume: Yeah, absolutely, and you’re right, you know, matching the demographic growth.
Kath Hume: So we’ve got more students than ever, particularly in some of these regional, out of suburban areas, and yet we’ve got skill shortages in education, with more people being attracted to other professions, and so what that means is that teachers have more of a workload And so that work life balance, or that enjoyment of the role, actually diminishes further and becomes a vicious cycle of war leave.
Kath Hume: And there was even more of a skill shortage When we surveyed teachers in this most recent study just just in the last month and we asked them what’s the biggest challenge facing education over the decade ahead. It was not chat GPT, it wasn’t the AI transformation, it wasn’t even the digital transformation impacting schools. It was teacher burnout. It is the number one issue, and if we can’t get that right, if we can’t look after our best core foundation of the sector, which are our teachers, and ensure they looked after and flourishing, then we’ve got massive problems, bigger problems than AI and chat GPT. So it’s the big issue how can we solve it? And I know educators are spending a lot of time turning their attention to looking after their stuff.
Mark McCrindle: And this is why I prioritise workforce planning capability, because I feel that in health as well, if we don’t get workforce planning right, then it just burdens people that we have, which increases the likelihood that they will leave, which is just this vicious cycle, because then the people who are left behind And look be honest, like the teachers and the health staff and all of those professions that are giving, and they’re doing it because they care about people. So I don’t think we should rely on that goodwill to see us through, and I think we are seeing that change. We are seeing a lot of work in lots of government sectors around how we solve that problem. But yeah, i think it’s really interesting and I’m really keen to continue watching this space.
Kath Hume: Yeah, totally. And that’s why, as you begin by saying workplace wellbeing, engage with teams it can’t just be the yoga class or the fruit bowl, it comes back to those core issues of workforce planning and ensure we’ve got the staff well trained, we’ve got the right numbers, we’ve got all the contingencies in place, that we have the right culture, that we’re shaping the right leadership, that people feel listened to and supported. It’s that sort of stuff, not just the quick bolt on stuff. Now, all of those superficial things are great because it does send a signal that we’re listening, we’re caring for
Kath Hume: you. So we’re going to have the morning tea and we’re going to have this particular focus for this month, but it has to be more substantial than that And it does come back to foundational business operations. The number one customer is not the external one, it’s the internal one, as your own team. That’s where the energy, the focus needs to be. If they’re flourishing, if they’re looked after, if they’re feeling valued, they will give that back to the stakeholder or the student or the patient or the customer. But it starts with leaders looking after their teams.
Mark McCrindle: I could talk all day. This happens to me all the time But I do have to end it here. But thank you, thank you so much for that time and your amazing expertise and all that you do And that you’d give so generously too, because all of that is readily available for people. Mark, if people wanted to connect with you, how would they best do that?
Kath Hume: Yeah, well, there’s lots of those resources on our website, mcrindlecom, So that’s M-W-C-R-I-N-D-L-E com And there’s that podcast that you mentioned, kat, that go to the future reports. There’s a lot of other reports available and books and resources that they can access, so I wish them well. Have at it And great to chat with you, kath. Really appreciate the interview. Thanks so much, Mark.