Where are you now?
If you’re currently employed by an organisation that still has legacy operational technology and processes, where they are still reliant primarily on ‘corporate e-mail’ as the only form of communication and where you still see traditional hierarchical structures and encounter the same P&L boundaries – folks, you are not in a company that is thinking about or embracing the opportunities on offer within the next period of change in our workplace – the ‘Future of Work’.
With 5 generations soon operating in the workplace alongside one another, the diversity, differing scale of expectations, requirements in ‘how’ and ‘when’ work is done and what is important to each employee in terms of meaningful work creates both opportunities and challenges for business owners, C-Suite Execs and general management.
A lot has been written about the ‘Future of Work’; I’ve read articles and posts from companies commenting on and advocating the need for more innovation in the workplace; however, how many of these companies are actually doing something about this within their own business? – I venture, less than 25% at best.
The reason for my skepticism is based on personal experience and from speaking to other businesses about their own plans and current challenges. The fundamentals are simple – legacy business finds change (any change!) hard and start-ups build-as-they-go without an end-state in mind. My advice, start with a simple plan and build – on this basis – start with addressing the 3 C’s of the Future of Work. Collaboration. Culture. Connectivity.
Project teams are now cross-functional, cross-borders and Globally unified through the use of collaborative communication tools; this facilitates individuals to share ideas, information and make decisions collectively in real-time. Mobility is another reason for effective communication and collaboration and as detailed in the Deloitte White Paper on the Future of Work Research Study states;
37 percent of the global workforce is now mobile, 30 percent of full-time employees now do most of their work outside of the employers’ location, and 20 percent of the workforce is composed of temporary workers, contractors, and freelancers
; creating an environment where collaboration is vibrant and increased transparency through effective communication provides an holistic picture of the business is key. Deciding the digital channels to utilise are also an essential part of ensuring success; v-meetings and the use of messaging apps and platforms is now common-place within business either as a recognised part of the technology estate or as ‘shadow IT’ that the business has yet to integrate and/or consider as central to effective collaboration.
Increased collaboration has also been identified as leading to additional business benefits in terms of creating new business opportunities and innovation as multi-skilled teams and individuals come together in project teams to drive forward devolved agendas on behalf of the business. In a survey, 57% of executives surveyed cited identifying and new business opportunities and 48% cited increasing rates of innovation a result of collaboration.
The company ‘culture’ has been defined as containing a number of different elements and these include, the work environment, the company mission, the values a company affirms, its ethical compass, expectations and the goals and targets it has set for itself. However, the key factor that underpins all these elements is very simple – people. At it’s core, most definitions agree that ‘People = Culture’.
In 2016, 245 C-level executives where surveyed and asked what impact does culture have on the ability of their business to realise its mission and vision; over 69% stated that culture had a critically important impact. With the collective agreement of the C-Suite, HR Professionals have refocused their efforts on understanding the workforce mentality through employee engagement and satisfaction surveys, an increased emphasis on career progression and employee 1-2-1 engagement and the corporate social responsibility.
Linked to the ‘Culture’ of a business is Corporate Responsibility; the opportunity for your employees to ‘give back’ to the local community or designated charity. This another aspect indexing high on the list of reasons an individual decides to apply and work for a specific company.
One very potent example of an ‘Employee Giving Program’ has been delivered successfully by Nike, the trainer and sportswear brand. They offer programs to their employees under the banner of “Community Impact” that help give back to the communities around them, including the Nike Community Impact Fund, the Nike Community Ambassador program and The Girl Effect. These programs have proved very effective in attracting and recruiting Gen Z talent to their business; with 93% of a surveyed group of Gen Z folks reporting that how a company impacts society affects where they decide to work, the ROI of such schemes becomes very obvious.
The progression of technology from the early 2000’s to now has been rapid and this has offered more opportunities and platforms to change traditional working and connect individuals in the workplace like never before. Additionally, the boundaries between ‘social platforms’ and ‘business platforms’ are blurred as Google and Facebook enter the workplace with their offerings, G-Suite and Google Hire and Facebook Workplace and Work Chat (*the accompanying messaging app). Not to mention WhatsApp, an app (owned by Facebook) that has over 1-billion daily active users.
In short – the ‘corporate e-mail’ will die as its need becomes obsolete alongside platforms and messaging channels that offer more personalisation, multiple functionality and integration to other services. A Deloitte survey illustrated that 76% of executives predicting a move away from email and toward more sophisticated digital tools.
Connectivity is not only the domain of technology as ‘connecting people’ is also the remit of management and senior leadership; albeit in a more traditional sense. The previously referenced Deloitte White Paper found;
40% of respondents expect they will increasingly place more focus on facilitating the exchange of ideas , the flow of conversations across the organisation, and providing greater autonomy at team and individual level. This shift from “topdown” to what we might see as “alongside” is a crucial component of the equation.
; the future of leadership is changing and what is required to be an effective leader has a new frame of reference in terms of ‘mindset’. Traditional leadership was ‘command and control’ which relied on a strict hierarchal model in which those at the top controlled those beneath them; this form of leadership is proving antiquated in the Future of Work as employees require more of their leaders than direction and orders.
When referring to ‘mindset’ the book by the Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck is often referenced as a ‘growth mindset’ creates motivation and productivity in the world of business, What is sure is that the profile of a leader is now very different.
The Future or Work is an evolving subject and topic for discussion and I am really interested in connecting with other interested individuals, businesses and corporations to discuss their experiences and stories regarding this challenge that faces us all in the world of business.