Four trends every leader needs to know about the future of work
Organisations need to move beyond traditional leadership mindsets to remain sustainable and efficient in the future of work, says MARIE-CLAIRE ROSS.
The world of work is undergoing profound change. Trends like automation, artificial intelligence and political upheaval are impacting jobs and careers.
Large companies around the world are already exploring what the workplace will look like in 2030 and how it will affect the relationship between employers and workers. From what they have already determined, one thing is clear: it is ripe for an overhaul.
Why? Because everything is broken.
Every single element of modern company management has been built and designed for another time and place – namely, the factory lines of the early 1900s. A time when rote, repetitive work was the norm and people were treated as human resources, not human beings. A time when companies mattered and the people who worked for them didn’t. The framework of the past was not created for today’s workers and the challenges we face, yet organisations still insist on applying them.
Unfortunately, the primary philosophy of management today is to motivate employees with incentives and then let them know their performance is being monitored. Department incentives, annual performance reviews and key performance metrics appear very logical and even reasonable until you consider the fundamental contradiction of the modern workforce: we are wired to seek challenges and learn, yet are rewarded for simply doing as we are told.
I recently chaired the two-day Melbourne HRD HR Summit, where heads of people, culture and learning from major companies such as Spotify, Australia Post and Mirvac took the stage. You may believe their presence at a HR conference means what they had to say was only relevant to HR and learning and development leaders. If you believe that, you’d be mistaken. The insights they shared are important for leaders of all kinds to understand. For facility managers, the trends they discussed will impact workplace design and management for years to come.
Here is a summary of the four key lessons:
1. Humanising the workforce through technology
One of the clearest priorities to emerge from the summit was for organisations to consider the employee experience in everything they do. Given the war for talent, it is no longer feasible for organisations to expect they can attract high performers without creating the right company culture.
Central to this concept is the use of technology to empower employees to do their job with minimal friction and hassle.
It’s all about personalisation and contextualisation – empowering employees to customise their jobs, how they learn, are rewarded and receive information. It’s all about giving employees what they want in order to set them up for success.
If this sounds like an unfair ask on companies, consider this: according to the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute, organisations that score in the top 25 percent on employee experience report nearly three times the revenue on assets compared to organisations in the bottom quartile.
2. Shifting leadership mindsets
Underpinning the shift to improve employee experience is transitioning leaders to understand the growing importance of the people agenda. This requires leaders to understand their role in modelling the right behaviours to create the best organisational environment possible.
Unfortunately, most leaders are promoted to their leadership position because of their technical ability rather than their ability to lead. Work must be done to help leaders understand the importance of enabling others to do their best work. After all, managing a career is really about managing a series of relationships. At some point, high trust leaders realise there is only so much work that they can do on their own. They respectfully ask for contributions and help from others because they cannot be an expert in everything.
Of course, this is a pressing reality for the facility management industry. To attract younger people into the facility management profession, leaders must create a nurturing environment that will support new recruits in their career. Traditional workplaces often make it difficult to get ahead, which only turns newbies away.
Smart facility management leaders create a space in which people understand that their contributions, questions and feedback matter; a space where suggestions and ideas are welcomed and encouraged.
3. Building organisations around learning
Learning and development is expected to become one of the most important business functions of the future and a key component in talent retention and engagement. As such, it is going to become increasingly important for employers to provide on-demand training so that employees can learn whenever and wherever they choose.
Employees will learn more it it is easy to do so and thus organisations need to work with employees to create the necessary time and space.
Three of the companies that presented revealed that providing flexible on-demand learning has been a game-changer. The first of these companies is the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. A key finding in its employee engagement survey was that employees wanted more learning opportunities, so it centralised its HR digital transformation around a learning management system. The system has been so successful that almost 50 percent of employees are using it. The institute can’t produce programs fast enough.
Another of these companies is NBN. The organisation has created an intuitive learning system that embeds learning in the flow of work so that employees learn during daily work activities. Based on best practices and extensive employee consultation, it features bite-sized lessons that are easily accessible and even socially connected. Not only that, but the learners are very much in control of the system, working together to create videos and curate content.
4. Trust is the foundation for change
Trust is the first step required before changing the relationship between employer and employee. In the workplace, the existence of trust is crucial before anything new is implemented, whether that’s a new leader, new process or new structure. Employees need certainty to be able to trust those around them, particularly leaders.
It may seem counterintuitive, but working on trust opens up the ability of all employees of all levels to have honest discussions that improve performance and reduce errors.
One of the pivotal skills leaders can learn is how to run an effective one-on-one with their direct reports.
Michael Kim, head of HR APA at Spotify says, “We have got a better result when managers are taught how to have regular ‘one-on-ones’ rather than waste time in performance reviews. How do we build strong one-on-ones? By having great leaders. Trust is at the centre. They have to build a level of trust with their people. It improves innovation.”
This is backed by findings from Imperative Research, which says eight out of 10 employees report a high level of trust in their organisation fosters both innovation and investment in new products.
Putting it all together
To adapt and stay relevant, organisations need to invest in the employee experience to nurture a positive, trusting culture. That all starts with leaders understanding the importance of humanising the workplace and evolving to a new mindset in order to trust people to make the right decisions, work flexibly and support one another.
Marie Claire-Ross is the chief corporate catalyst at Trustologie. She is a workplace sociologist, author and consultant focused on helping leaders put the right processes in place to empower employees to speak up about issues, challenge each other and share information.
Image: 123RF’s Galina Peshkova, © 123RF.com