By Vanessa Gavan
Executives know there’s a huge wave of change across all industries. Being across the future of work is the difference between riding it or being dumped.
Only adaptive, agile organisations can respond to the magnitude of change that’s coming. At the moment, the dominant mindset is still of hierarchical, structured, complex organisations. To embrace all the possibilities of the future of work, we need flatter, adaptable and simplified workplaces. Leaders are aware of changing technologies and the different employee and customer expectations flowing from that, and that they must partner outside their own organisations to put themselves on the right side of digital disruption. But there’s a difference between awareness and having the conviction to actually reshape, reorganise, take some risks, bring down boundaries and do something. While I can’t give you a simple formula, here are five positive actions that will help make your organisation future fit. It’s worth reminding yourself that the march of technology is as old as humankind – we have an innate ability to adapt. As ever, adding action to adaption is the key differentiator.
- Extend your view
Leaders must create and articulate a long-range view, not one-two years hence but at least five-10 years out. You need to be able to explain what you’re building for, to be open to where the market is moving and poised for future opportunities for your organisation to seize. The agile workplace that was born in tech companies is now being applied everywhere, even in big banks, such as ANZ. At the very least, adopt an agile mindset for your company.
- Open up and partner right
The future of work is about co-creative capabilities, building new products and services alongside your customers and leaving behind old push-to-market models. Seek out collaborations that go beyond advice and find partners who will actually help you to build something. When you’re building a house, you’re not trying to be the architect but you definitely want to have that clear view of what you want the house to be, what needs it must meet now and how it might morph in the future. In a similar vein, leaders should think of themselves as the project managers of digital disruption, staying curious, looking outwards and equipping themselves to ask the right questions of the team of trusted experts they build around them, who will come from within their organisation and from outside it.
- Connect people to purpose
There’s a trend in human behaviour to seek more meaning from relationships and to be transparent about philosophies and everything I see is driving towards that becoming even more important. You will not get the hearts and minds of Millennials – let alone of Generation Z, who are beginning to enter the workplace with an intense focus on social conscience – without imbuing an authentic drive for purpose through your organisation. They won’t be fooled by CSR lip service, they want to see evidence of it and they’re applying healthy pressure to get it happening! In the old days, a job was around ‘My contract, the job I’m doing and my career options’. Today it’s all about ‘Am I working for an organisation that aligns to my values and the contribution I want to make in the world?’ It’s very strong and organisations must embrace a sense of purpose that’s aligned with that of their employees. This helps to build a strong trust base, which is a vital component of the future of work.
- Strengthen agile working
The sense of purpose is intrinsically bound with flexible work arrangements. As you move to different ways of working – such as becoming an ‘all roles flex’ organisation as Telstra has – your psychological contract with your employees must be strong. For a flexible, agile workplace to flourish and thrive, it must be built on a genuine trust base. And here’s the thing: it makes creating that deep sense of purpose for your team a winning proposition from every angle.
- Engage the gig economy
Leaders have a responsibility to create an adaptive organisation. You must step back and look at your entire employee ecosystem, and it must go well beyond permanent staff. You need to realise that today people can contribute to your success from anywhere, but they need access to your networks for that to be possible. Leaders must nurture that by breaking down corporate boundaries and opening up networks – and realising that your leaders will be dispersed, too. It’s the way of the future.