It’s No Secret the Future of Work is Here: Now Let’s Support It

Pain can lead us to the source of our troubles — and with that efferent signal we can begin to act in response. This is exactly how I view the unfolding shift within organizations today. Traditional organizational structure and processes are often unfit to support the work life needs of human beings (think Maslow’s notion of safety applied to work). We’ve seen staggering engagement lows reflecting this shortfall —  and the accompanying financial ramifications (See more on that here). In many organizations retention will become an increasing worry. We shouldn’t feign surprise. The tipping point is near — and it will be a rocky (yet exhilarating) ride.

Addressing the weaknesses of traditional organizations and crafting an effective response — has been a protracted process. However, this as a “work-life affirming” opportunity for many organizations. As organizations attempt to transform in response to a lack of psychological safety and needed shifts in the role of “manager” — we’ll see remarkable changes in the way organizations relate to their employees. At the horizon, organizations such as Adobe and Deloitte abandoning time-intense performance appraisal systems that offered little in return. Organizations such as Intuit are realizing that leadership training requires the use of guided experimentation in the field. 

This evolution will undoubtedly come down to brass tacks: What are organizations willing to do to transform how they support their employees and the work?

Here are a few thoughts:

  • Build an organizational “growth mindset”. Listening to the stories of organizations, doubt concerning the capability of the organization to grow or change is often detected. The work of Carol Dweck can be readily applied to the potential of people within organizations. This mindset can also be extended to beliefs concerning the organization as a whole. When contributors perceive the organization feels that talent is static and fixed, commitment wanes.
  • Acknowledge the employee-employer exchange agreement. Engagement remains a difficult metric to affect, as it effectively costs US organizations millions of dollars each year in lost productivity. We can apply new mindsets — such as addressing the psychological contract — to make headway.  When we commit to an organization, we expect (hope for) something meaningful in return — whether this is recognition, the opportunity to explore ideas or learning new things. However this is rarely discussed. The often unstated contract between employers and employees, is quickly becoming part of this equation. (See more on this in The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age). I predict this neglected dynamic will not “go gently into the good night”. In fact, it will begin to affect many organizations that remain unprepared.
  • Get the work done: Teaming. Recent research conducted by Deloitte, has discussed that the design of organizations is shifting. This in direct response to the demands of the work at hand. (According to the research less than 40% percent of all companies continue to be functionally organized). Issues going forward affecting this shift include: adequate communication platforms to bring together teams, internal documentation of employee skill/knowledge bases and the role of managers.
  • Bring elements of agile to work. Agile possesses certain strengths that can be utilized by many types of teams within an organizations. Two obvious strengths that strike me as critical: protecting the work and harnessing the perspective of customers/clients. The mindset shift is a mammoth commitment, but can allow even the most petrified organizations a new lease on life. (Read more about making the entire organization agile here.)

How has your organization responded to the evolution of work? Share your experiences.

A version of this was first posted on LinkedIn

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