As the year 2020 approaches, many companies are lagging behind in the progress that needs to be made in other to adjust to new work reality. Productivity growth has almost stopped, lying at 1% right now – so a new paradigm needs to be implemented in order to allow for companies to be reshaped according to the new challenges this new decade is going to bring. This makes it essential for leaders to re-consider their company processes and responsibilities because companies will need to think beyond profit and engage in societal change. This is going to change hierarchies and organizational boundaries, as talent brings new skills and expectations to the game.
In this new model, technology needs to be looked at, not like a replacement for human work, but as a way to free individuals to do some creative thinking as their most boring tasks are automated. This includes giving each organization its own societal purpose. It will no longer be enough to just claim it – companies need to walk the walk and prove their purposes.
Technology and Talent as Change Makers
Every business needs to know that they can’t think of technology as a separate entity from the rest of daily work: technology now commands how companies can improve their common processes. This means that new hires are needed to control the way technology affects corporations and companies, which will make for a new way of understanding IT as the core of every business activity.
Talent is also changing, mostly because Millennials and Generation Z will make up almost 60% of the workforce by 2020. These generations have different expectations about their jobs, mostly because they require a purpose for their position that affects society as a whole. The changes also include remote working as part of every company’s workflow, as this type of contract is getting more and more common.
The new workforce needs to accommodate gig work, temping, contracting and self-employment – all at once. Almost half of the current workforce prefers to be freelancing and self-employed other than being tied to a company, which must be accounted for when thinking about a company’s setup. As automation increases, creative thinking and imagination will earn a new place in work settings, as will the ability to incorporate digital seamlessly by designing, maintaining and collaborating with machines.
Purpose over Profit
Both the new hires in every company and consumers expect companies to have a societal position and to affirm it through action. As previous generations were more focused on job stability, Millennials and Gen Z want purpose. It’s not a naïve perspective of changing the world, but, instead, a straightforward approach that understands that working for profit is no longer enough. TSI (total societal impact) has affirmed itself as a new standard in the way companies should behave other than just looking to appease shareholders with more profit.
Profit will come naturally through the companies’ values and the way their representatives behave according to those values. In fact, companies with a well-defined purpose are more likely to show an above-average performance.
For this to become a reality, the purpose must be personal. Companies must make sure their processes reflect their values so that their employees will feel part of the change they want to see in the world. This is the best way to make your employees your biggest brand ambassadors. Businesses should also take a public stand that reinforces their values according to the company’s societal purpose.
These changes might seem counterintuitive or uncomfortable in the beginning. As an example, CVS used to make 2 billion dollars a year from tobacco product sales, but they decided to stop selling tobacco in order to fulfill their promise of “helping people on their path to better health.”
New Organisational Features
To implement these changes, organizations need to have a few attributes that will make them stand out. These will make them adapt and innovate more easily, developing more powerful relationships with customers and combine human effort and technology in a meaningful way.
As a first feature, it is essential for companies to assess and shape the way people and technology work together, unlocking the potential of this combination and balancing each side’s strengths.
Companies also need to learn how to use automation in a manner that helps them solve problems, and analyze data in a way that allows for creative ideas through the outputs that are produced. This will lead companies to re-think their approach to many common issues and imagine solutions that were unreachable before.
It is also a necessity to re-organize companies taking into account humans and machines, changing behaviors and structures accordingly.
This involves constantly updating the workforce’s skills instead of just sporadic training and also decentralizing power and leadership in order to make companies and businesses work organically in a human-centered model.
Hierarchies need to change as well. Moving from the rigid job roles that are included in today’s organizations, the companies of the new decade will lose their differentiation between management, monitoring, enabling, and execution. These new interconnected teams will be closer to consumers and more easily reachable, reshaping themselves to the company’s (and the consumers) needs.
Organizational structures will become dynamic, in an ecosystem divided between three layers: modular core data and architecture, core business processes and small, agile teams which will consist of on-site employees, gig workers, freelancers, partners and other types of work relationships that are becoming frequent.
Career progress must also be taken into account in this new model.
Reporting relationships, hierarchies, and rigid departments should become agile and be reshaped as needed. As projects come to an end, new teams will take place with their members changing roles in order to keep this new system functional and effective. Career paths will no longer be represented by a single line; they will incorporate a grid of different responsibilities, teams, and different problems to solve.
Incentives, performance management, decision rights, feedback loops, information flows, and resource allocation also need to change. The context in which work is done and leadership roles need to adapt. This means that companies need to balance talent, customers, and suppliers in an organic manner that will suit the new paradigm.
In this new model, customers, partners, and even employees can be both inside and outside the organization. It becomes necessary to leverage the opportunities and challenges this system creates.
Technology has made customers a part of the product development process, using data from actual users to improve services and involving customers in development, production, delivery, and marketing.
Previously, most companies dealt with any issues that came up internally. This no longer applies. Businesses need to embrace partnerships, lead on by unit managers and not by senior executives.
It should be noted that a larger and larger slice of the workforce is freelancing, which means that companies need to figure out how to tap into that source bearing in mind the skills they need to get the job done. These work relationships need to be enforced through engagement, development, purpose, and learning.
Leaders need to step down and allow for flexible and dynamic relationships with their employees that make them engage in all processes. Team managers will need to provide a reason behind their behavior and decisions which takes into account the whole team, leading through example. There should be a dynamic of constant learning built into every team and its members, leaning on constant growth rather than established expertise. From strategic planning to budgeting to goal setting, leaders will need to employ more agile methods, giving their employees the necessary guidelines while allowing for autonomy and creative thought into problem-solving.
Personal development is a crucial factor in this new relationship between leaders and employees, with team managers working as learning coaches towards a strategy that allows employees to apply their new learned skills directly into work. Performance evaluation should also take into account personal growth, as well as business goals and outcomes at the same time.
Companies also need to learn how to implement changes in their structures, adapting quickly to new realities.
Give meaning to your employees’ work
An inspired workforce will be more productive as it sees meaning and opportunities for growth in their common daily tasks. Companies need to help employees realize their full potential, which will pay back towards business with more engagement, commitment, and productivity.
As leaders give their employees the power to make more, employees take ownership of their own responsibilities and are more engaged in business goals. Netflix is one of the companies that inspire their workers through a “people over process” thinking.
Fostering a sense of belonging will also be part of the main goals of every company, empowering work relationships and a feeling of community through shared purposes and goals.
It should also be noted that companies who care about their employees’ well being and encourage team members to be themselves while at work get better results. Individuality should be cherished so that the energy those team members would spend hiding part of themselves can be channeled to more productive purposes.
All these changes imply that companies need to adapt quickly to this new paradigm. Those that rely on rigid structures to get work done will soon become obsolete and get lost while their competitors flourish. These trends in technology and talent keep on moving forward and a mentality of constant adaptation is necessary, now more than ever. By adapting to these trends, companies will have a societal purpose that enables personal growth, reaching employees’ full potential and engaging them in meaningful work.