WorkMatters was delighted to be selected as the cover story for the October 2019 edition of HR Tech Outlook, the US based publication platform focused on the latest trends in HR and HR technology. In their October 2019 edition of their monthly magazine, they highlighted their Top 10 leadership Development and Solution providers across Europe who were seen to be providing cutting edge services and solutions for the changing world of work. Following a selection process with their subscribers, research team, editorial and advisory panels, WorkMatters was selected as their cover story to demonstrate emerging services now available across Europe to help organizations navigate the specific challenges and opportunities they face in the Future of Work.
We were thrilled to receive this international recognition from HR Tech Outlook and we would like to thank all our partners, clients and friends who have helped shape what we do in WorkMatters over the last couple of years.
As mentioned in the WorkMatters article, the future of work is already here – we just need to continue to work together to make it the very best it can be for our organizations, our workforces and for society at large.
Thanks again @HR Tech Outlook”
You can access the full article HERE
Ever feel slightly overwhelmed by the volume of information being produced about the so-called ‘Future of Work’ ?
While no universal definition of the ‘future of work’ even exists, it has become one of the most common management buzzwords over the last decade.
Used (and abused) as a ‘label of convenience’ for everything from Robotics and Artificial Intelligence to Millennials and the gig economy, not a day passes without news of the latest survey, report, summit or social media post on the subject – including this one I guess!
However, having worked in and researched this field over the years my sense is we now need to move the conversation on regarding the future of work.
The message has been clear for some time that major converging forces such as emerging technology, rapid change, globalisation, shifting demographics, gig working and so on are all combining to herald in what is becoming the biggest disruption to the world of work since the Industrial Revolution. We get it.
But yet, when you talk with many leaders, employees and policy makers today, who are often consumed by current challenges and priorities, they are asking the question of what exactly is so different, what is the impact to me, to my organization and what should/could I do about it today ?
Getting personal about what really matters
Part of the issue is how distracting all the information and noise around this sprawling topic can get – between digital this, robotics that, and gig working the other – and every subject in between. Many people are left asking what is ‘really real’ for me in all this, what are the practical and relevant implications for my context, my situation and my future.
These are some of the basic questions we need to address for people, moving beyond the flash, drama and glitz of the latest technological advancement and millennial or Gen Z survey!
When you do look beyond the hype and headlines, and at how others have successfully travelled this path, you are left with some concrete themes that each business leader, HR leader, employee and policy maker do need to consider. Themes such as the capacity to manage greater complexity, embed agility and rethinking how work can get done are among the relatively few but fundamental strategies that will enable all of us to navigate whatever the future of work throws at us. Nothing new perhaps, but ideas that now need to be more deliberate, thought through and front of mind than ever before.
Commonly quoted essentials such as embracing new technology, dealing with continuous change and managing diversity are now just simply ‘givens’ in the new world of work and business, to be accepted as business as usual realities rather than anything new or in the future.
Making work better and making work matter
Another basic truth we have to face as leaders, work architects and policy makers is how do we make work better and matter for everyone amongst the spectrum of technologically empowered possibilities and options presented by the so-called future of work. As Martin Ford says ….”crafting a future that offers broad based security and prosperity may prove to be the greatest challenge of our time”. Declining engagement levels, increasing levels of precarious work, workplace stress and widening pay gaps are just some of the current warning signals that suggest we have some tough choices ahead to create broad based prosperity and sustainable work models for the future.
A fascinating and important journey ahead
All in all, this ‘future of work’ journey will continue to be a fascinating one, scattered with many unmapped routes, speed bumps and cul-de-sacs along the way.
But it is a journey for which we need to prepare ourselves and others, and to take with purpose so that we establish a route for future generations that is characterised by good work and opportunity where people can thrive and not just survive at work. A future where organizations build the capacity to adapt and change with confidence and skill over time and don’t just exist to deliver on short term priorities.
My own first step
For me, that journey began like all journeys – with a single step. After 25 years of corporate life, I struck out to form WorkMatters where I and some talented colleagues and partners are committed to helping others make sense of the changing world of work for them and their organizations. No drama, no expensive solutions or tools, just practical people and leadership support to help leaders and employees ‘get real’ about the future of work.
Leading, working and performing in a more complex environment and at an ever-increasing pace is probably one of our biggest challenges today. Disruption and continuous change are now ‘normal’ and expected in most industries.
Agility as a solution
Organizational agility is well established as one of those critical organizational competencies that has helped organizations successfully adapt to a more complex and rapidly changing business environment. For more high profile cases, just look at what Netflix or Amazon have done with their business models over the last 10 years. Agility is also established as a well-researched quality in future-proofing organizations and employees for future challenges and opportunities. Many business writers and researchers such as McCann and Selsky have identified Agility at organizational, team and individual level as the most common and necessary quality in dealing with “rapid and turbulent change”.
The basic and quite compelling argument is that, if business leaders can improve an organization’s agility and build it into the organizational culture, structure and processes, they will have gone a long way in dealing with the ‘complexity challenge’ and in preparing their organization for the business challenges and opportunities of the future.
So far, so good…..
The problem with Agility
While Agility has been around forever one way or another, more modern agile principles and practices for today’s context have been developing in areas like software design and product development in recent years. These principles and practices have now begun to spread into the wider enterprise.
But there is a problem. As a deliberate organization wide strategy and competency, Agility is often inconsistently defined and unevenly executed. Bill Joiner neatly captures the multi-faceted elements of Agility with one definition amongst many that exist out there – “Agility is acting with purpose and flexibility, collaborating with disparate stakeholders, developing creative solutions to complex problems, continually learning and changing”. However, many leaders and employees struggle to agree on what this actually means for them and their organization let alone how deep it should go or how it should be implemented and managed.
There can also be a healthy conflict or tension between the practical consequences of agile mindsets and principles compared to the traditional command and control cultures and more comfortable ways of working of the past. McKinsey and others also fairly point out that you can’t have agility without stability thus prompting the question amongst leaders as to where and how to strike that important balance in their organization.
These are some of the reasons as to why making real progress on Agility has remained in the “want to have but hard to do” category with more pressing, short term challenges often remaining higher up the priority list.
Given the prize and opportunities that come with organizational agility, the important question is what does it really mean and look like for your organization, your leaders and your employees – and how can it be delivered appropriately at organizational, team and individual level in your specific context and situation?.
The Agile Leader
As well as leaders conducting a structured, high level and honest scan of Agility for their organization, one of the early places to start is with leaders themselves, helping them think through how agile they are as leaders and what impact this is having on the wider organization.
In their book, Leadership Agility (Jossey-Bass, 2006) and subsequent research, Joiner and Joseph define the natural and progressive development stages of the ‘Agile Leader’.
From the tactical and problem solving orientation of the “expert leader” to the more strategic and outcome oriented “achiever leader” and then the more visionary and facilitative/empowering “catalyst leader”, Joiner and Joseph describe the practical skills of progressively leading in a more agile way. This helps to clarify and call out typical leadership development stages through the lens and language of agile principles and practices. Such self-awareness and clarity of language and behaviour is an important requirement for any organization seeking to be more deliberate and mindful in developing genuine organizational agility.
“Leading in a more complex and rapidly changing work landscape will remain one of the most important organizational, leadership and personal challenges into the future. Agility is one of the more compelling solutions to leading this future but it needs some help with its definition and image!”
With input and support from the leading international experts in their fields, the IMI Senior Executive Programme (SEP) sets out to support senior leaders explore and forge their own ‘next practice’ in strategically leading their organizations, their employees and themselves through this evolving environment.
Kevin Empey is Managing Director of WorkMatters Consulting and also Programme Director of the IMI Senior Executive Programme.