The way we work is changing.
It’s not going to stop changing anytime soon, in fact, the change is only going to speed up.
Organizations have made progress in adapting for the future of work, but we still have a long way to go.
In my book, The Future of Work, I laid out 14 principles of the future organization. And while that book was released back in 2014, these principles are still very relevant for organizations today and we have a lot of work to do in each one of these areas in order to succeed in the next decade and beyond. So let’s take a deeper look at each one of these 14 principles.
Globally distributed with smaller teams
We have been seeing organizations move away from having all of their employees located in a few corporate offices to having employees spread out all over the world. This allows teams to be smaller and more agile.
It also opens up a wider pool of talent for organizations then we have seen in the past. Proximity to the corporate headquarters is no longer an issue. This is an exciting change because it means organizations can utilize the best talent and individuals can work for their dream company no matter where they are in the world. We were already seeing this change back in 2014, but now with COVID-19 we are seeing this become even more common.
While it is great to have a global team around the world, it is not possible to work effectively from all over without being able to stay connected. Your team needs to be able to connect to the right information and to each other anywhere, anytime, and from any device. Which means your organization has to have the right technology in place to make that happen.
Technology is the central nervous system of any organization. With the current pandemic companies have been pushed to achieve in 3 months what they had been trying to do over 10 years. But with or without the pandemic, companies have to continue to create and invest in the technologies that connect their workforce.
There are several traits that come to mind when you think of an entrepreneur. Passion, drive, innovation, creativity, forward thinking, etc… Wouldn’t you love to have people inside of your organization with these traits? You should. Intrapreneurs are entrepreneurs that work inside of an organization instead of off on their own.
You can foster the intrapreneurial spirit inside of your organization by letting employees test their ideas out, experiment, pitch new projects, and run with the ideas that have potential. There are several organizations that are allowing employees to be intrapreneurial such as LinkedIn, Adobe, and AT&T.
For individuals this means that you have to have entrepreneurial skills in order to succeed and get ahead. You have to be scrappy, resourceful, and curious. Don’t just wait for your manager to tell you what to do next, don’t just think inside the box, don’t get pigeon-holed into a certain job description. Don’t be afraid to take an idea and run with it.
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Operates like a small company
Organizations can no longer afford to be bogged down by bureaucracy, not in this fast paced world we are living in. No matter how many employees you have you have to operate like a small company.
Small companies are agile and adaptable. They are able to make quick decisions and pivot at a moment’s notice. Again, with the pandemic I think companies have been forced to do this for now. We all had to act quickly at the beginning of 2020. But if you want to succeed in the future you have to be able to continue to act small and agile. You will not win if you operate at the speed of sludge.
Are your employees empowered to make their own decisions or do they have to go through multiple levels of hierarchy to get an answer? Do you have small enough teams or do you have 40+ people in meetings? Do you allow employees to run with ideas or do they have to sit in back to back meetings all day?
Don’t tell me it’s not possible to make quick decisions, we’ve all had to do it this year. And if you can do it for COVID-19, you can do it anytime.
Focuses on “want” instead of “need”
In the past when there was a position to be filled inside of an organization the leaders would post a job ad and qualified candidates would apply. There would be an interview and the candidate had to convince the interviewer why they would be the best fit for the position. It was always assumed that the candidate needed a job and they were at the mercy of the organization to hire them. It was about what the candidate could bring to the organization.
Now with globalization and the fact that individuals can work pretty much anywhere around the world as well as the fact that it is a lot easier to be an entrepreneur and do your own thing now it is no longer the individual who has to do the selling. Individuals have so many choices, they don’t have to settle for anything. It is up to the organization to prove it is a place where the individual would want to work.
In order to attract the best talent you have to create an organization where people want to come work, you cannot assume that they need the job anymore.
Adapts to change faster
The world is moving at such a fast pace. Organizations can no longer afford to take a “wait and see” approach. They cannot sit back and follow in the path of what others are doing. In order to succeed organizations have to look forward, act fast, and move more swiftly. Things will never be as slow as they are right now. This goes for technology, workplace trends and also reacting to current events.
Does your organization allow anyone to come forward with a new idea? Or do all of your innovations come from a certain department or level of hierarchy? In order to succeed in this rapidly changing world of work, innovation has to come from anywhere and everywhere inside your organization.
And ideas and innovation are two different things. Ideas happen all of the time. We all have hundreds of ideas every single week. But it’s the process of taking an idea and actually turning it into something that leads to innovation.
Does your organization allow anyone to come forward with an idea? If an employee has a suggestion, feedback, or an idea do they have the potential to do something with it?
Runs in the cloud
On-premise technologies have a shelf life, and their days are surely numbered. If your organization is purely operating with on site servers and technologies it won’t be long before you fall behind your competition. The future is cloud based technology. It allows organizations to scale up or down very quickly.
More women in senior management roles
This is a big one. We have made some progress here, but not enough. Less than 8% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. We need much more diversity in our leadership roles. Without diversity in leadership, companies are missing out on a huge talent pool that brings with it a new set of skills, mindsets, and perspectives.
How can you properly serve your customers and create new products and services if everyone on your leadership team is exactly the same, without any diversity? We definitely need more women leaders.
The stereotypical hierarchical structure that we have seen in most of our organizations is the pyramid with the CEO at the top and multiple layers in between them and the frontline workers. We can agree that while some structure inside of organizations is good, we need to have a more balanced system.
Information, communication, and ideas should not all come from the top down. It should move from side to side, from the bottom to the top as well as the top down. It doesn’t need to be flat, but it needs to be flatter. We need less layers between frontline workers and the CEO.
This principle helps with agility and nimbleness as well as creating purpose and meaning for employees. When the organization is flatter and communication is flowing freely, employees have a better sense of what is happening inside the organization and why.
We like to tell stories to our customers through our websites, social media, TV ads, etc…So why don’t we take time to create stories for our employees? Stories help us to connect emotionally with an idea or a brand. They paint a picture and make values and purpose come to life.
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Employees want to work for an organization that they believe in. They want to find value and purpose in the work they do everyday and what better way to explain the organization’s mission then through stories. When they know what they are working for employees are more likely to go above and beyond. We all want to know that what we do every day impacts our community and our world. Take the time to tell your company’s story to every single employee.
Just as learning in our schools is outdated, learning inside of our organizations is outdated. It is too structured and formal. If you sign up for a learning opportunity at work most likely you are going to watch a video from the 80s or you will attend a scripted lecture with someone going through a PowerPoint.
Learning should reflect the year we live in. If it is so easy for me to learn something on my own through YouTube or Khan Academy or Coursera why can’t it be the same way inside our organizations. Learning has to be democratized. It must be put into the hands of every employee because every employee has something to teach and every employee has something to learn.
Shifts from profits to prosperity
Profit is the financial gain that an organization receives and it is the primary measure of success inside of most organizations. But prosperity looks at much more than money. It looks at employee health & wellness, community involvement, diversity & inclusion, sustainability, etc..
The purpose of a business can no longer be just about making money, it’s about impacting all stakeholders. Not shareholders, stakeholders. Our communities, partners, suppliers, vendors, customers, and employees all have a stake in the success of the business.
We have to move away from just the dollars and cents and focus on the greater impact our organizations make on the world around us.
Adapts to the future employee and the future manager
Organizations that want to succeed in the future of work have to be able to adapt to the future employee and the future leader. Leadership is changing in a big way, for more information on how it is changing you can check out my new book, The Future Leader. But organizations need to know what the future of leadership looks like and make sure they are promoting the right people to those positions. Organizations also have to stay on top of what employees want and need. We cannot just continue on and assume that we can succeed while continuing in the old ways of working.
Right now, we’re seeing such an amazing time and exciting evolution around how we work, how we lead, and even how we structure our companies. Don’t get stuck in the old way of doing things. We must continue to adapt, learn, explore, and grow if we want to avoid getting left behind.
If you enjoyed the article and want more content like this here’s what you can do:
- Subscribe to The Future of Work Podcast where I interview business leaders around the world each week.
- Grab a copy of The Future Leader which has been endorsed by the CEOs of MasterCard, Best Buy, Oracle, Audi, Unilever, Domino’s Pizza, Ritz Carlton, Kaiser, and Marshall Goldsmith. It explores the most essential skills and mindsets for future leaders.
- If you are or want to be an entrepreneur then my wife and I just launched a brand new podcast on how to Be Your Own Boss, called the BYOB Podcast where we share what we did and how we did it. You can subscribe to that here.