The Future of Work is Here and Leaders Need to Adapt NOW!

January 25, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” ~ William Gibson

The world of work is changing fast. Through technology and demographic trends, we are witnessing a movement away from cubicle farms where the physical nature of work was emphasized to decentralized nodes and networks where the virtual reality of work is the new normal.

By 2020, Millennials will constitute 50 percent of the workforce while Baby Boomers continue to work into their 70s and 80s. Yes, the generation that has (wrongly) developed a reputation for too many tattoos, too many piercings and too much entitlement will wield major influence on how work gets done. In truth, they represent the first generation of digital natives and the generation most ready to adapt to the future of work.

Major trends in technology that make remote work increasingly possible and more affordable for companies coupled with a globalized economy will accelerate the movement towards virtual work that out of necessity will be more collaborative and knowledge based.

Simply put, workers will continue to have more choice in how, where, and when they do their work. Therefore, leaders would be smart to adapt now to this new reality by enabling system and networks across their organizations that accommodate the new normal. To prepare for the impact and capitalize on the opportunities introduced by the future of work, leaders must adjust their organizational cultures and models now.

We don’t need to look too far to see this new reality. It is all around us.

The Future is Freelance

Nearly 10 years ago, Daniel Pink foresaw this phenomenon in Free Agent Nation, where he documented perhaps the most significant transformation since Americans left the farm for the factory as he witnessed the abandonment   of the Industrial Revolution’s most enduring legacy, the job, in favor of freelance, independent work.

Technology, market demand, and generational differences have fueled the expansion of the freelance economy and so called ‘gig workers.’ So much so that a new NPR/Marist poll, which surveyed workers across all industries and at all professional levels, found that 1 in 5 jobs in the U.S. is held by a contract worker.

For freelancers, the appeal is obvious—unlimited vacation time, ability to earn more from anywhere, and overall freedom. But there’s also plenty of benefits on the company side, such as reduced costs in recruitment, training and orientation as well as performance management and liability.

 The Future is Autonomous

Take as evidence the rise of results-only work environments, or ROWEs. In a ROWE, employees are allowed to work whenever they want with no set schedules. Employees are also allowed to complete their work however they want, and wherever they want, as long as it gets finished.

ROWEs leverage the powerful innate human desire for autonomy by giving people the freedom to choose when and how they will meet their goals. While ROWEs are still relegated to a handful of Silicon Valley start ups like AirBnB who practice the model with great ehem, results, they are an inevitable wave and future trend in the world of work.

The Future is Flexible

People want and need flexibility. Flexibility signals trust in an employee. According to the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 84% of Millennial employees report some flexibility at their job:

·        69% have flexible start/end times

·        68% have flexibility or crossover in their role

·        64% have flexible working locations

If the work doesn’t require the employee to be in a physical location, why require it? Remote work is not the same as contract work, of course, but combined, the two definitely represent the future of work.

The Future is Growth and Learning

People want to grow, learn and continually develop. We know from the same Deloitte study cited above for example, that 44% of those employed plan to leave their current role within two years, with lack of professional development as one of the primary reasons. Companies must place a greater emphasis on nurturing and developing their people in order to keep them. At the same time, the learning and development field would do well to demonstrate the value and ROI of such programs to executives. Demonstrating business impact to leadership and ensuring the right metrics are being used is still the holy grail of employee training even though the field has matured tremendously over the years.  Proving value to learners is equally important but so is keeping up with the way learners are evolving at a quicker pace than the learning programs that support them.

The Future is Automated

We live in a digital economy. We also live in a market economy, where supply and demand will ultimately determine the level and type of employment. Technology will eliminate many middle-income jobs or push them down into lower categories but remain complementary to more high skilled knowledge workers. This trend is already happening. If you’re a truck driver concerned with self-driving technology taking your job, you should be. If you are a writer, concerned with artificial intelligence taking yours, you should be too. It already is.

That said, the key to job security in the age of AI isn’t competition, but collaboration. Including collaboration with robots. Most of the automation, will come down to human–machine combinations.

The Future is Collaborative

Digital technology is having a profound effect on the workplace. The days when the office was the hub of productivity are over.  Communication, collaboration and connectivity are being transformed by technology, which has enabled remote work but also collaboration across organizational and geographical boundaries. Traditional face-to-face meetings are becoming obsolete while collaboration software is becoming omni-present. This will change team dynamics as well as procedures and policies. Team productivity will receive even more attention than personal productivity and visual communications will take on an even more important role.

The Future is Designer

If you want to keep your people — especially your stars — it’s time to pay more attention to how you design their work. Most companies design job descriptions and then slot people into them. This trend will be reversed. Companies will continue to compete for talented people and when they find them, they will create jobs around them.

Take as evidence a recent study by Wharton’s Adam Grant and members of Facebook’s HR of workers who remained at the social networking company and those who quit their jobs despite the perks of working at FB. The study revealed that when managers tailored a job to a given employee’s passions, talents and priorities, rather than try to slot them into a preconceived role, they ended up with more satisfied engaged workers who they retained longer.

The Future is Purposeful

People want purpose. This is especially true of Millennials, who have a different set of expectations from their employment and are attracted to careers that give them a sense of purpose. Just last week Laurence D. Fink, founder and chief executive of the investment firm BlackRock sent a letter to business leaders that their companies need to do more than make profits — they need to contribute to society as well if they want to receive the support of BlackRock. This is a seismic shift in the business world.

A final Word

The bottom line is that work in the future will be more networked, more mobile, more team based, more project based, more de-centralized, more collaborative, more real time and more fluid. The new reality will require better and different structures, models, policies, and procedures to more effectively help people communicate, collaborate and network. Therefore, leaders must begin to think of themselves as network architects increasingly experiment and role model their openness and flexibility to the new ways of working. Done well, the future of work offers the most exciting revolution since the industrial age in how employees will be motivated and engaged to impact the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profits. Oh yes, and purpose. As the old expression goes: “When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: 1) Those who made it happen, 2) those who let it happen and 3) those who wonder what happened.”

Which kind are you?

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

The Death of Micromanagement and the Rise of Autonomous Work Culture

November 6, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people and they tell us what to do.” ~ Steve Jobs

Micromanagers are bad news. They are bad for business and bad for employees. They lack personal leadership and tend to disempower staff, stifle innovation, kill creativity and foster poor performance.

Micromanagers cause time management issues when they cause work to be redone over and over again and cause bottlenecks in communication and decision making. With their over-controlling approach, they constantly communicate that they don’t trust you and strip you of all sense of ownership.

The costs of long-term micromanagement are high. They include low employee morale, high staff turnover, and reduction of productivity. In fact, the deleterious impacts of micromanagement are so intense that it is labeled among the top three reasons why employees resign.

Next to abusive and toxic bosses, micromanagers are the scourge of the workplace. But things are about to change.

Autonomy is the Alternative

Autonomy is the antithesis of and antidote to micromanagement. Self-determination, or the ability to exercise autonomy, is central to health and contentment. The desire to be autonomous is a natural inclination and research supports how much of a priority it is for workers.  One study of more than 2,000 people across three continents found that workers were nearly two and a half times more likely to take a job that gave them more autonomy than they were to want a job that gave them more influence.

In fact, study after study has shown that work environments that are more autonomous in nature simply have higher levels of productivity, creativity, engagement and overall job satisfaction.

For example, in a study of 230 Taiwanese community health center workers, researchers found the more autonomy employees had at work, the more satisfied they were with their jobs and the less turnover. A similar study in Australia achieved the same results with home care workers.

Clearly, giving workers more control over their tasks is one of the best ways employers can recruit and keep top talent. It’s also the best way to combat micromanagement at the macro level.

Autonomy in Action

Autonomy means that there is someone who sets strategic direction and the destination for the employee, but the employee can decide on the path to get from point A to point B.

It tends to be the case that there is less autonomy in the lower ranks and more the higher you go.

Workplaces can support autonomy across the board by giving people real control over various aspects of their work — whether it’s deciding what to work on or when to do it.

Autonomy in the workplace can also be applied to teams. An autonomous team is one that is self-managed and receives little to no direction from a supervisor. When team members work well together, they can help to enhance each other’s strengths, and can compensate for each other’s weaknesses. Working in such a cooperative and enriching environment can have a positive impact on job satisfaction.

Autonomy does not mean lack of structure. In fact it is important to find a balance between autonomy and structure. Autonomy creates a specific kind of motivation called intrinsic motivation—the desire to do something for its own sake. It restores the ownership that the micromanagement style takes away and it restores engagement at a significant level. Workers happily work within required structures, when they have autonomy.

The most important aspect of autonomy at work is a perceived feeling of choice. Whether employees are truly able to make their own decisions is less important than whether or not they feel that they are.

To provide this balance, managers must define the desired end result clearly, and outline boundaries and parameters to achieve those results. Then, they must get out of the way and let people create within this frame.

The Birth of the Results Oriented Workplace

This desire and drive towards autonomy explains the rise of results-only work environments, or ROWEs. In a ROWE, employees are allowed to work whenever they want with no set schedules. Employees are also allowed to complete their work however they want, and wherever they want, as long as it gets finished.

I would even argue that the rise of entrepreneurship, side hustles, and lifestyle businesses are a result of people wanting greater autonomy and freedom from being chained to their desks. This innate desire is a powerful force that ROWEs leverage by giving people the freedom to choose when and how they will meet their goals.

While ROWEs are still relegated to more enlightened Silicon Valley start ups like AirBnB who practice the model with great ehem, results, they are an inevitable wave and future trend in the world of work.

In the meantime…

If you feel oppressed by your lack of autonomy you may want to talk to your supervisors about potential leadership opportunities on certain projects and more autonomy in your work. In extreme cases, you may want to have a talk with your supervisor about the deleterious effects of micromanagement on your productivity. It may seem like a small aspect of your work life, but if it is having an impact on your happiness, job satisfaction, and even your health, it could even be time to search for a new gig.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.