The Future of Work
IGNORE THE FUTURE AT YOUR PERIL
“Millennial” has become the biggest buzzword in the business world, and with good reason. Bentley University estimates Millennials will make up 75 percent of the global workforce in just 10 years’ time, and this new generation of talent brings with it radically different expectations about the nature of work, and how, when and where it’s done.
Work-life balance is their number one priority, and they are so comfortable with virtual communication that they can truly work anywhere. Millenials embrace and love collaborative technology because they want to be able to work anywhere, at any time.
Millenials care enough about work-life balance and flexibility that they are willing to sacrifice pay and advancement opportunities and even relocate to make their lives better. And before you think they’re lazy, they’re the opposite. Because Millenials live always on, hyper-connected lives, they work a lot more and a lot harder. There’s no such thing as a switched-off vacation for a Millenial.
Despite the fact that flexibility is the number one reason they’re attracted to a workplace, this generation are suffering in the old-fashioned workplace. They use all of the newest technologies in their personal lives, why can’t they have them at work?
The answer is simple: Many companies focus too much on process and not enough on technology. A study by Randstad Technologies paints a bleak picture: two-thirds of companies said they currently have or are formulating a plan to address millennials’ technology needs, while one-third admitted they have not addressed millennial-related technology issues in any formal way.
This will prove disastrous in the long run, as Millennials have grown up in a digital society and technology has been everywhere in their lives. At home, at school, at work – they expect that when they enter the professional sphere that the same rules will apply. Companies that don’t offer this will not only fail to attract and retain the leaders of the future, but will lose any competitive advantage to those that have embraced the future of work.
To avoid going the way of the dodo, businesses have to rapidly adopt current and forward-thinking technologies and innovative strategies to attract and retain Millenials. More significantly, Millenials are no longer the babies at the table. Many are in management and are directing the way companies work. Ignoring them would be akin to ignoring candidates for Vice President in the next election.
For Millenials in management, work is just as fluid as for Millenials on lower corporate rungs. Work happens wherever they happen to be, and is a team effort. They don’t clock watch, and they don’t show up for work for the sake of being seen by their boss. What they do, is demand a collaborative, flexible, and tech-savvy environment.
Millenials are not only dictating the future of work, they are the leaders of the future. Ignore them at your peril.
THE REMOTE WORKING REVOLUTION
Who wants to be cooped up in a cubicle for 8, 9, 10 hours a day, wasting time if there’s not enough work, or getting home so late that it’s dark when there’s too much going on?
The answer is at least half of the world. Studies, surveys, and just plain paying attention to what’s happening in the workplace point to the fact that at least 50% of the workforce are going to (or already have) become remote workers in the next few years. And if you think it’s the cost of fuel etc. that is moving the world towards remote working, you’re wrong.
Yes, whether you’re working out of your home, your favourite coffee shop, or local co-working space, choosing where you work means you can choose whether or not to pay for certain things. But more importantly, remote working offers better work-life balance, ultimately allowing people to be more productive in both their personal and business lives.
This isn’t a fad, and it’s not a vision of the workplace of the far future. Remote working is happening now, and the statistics prove it’s only going to gear up.
According to a recent survey of global business leaders, 34% said more than half their company’s full-time workforce would be working remotely by 2020. 25% said more than three-quarters would not work in a traditional office by 2020, which is not some far off, futuristic era. Similarly, Ernst & Young’s Global Generation Research found that nearly half—47%— of Millenials are working more hours, compared with 38% of Generation X and 28% of baby boom workers, with nearly one-third of millennials say managing their work, family, and personal responsibilities has become more difficult in the past five years. It’s no wonder that they are the most willing to take a pay cut, pass up a promotion, or even relocate to manage work-life demands better, according to the survey.
However, despite the fact that everyone has to occasionally take work home, or works from remote locations, remote working isn’t a set way of operating for most companies. As a result, most businesses have cobbled together the tools and technologies they are currently using with a few that enable remote access to the company network, and have called it a collaboration solution.
This is failing more often than not, because the efficiency and ease of collaboration needed by remote workers is missing. The future of work demands that companies empower their employees with the tools needed to complete work when and where they need to. With the right preparation, technologies and systems in place, the move to a remote, mobile workforce can be painless and productive, with no down time or gaps in communications.
Successful remote work is based on three things: communication, co-ordination, and culture. Broadly speaking, communication is the ability to exchange information, co-ordination is the ability to work toward a common goal, and culture is a shared set of customs that foster trust and engagement. In order for remote work to be successful, companies must support each of these principles.
And those naysayers that believe that innovation only happens in face-to-face interactions and water cooler conversations are steadily being proven half-wrong. Teamwork and innovation can still happen with a remote workforce. The problem is that there’s a significant gap between what the workforce needs to achieve collaboration and innovation, and what’s currently offered. The right tools, on the other hand, can foster a sense of community far more effectively than an office environment.
The mistake is thinking that working remotely, and working in an office, are either/or propositions. Remote work isn’t limited to those employees that work only from home. Most people visit clients, spend time in the office, and on occasion work from home or a coffee shop. That’s remote working.
It allows for plenty of spontaneous interactions with colleagues, but also some focused, head-down productivity too. It’s not a question of when, it’s a question of how, the future of work is going to evolve – and remote working has already started that evolution.
INNOVATIVE TECH + GREAT PEOPLE = SUCCESS
The world today only vaguely resembles the world 10 years ago, and hardly has any bearing on the world 20 years ago. We have cars that drive themselves, watches that monitor our heart rates, and smartphones that allow us to see the people we are talking to on the other end of the world.
New technologies in business allow us to engage with customers in real time, and professions have changed as a result of the changes technology has wrought. There is no such thing as a telegram operator any more, and social media was not a profession until fairly recently. Our workplaces have also changed. Today, we have people of all walks of life, all religions, and aged between 18 and 70 working together. We have access to colleagues and companies all over the world at the click of a mouse, and work from a beach if we
And the world will continue to change. As technology evolves, so will our
careers and professions, and our workplaces. Already, we have remote workers, teams spanning continents, and consultants who have greater flexibility of movement and more options than office-bound staff. Staying ahead of this
requires not only an agile mindset, but staying on top of changes in technology.
People are the key to the success of any business. Great staff is essential to great customer service, and great customer service is the cornerstone of increased revenues and business growth. But while all companies invest in technology to improve customer service, how many invest in technology to improve the way their people work? Does yours?
Business leaders not only need to invest in new technology to enable their people to work smarter, better and faster, they need to know what’s on the horizon and start preparing for the impact it will have on the business and its people. Thomas Watson, president of IBM famously said “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers” in 1943. Leaders who don’t keep their finger on the pulse run the risk of making the same kind of faux pas in their business. Similarly, when Bill Gates said the problem of spam would be solved within two years in 2004, he missed the boat. Keeping an eye on the evolution of technology is the only way to avoid these kinds of mistakes.
Understanding what technologies can help the business and where they’re going is only the tip of the iceberg. To be effective, they have to be considered in every strategy and embedded into the DNA of the company. And the DNA of the company resides in its people.
Unless technologies are used to help people do what they need to, when they need to, and do it better, they only serve half a purpose. If the strategy doesn’t support this, they serve no purpose at all. The proof may be in the pudding, but you have to buy the right ingredients in order to make the pudding in the first place. It’s no different in the workplace.
People’s deliverables and outcomes are updated as new technologies are introduced to the way they work. In many instances, people have introduced the technologies to the business and not vice versa. Old fashioned leaders have been battling to keep up with these changes, and the business has suffered as a result. The forward-thinking, however, have adapted well as a result of incorporating the changes into the business and the strategy underpinning it, and have even made adjustments to the way they do things to accommodate new technologies.
Companies that plan ahead, that keep their finger on the pulse, and that actively evaluate new or enhanced technologies to help their people become more effective and productive, or even just make it easier for them to do their jobs, are the only ones that will succeed in the future. The skills that accompany the technologies are just as important, and businesses must keep investing in their people at the same time they invest in the technology. Doing this will keep them on top, and keep them ahead of their competitors.
THE NEW COLLABORATION: FROM SILOED TO CONNECTED
Every company wants work done faster, better, and more innovatively. They all want their people to be rock stars at what they do, and to keep improving the business. As technology has evolved, companies have used it to try and get more out of the business.
Even with our mobile phones, the Internet, and all the other technology that has become a standard part of our lives, companies are still struggling to connect and communicate effectively. This is partly because they are using the wrong solutions, and partly because those solutions were chosen without taking the human element into consideration.
We’re human. We’re social creatures. And as social creatures, we need the input of our circles to inform how we do things. That’s why collaboration is the most powerful way to innovate, and is increasingly becoming the foundation of how we work. However, technology implemented for technology’s sake, without building on a culture of collaboration, is a wasted effort.
Collaboration, and collaborative technologies, are changing the future of work. Distributed, mobile, real-time, and multimedia are commonplace tools that are transforming society on a daily basis. And people are at the centre of this. People are interacting with each other and engaging in work together in previously unimagined ways. They are transforming work from something that is done in a particular place, by particular people, to something that happens in teams, wherever the team members may be at the time.
Working smarter, faster, and more productively is all fine and well, but is it easy? We can talk to each other regardless of where we are, thanks to mobile phones.
It’s all fine and well to use collaborative technology for the team to keep in touch, but it should do more than just make it easier for people to share knowledge and communicate. It should allow for true collaborative work; and make work faster, more efficient, and easier as a result. Collaborative technology should help every member of a team be a more effective part of the team by allowing everyone to do what they do best – together.
Thanks to things like Instant Messaging and video conferencing, teams are now made up of the best people for the job, and can span cities and even countries. Collaboration is allowing them to produce results faster, think more innovatively, and learn from each other. New collaboration technologies do more than just digitise the old ways of doing things; they make new ways of doing things possible.
The future of work is here, and the old way of doing things has to go. The workplace of the past has no room for the fluid, flat, and open communication that fuels the future of work. Workspaces, and the very nature of work, need to be redefined, redesigned, and transformed to enable the move from inefficient silos to the truly connected collaborative units that will be foundation of successful companies in the future.