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Future Workplace:

Identifying a trifecta of vital transformations for the journey

The Future Workplace: Identifying a trifecta of vital transformations for the journey.

Ray MacDonald -Technology Consultant, May 7, 2021

There are many publications, postings, and consulting firm recommendations about the future of work and how the workplace must at a minimum adopt to it, yet the workplace could be a driver of the transformation. The workplace as a driver can be done when there is a clear well communicated vision of what the culture of the transforming business is to be (if we don’t know the end-state, we surely must at least know the next milestone).

 Let me try to summarize some of the current thinking into a trifecta of “from – to” journeys for broad-based success: 

  •  from Control to Trust 
  •  from Self-Service to Self-Sufficient
  •  from Divisions to Shared Purpose

 from Control to TRUST 

Work with HR to define flexible work policies. Just as many businesses and social organizations have embraced the strategies for “Digital First”, perhaps the workplace should embrace “Work from Anywhere First”. This is to say that where it can be embraced, “work from home/anywhere” should be expected and it should not be some sort of reward, special treatment, nor “the exception”. 

 Executive leaders from the least experienced to the lavishly experienced must embrace a transformed  workplace that will attract the best people. The hybrid approach is the most likely future (some in-office, some anywhere, and at flexible times), and any reticence to embrace this does not seem to be an age thing. Executives of all categories have personal preferences of teamwork and leadership style. Managing by Objectives requires trust and trust is built from results; yet if an executive does not allow the workforce to demonstrate results in new ways, then trust can not be built for a transformed workplace. 

Gartner’s 2020 ReimagineHR Employee Survey found that 36% of employees were seen as high performers at organizations with a standard 40-hour work week, yet organizations that offer employees flexibility over when, where, and how much they work see 55% of employees as high performers. It will be an improvement to see employees measured by their productivity, as opposed to a defined set of hours.


 from Self-Service to SELF-SUFFICIENT

 Computing in the 80’s was about microcomputer hardware advancements and using compute as convenient tools in our jobs, the 90’s became about software and the solutions that integrated many of these stand alone tools into productivity suites, the 2000’s were about ubiquitous mobile computing putting self-service into everyone’s hands, the 2010’s about Cloudifying and software defining everything, and I’ll assume the 2020’s will become about AI both assisting in our workplaces and even autonomously taking over some mundane functions.

For us to move from a focus on self-service (which is only about “helping yourself” from a pre-defined inventory of products and services) to self-sufficiency (which is about being independent, providing for yourself without others needing to assist). Self-sufficiency includes workers doing custom learning that they seek, job task development and change (continuous improvement), and enhancing overall organization productivity independently yet as part of teams in the larger workforce with a shared purpose.    

from Divisions to SHARED PURPOSE 

The CEO for The Allstate Corporation, Thomas J. Wilson, was on CNBC April 1, 2021 and in relation to having a shared purpose he defined it as, “what we’re really talking about is Culture, it starts with saying ‘what’s your purpose?’”.

 Thomas went on to talk about how Allstate had recently reviewed their purpose, reaffirmed values on diversity, explored what behaviours they needed, (how they hire, promote, performance manage, then to “what it really is all about, culture”. He said that Culture in larger organizations is often maintained in pods “so you can hire people, manage them, and say here’s our culture, but then groups of 7 or 8 need technology to work together in pods”. Those pods can decide “hey we haven’t been together in awhile let’s go into the office (for a day or 2)” as opposed to “its Wednesday, its snowing, why am I driving an hour and a half to go to the office?”, he suggested to give flexibility. 

Thomas discussed that the future of work in his view is “part-time in-office” and that Allstate will only need half of their current office space. Another interesting visit to CNBC was on April 6 on the Jim Cramer Mad Money show, the head of Qualtrics, Ryan Smith was on at the same moment with the CEO of ServiceNow Bill McDermott and said “we can now run companies from the outside in, for too long we’ve been running businesses from the inside out” and he put down organizations with lack of performance  often being due to  “the lack of think time and failure to collaborate”. 

It is time for organizations to embrace a new workplace that provides a secure way to be self-sufficient while working from anywhere in a team atmosphere with a shared purpose. 

Next Time:  my working environment since the mid-nineties has been mobile. I had to work from anywhere, and way back then in 1996 and onwards it was initially about heavy yet mobile laptops (5lbs range) and Motorola Startac flip mobile phones. The consumer use of the Internet was beginning its explosion towards ubiquitous computing. Yet the ability to work from anywhere was based on extending the office’s secured network, oddly 25 years later many are still in that very same architecture (i.e. extending the network, most often using what is called a VPN (virtual private network), a way to extend the office network to your device, where it must trust many things going on within your device), it really is time for corporate IT architectures to move to a “zero-trust” design. That is a significant technology infrastructure Transformation item for another blog/article.