EGM On A Mission: Let’s Build Better Companies.
In 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, due to economic growth, the work week would be reduced to 15-hours within the next century.
In 1936, Nikola Tesla echoed the sentiment – saying robots would replace all human workers within one-hundred years.
In 1959, the US postmaster general said by 2020, the post would be delivered by rockets (wow – wonder where that came from?)
In 1964, the Rand Corporation predicted that by 2020, intelligent apes would be able to do manual work.
These, and a multitude of forecasts about the future of work, have failed to materialise.
Yet, despite all the hype - about seismic changes and a once in a generation revolution in the workplace – most of us sense that real and pretty radical shifts are underway.
The pandemic has brought a lasting impact on the way we work – and the fundamental way we view our working lives.
A survey by Bain and Company across 10 major economies found that 58% of respondents said they were seriously thinking about what part they want work to play in their lives.
In their book ‘Out of Office,’ Helen Anne Petersen and Charles Warzal highlight four key themes that workers are now looking for:
Flexibility - home lives no longer organised around work - work where we want and when we want.
Community - being part of something bigger - being part of a team.
Development - knowing we are learning things that will be useful in the future - not things that were useful in the past.
Fun - doing work that is interesting – and playing to our strengths.
Change was happening, though, before the pandemic. Concerns about the impact of automation rose as technological capability increased. The rise of the gig economy, remote work and collaboration platforms were turning the traditional views of how we work upside down.
The result is that the relationship between company and worker has changed – and is changing faster still.
Talent has now become the precious resource.
The balance has moved from capital to labour:
Automation is removing routine work tasks – elevating the opportunities for uniquely human assets – intellectual property, innovation, problem solving, emotional intelligence.
Yet the way some leaders treat their staff still shows a total and hopeless misunderstanding of their ambitions, strengths, potential and the true worth of their experience, skills, and ideas.
As a result, many companies are suffering costly staff attrition – and are struggling to find replacements – threatening their ability to meet customer demand and grow.
Companies who do not look after their staff are losing them.
Bain and Company found five key themes following their survey about today’s work environment:
Motivation for work is changing – rising living standards mean we need to spend less time at work – but job expectations are rising.
Beliefs about ‘what makes a good job’ are diverging – it is no longer useful talking about the ‘average worker.’ Leaders need to focus on individuals – and their differences.
Automation is helping to rehumanise work – by reducing manual tasks.
Technological advancement is changing the boundaries of the firm – and remote and gig work are on the rise – blurring the make up of the firm.
Younger generations are increasingly overwhelmed – young people are experiencing mounting strain and pressures – and these are spilling over to their work lives.
To which we would add one further point.
Workers are not going to ‘put up’ being led and treated the way they have been for years.
If you have leaders who do not communicate in an authentic manner, who micro-manage, have favourites, who get their way by (essentially) bullying and discriminating – you will lose your staff
If you work for a company that is not truly inclusive (and research shows that only a third of companies can use that label) - you will lose your staff.
Leaders have to stop treating people like machines.
They need to increase investment in learning and development (the size of the forthcoming skills gap is frightening), rethink career paths, and decimate things that dehumanise work (useless rules, inefficient processes, bureaucracy, multi-layered decision making).
But more than anything – now is the time for all leaders to b true role models.
Workers see poor leadership behaviour – and, increasingly, they are not prepared to put up with it. But neither are they prepared to be put in a box on some organisational chart – so they can be told what to do and controlled.
Now is the time for a more human style of leadership – that emphasises empathy, transparency, authenticity, and high ethics. Now is the time for a more emotionally intelligent style of leadership.
Leaders who win will create teams that allow staff to bring their unique talents to work – teams that have a true sense of belonging and inclusion.
The ‘future of work’ is now.
A time of radical change.
A time of fantastic opportunity.
Wow, what a wonderful time it is.