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Human Capital Management

Work, Disrupted

To survive today, managers need to be open to evolving.

by Kate Pavao

September 2014

Work is changing rapidly, says Jacob Morgan, principal and co-founder of Chess Media Group and author of The Future of Work. Not only is almost every industry facing disruption, but also workers have new expectations about how they want to get their jobs done. They may want to work at home. They may want to use their own devices at the office. Instead of sticking with the same company, they may join a start-up, or start their own by raising money through a crowd-funding site.

future of work

“There are five trends shaping the future of work, which are Millennials, globalization, new behaviors around sharing and collaborating, technology, and mobility,” Morgan says. “This is the first time in the history of business when these things have collectively come together to create such powerful forces driving change. They are powerful independently, but now they are amplifying each other’s value and importance.”

Morgan says that change is happening so quickly that managers can no longer wait to change their styles and approaches. “Late adopter now means out of business,” he warns. Here, get his advice for creating a future-proof organization.

Profit: What do managers need to be looking for in their talent?

Morgan: You want to be able to hire an employee who is able to adapt to how things are changing. You want good communication skills in everything from short messages on Twitter or instant messaging to video, presentations, and Word documents.

Also, self-direction and autonomy have never been more important, especially when we look at things like flexible work environments and collaborative technologies and platforms. You want employees who are comfortable with the sort of autonomy where they can make decisions and be empowered on their own.

Profit: What are some of the creative new ways of working you have observed when you visit companies?

In a world where things are changing rapidly, the best thing you can do going forward is to test out ideas and theories and approaches and replicate the ones that are successful. ”

Morgan: Some of the really interesting things are around how employees are incentivizing and rewarding each other. At a company called Medium, employees, including managers, use a platform called High Five, on which they can virtually high five another employee and give public recognition in real time. Those high fives are then also used as a part of things like employee bonuses and equity programs.

Also, I’m constantly fascinated by organizations that are completely distributed and virtual, and how they’re able to use technology to stay connected. And we’re talking about a lot of people here: For example, Unilever has 176,000 employees, and the leadership wants 30 percent of their entire workforce to be location independent in the next few years.

It’s fascinating to see the goals these companies set for themselves, and the way that they’re leveraging collaborative platforms, whether they’re looking at an internal social network or video conferencing, or a chat program to be able to stay connected and get their jobs done. When it comes to the future of work, every organization that wants to be able to adapt and thrive going forward needs to think beyond just email.

Profit: What other trends should managers be aware of?

Morgan: Virtually every organization that I talked to, interviewed, or read about had this mentality of wanting to flatten their hierarchy. No one said, “Hey, we need more layers, we need more managers.” Every organization was leaning toward the exact opposite side. Some, like Sun Hydraulics, are completely getting rid of managers altogether.

Profit: What should managers do to adapt to the future of work?

Morgan: If you’re a manager in a very traditional, hierarchical environment, one of the first things you need to do is look at how things get done, and start to challenge convention around these very common ideas and assumptions that you have. For example, expense policies, vacation times, flexible work environments, giving employees the opportunity to choose who they work with, when they work with, and how they work.

The key for executives in organizations is to think of themselves as scientists running a lab. Test out experiments and ideas. The easiest and simplest way to do that is to pick different areas within your organization and start to make changes: Maybe in your marketing department, from now on you’re going to allow your workers to work remotely. Maybe in your sales department, you’re going to get rid of annual employee reviews for six months and see what happens.

Thought Leaderjmorgan-headshot

Jacob Morgan is principal and co-founder of Chess Media Group and the author of The Future of Work.

In a world where things are changing rapidly, the best thing you can do going forward is to test out ideas, theories, and approaches, and replicate the ones that are successful.

Profit: What characteristic do future managers most need to have?

Morgan: The number one quality or characteristic going forward is that managers have to be leaders. And being a leader means they must inspire other people, they must have the backs of employees, and they have to be supportive. They have to remove obstacles from the path of employees to help them become more successful. And that’s not something that a lot of managers do.

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