Future of Work — 1 February 2017

A glimpse into the future of work

Peter Thomson is a leading consultant, speaker and researcher on the topic of working practices.  For 16 years, he ran the Future Work Forum at Henley Business School and co-authored the book “Future Work: Changing Organisational Culture for the new World of Work.”

In this guest blog he explains why businesses need to react to future work trends, and provides his top tips for using digital to improve productivity in the workplace.

For the last 200 years, businesses have operated a certain way – based on the full time, 9 till 5 working model.  Then, millennials entered the workplace, having grown up with technology in their back pocket and said “why are we working this way?”

Their expectations of work/life integration are high. They want to integrate work into their life and technology is the catalyst for that, but only if businesses wake up and realise it!

Digital: The business challenge

For businesses, the challenge is forgetting how we worked in the industrial age, and thinking about the best ways of working in the information age.

The workplace has changed (many SMEs are starting up without any formal office space), the meaning of the word ‘team’ has transformed (colleagues today often don’t work in the same building or even the same country), and perhaps most importantly, management structures have changed. Just take Uber for example: an app that replaces an organisation, management team, and everything else that comes with it.

Because of these social changes organisations are finally starting to realise that the future of work is now and, when used correctly, collaborative tools can improve mobility and increase productivity in the workplace.

Digital: The impact on the bottom line

There is often a misconception amongst business managers though that agile working is just a ‘nice to have’. It is, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s good for business and can improve the bottom line – after all, if people are more productive you get more from them!

Embracing change, and the information age, is the key to success going forward. Although there is no quick fix here are my three top tips for hitting the ground running when implementing a new agile working strategy:

Step 1: Have leaders recognise that digital is part of the business strategy – it’s not a HR initiative, it’s a core business initiative. After all, having an effective workforce is a key element of growing your business. Business leaders respond well to figures and results so work with third party vendors to prove the ROI of investing in digital tools – the figures should speak for themselves!

Step 2: Once you have buy in from business leaders, work with employees to see what digital tools they are already using, and how these can be integrated into the business in a more secure way. Although preference will differ from one department to the next – and you may have to prioritise tools that best help you achieve business objectives – it’s important to make employees feel like part of the decision. They, after all can make or break the success of the project.

Step 3: With the management team and employees now on board, you need to accept that – post implementation – there needs to be a change in culture. Some managers will need to transform their mindset, which requires encouragement and education, while employees will need guidance about how and why they should be digitalising workflows – how much time will it save them and how will it speed up workflows?

Always have in the back of your mind that change won’t happen overnight. A new digital strategy requires rethinking tried and tested workflows, in some cases workflows that have kept a business running for 20 – 30 years. But, by leading by example, from the top down, and communicating with employees the benefits for them, you will see much higher adoption rates for new technology.

If you want to find out more about how agile working can improve your bottom line, you can check out Peter’s website here.

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