If you’re like me, the enormity and pace of change in the world catapults you into an extreme state of urgency to embrace new ideas and cool technologies, to shake things up, to walk on the hairy edge.
Nowhere is this more essential than in the workplace, as we learned during the SAPPHIRE NOW Future of Work Forum.
Spurred on by the Millennials (who will comprise 50 percent of the workforce by 2020), new behaviors (think “social”), new technologies (think “collaboration tools, Big Data, the Internet of Things”), mobility and globalization, the workplace is fundamentally changing, according to Jacob Morgan, author of The Collaborative Organization. We must challenge conventional wisdom around how we work, how we lead, and how we organize.
But according to Morgan, the world of work is changing at a more rapid pace than our organizations can handle, creating an ever-increasing employee engagement divide. When we feel like we’re working in an outdated company, our engagement wanes. Today, only 13 percent of employees worldwide are engaged, said Morgan. “We’re living a real life zombie apocalypse scenario.”
This is a concern, in the words of Jack Welch: “When the rate of change inside an institution becomes slower than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight.”
The industrial model of work – authoritarian, command-and-control, hierarchical – is the way we’ve been building companies for the past 100 – 150 years. It must be supplanted by a new model which embraces collaboration, flat organizations, flexible work styles, a distributed workforce and employee-driven innovation.
We can’t blame the Baby Boomers for our problems – the model was there when they arrived – and as Mitch Joel points out, adaptation to movements such as social media is attitudinal, not generational. Correspondingly, we can’t rely solely on the arrival of the Millennials to solve them. It’s collective – we’re all in this together.
Fellow Canadian Dan Pontefract of Telus, author of Flat Army, confirmed that disengagement is an issue, and suggested that culture is the antidote. He outlined the real bottom-line impacts of modernizing the corporate culture at Telus, where a focus on collaboration increased employee engagement (from 53 to 83 percent), reduced customer complaints (in an industry where consumer complaints have risen sharply), improved employee enablement, and contributed to stock market success.
Leveraging the metaphor of Canada Geese, which rotate leadership and each contribute to the end result, Pontefract’s position was that we are not allowing our employees to be engaged…we are not enabling “workplace actualization.”