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The Workforce Will Have Much Greater Advantage in the Future of Work

02/10/2015 01:12 EST | Updated 04/12/2015 05:59 EDT

This is the final in a series about the future of business that highlights the impending shift in organizational change.

In my first post, "Will The Future Of Business Radically Change Everything As We Know It?" I highlighted the economic and market shifts that have forced business to finally take notice: including a volatile world economy, impending impacts on budgets, continuous tech innovation driving consumer consumption and communication -- all driving significant operational and mindset changes at the corporate level.

The second in the series, "How the New Consumer will Force Business to Change" referenced a C-suite organization unwilling to embrace, let alone acknowledge, impacts of these changes because of sheer ignorance (for one), but also because of the upheaval and organizational risk that they impose.

Senior management is unwilling to relent to the strength and power of the consumer. It's surprising how many businesses still "think" they can control the message, despite the countless examples of organizations that have been humbled by this thing called social media. By preserving control at the top of the hierarchy, these same organizations are increasingly vulnerable to the volatility of the customer voice.

The conclusion: the organization needs to change to a more human one, not to only respond to the external market and consumer changes, but also because of internal pressures. No longer will current organizational structures and processes survive in the current environment.

The last in these series will focus on the employee, the heart of the organization. More specifically, it will cover:

  • Trends that are impacting the changes in employee mindset
  • The reasons why employee retention is paramount
  • The inherent role changes at the individual contributor level


The People Have Spoken

The lingering effects of the Subprime Mortgage Crisis and resulting world-wide Financial Crisis in 2007-2008 continue to this day. Consumer confidence has waned, and while countries have seen considerable improvement in the jobless rates, this article suggests that people are more cautious than ever:

The latest jobs report showed the unemployment rate was at its lowest level in six years, 5.8 percent. But Americans aren't convinced that things are nearly that good. In a recent Ipsos-MORI poll, 1,001 Americans were asked, "Out of every 100 people of working age, how many do you think are unemployed and looking for work?" Their average response was 32. That's almost 26 percentage points higher than the 6.1-percent jobless rate in August, when the poll was conducted.

But the U.S. isn't alone. The same holds true for many Western countries. When asked the same question, respondents from countries representing Poland, Belgium, France, Canada, Australia, etc. response was on average 20 percentage points higher than the actual jobless rate.

At the same time, there is no good news about economic recovery. This isn't the first time I've heard pundits warning of another impending global recession in 2015. It's a wonder why consumers are ever so wary these days. These same consumers are also employees or entrepreneurs. They've witnessed, first hand, its effects on their livelihoods.

Employee Loyalty? An Oxymoron

We, at ArCompany, have tackled the subject of entrepreneurialism amongst millennials. This generation, the future workforce:

Will be the most educated generation after GenX....They have also witnessed instability in the workplace, corporate scandals, and a really tough job market....[When they graduate, they see] huge obstacles: The inability to get loans, lack of on the job business training & resources, and the worst economic climate since the Great Depression ...

They, along with the current workforce, have come to a cruel realization that times have changed. The dizzying destruction of business, especially among those that were seemingly indestructible, has given rise to a climate of mistrust and self-preservation. People don't expect to be working their entire lives for the same company. Organizations are now short-term focused on performance, therefore this leaves employees much more vulnerable to downsizing as the need arises.

It's no wonder why we see this trend increasing: Employees are no longer loyal to an organization. Now, their voices are amplified by social media, and can leave a company just as vulnerable. It's here I noted, employees, angered and frustrated at company decisions have made, have felt powerless. Now employees who cannot impact changes internally can take their messages to their social networks and allow the media and world, at large, to be judge, jury and executioner.

The Rise of Entrepreneurialism

Government is now developing more small business programs to encourage American job seekers to choose an alternative career path; 27 per cent of Millennials are already entrepreneurs.

Mikal Belicove, Entrepreneur Magazine Columnist, author and business writer recently delivered a lecture at Keystone College entitled, "10 Rules for Entrepreneurship You Never Learned But need to Know."

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This current state has reduced the organizational leverage significantly. Employees who are disengaged in their current jobs will seek satisfaction elsewhere. Millennials to whom we've spoken are far more interested in getting experience from diverse projects and companies and are more than willing to leave a job to obtain this. A company, by today's standards, can no longer keep the best and the brightest.

Here's some interesting information:

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The rise of the freelance economy also provides amazing opportunities for companies to continue to get the best quality work despite this new lack of loyalty.

Building a Culture of Inclusion

The "evolved" CEO realizes that while their company is vulnerable to market shifts, survival also depends on leveraging the strength and advocacy of employees. In order to adapt to an increasingly consumer-controlled marketplace, an organization will need to rely on its workforce to scale responses, adapt products and services, and defend the organization when needed.

Creativity will come from the Edges

To do this, the biggest change is to culture. I referenced Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter's book, Humanize, where they spoke about the generative organization. It's one...

that has an ongoing capacity to generate and produce and create. Being generative is ultimately a sustainability capacity, not a one-off event. It is perpetual.

In order to truly leverage your most valuable resources, the culture must be one of inclusion. This means that an organization truly capitalizes on the diversity of its employees; it must not only encourage, but also celebrate, the innovation and creativity that arise as a result. As Grant and Notter point out,

Diversity means difference... Inclusion is the capacity to include difference

This once hierarchical structure will collapse. In order for the organization to truly embrace "inclusion" it must seek to flatten its structure and allow decision-making and innovation to come from all levels of the organization.

This sends out a strong signal of trust to the rest of the organization. Not only will this increase accountability at the individual level, there will be a renewed sense of purpose and engagement that perhaps increases loyalty as well.

A Remote Workforce is a Productive Workforce

Many companies are realizing that mandated nine to five workday is unrealistic. Coupled with an increasing remote-access workforce, companies must now acquiesce to developing a level of trust among its employees with this increased flexibility.

However, a remote workforce also allows companies to hire the best and the brightest. No longer is there an expectation or desire for prospective employees to reside in the same location as the employer for whom they work.

A Culture of Collaboration Results

Fostering a culture of trust and inclusion that seeks to break down silos enables a less inhibited environment. What results is the development of a collaborative culture that allows information to come from everywhere in the organization and embraces solutions from anyone.

This process will take time to develop so that it becomes a natural part of culture; technology will also enable this. However, once it begins, the organic result allows a synergy that will be felt across the organization, by way of productivity, improved employee satisfaction, a renewed workforce and ultimately a responsive and profitable organization.