Outcomes: what’s in Future of Work for stakeholders?

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What’s in the Future of Work for all of its stakeholders? For that matter, as my friend and fellow digital workplace thinker Luis Suárez usually corrects me, what about the “present of work”? When you look at how workplace design, workplace culture and working practices have changed from the 1990s to the present day, there has been a steady evolution, and then the “great leap forward” that we’ve all just experienced as the pandemic crisis hit and the future became the present. What are the outcomes? You might even say “what has the future of work ever done for us?”  

By stakeholders, we obviously mean the individuals, leaders and managers, as well as our organisations as described in our framework. But we should extend that to any entity or role that is impacted by, or that can have an impact on, the performance of the organisation that these actors are working for. In a commercial organisation that includes shareholders and investors, but also customers, suppliers and business partners as well as the advisors they work with, the markets they operate in, the regulators of those markets, the media organisations and influencers that the organisation interacts with, and all of the associated communities that the organisation and its people touch. Add in society and the governments of the countries and territories that the organisation operates in. The future of work has an impact on all of these.

As automation options have increased since the 1990s, we’ve been regularly talking about reduced working hours and increased leisure time as potential outcomes, but as the world speeds up, with globalisation, digitisation, urbanisation and a shift from the complicated to the complex, those goals seem to have receded. We are working against a backdrop of competing and overlapping forces and trends. The income uncertainty that comes from the effect of automation on certain jobs. A changing emphasis on the work life balance. Demographic changes with an ageing population, millennials and generation Z coming into the workplace. Growing diversity and inclusion, which has just accelerated, with all sorts of businesses and major corporations taking action in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Our business processes have been changing from software and servers we owned in data centres, to software we rented in the cloud, to joining and participating in new business ecosystems, marketplaces and communities. And of course the shift to Asia for supply of products and services.

In this time of pandemic crisis the World Economic Forum’s COVID Action Platform endorsed six Stakeholder Principles published in April 2020 that we should all support:

  • To keep employees safe.
  • To secure shared business continuity with suppliers and customers.
  • To ensure fair prices for essential supplies for end consumers.
  • To offer full support to governments and society.
  • To maintain the long-term viability of companies for shareholders.
  • To continue sustainability efforts, including to fight climate change.

All crucially important, but getting more specific for our own organisations, what outcomes are we looking to achieve from the future of work?  Are we looking to drive long-term growth, open up new sources of revenue, or to encourage innovation? We should be thinking of all three and more. In the present and future of work we should be looking for:

  • Increased office productivity with our new Digital Workplace.
  • A more agile, adaptable (what we call Mutable Business™), with the advantages that come with added flexibility for our workforce.
  • Better alignment to our company’s overall culture and strategy.
  • More engaged employees who will become more involved and personally invested in the purpose of the company.
  • Ways to cover assurance, security and governance so that distributed working and the new working practices are at least as good or better than the old ways of working.
  • A different kind of leadership which supports and encourages all of these.

An emphasis on outcomes is a crucial shift in working practice. Many of us have lived through a time, particularly for knowledge workers, when being present seemed to be more important than the work you were doing. Corporate cultures where working late in the office, or working weekends was the way to get noticed, and be seen as promotion material. The “great leap forward” has shown working from home works (for many but not all) and many corporations have realised they can trust their employees to get things done, and done more effectively away from the office. Suddenly the nature of the office itself is in flux.

Here is a shining example of a big organisation getting the shift in emphasis right. Roland Busch, Deputy CEO and Labor Director of Siemens AG announced on Twitter, and in this press release, its change in thinking this way:

“The coronavirus crisis has triggered a surge in digitalization. We’ve always had mobile working at Siemens, but now we’re taking it a step further. The basis for this forward-looking working model is further development our corporate culture. These changes will also be associated with a different leadership style, one that focuses on outcomes rather than on time spent at the office. We trust our employees and empower them to shape their work themselves so that they can achieve the best possible results. With the new way of working, we’re motivating our employees while improving the company’s performance capabilities and sharpening Siemens’ profile as a flexible and attractive employer.”

Outcomes in place of hours worked in the office. This new model applies to more than 140,000 of the company’s employees at over 125 locations in 43 countries and the policy change has been made effective immediately. As you would expect of a German organisation they are keen to ensure that the rights of employee representatives regarding implementation in the various countries will, of course, be upheld.

The successful organisations will follow this outcome-based model to pursue the goal of developing new ways for their stakeholders to work together on a mobile, digital basis. This is the way forward.

This post is part of our Future of Work series. You can read the previous post, the next post, or find them all in our Future of Work section. If you’d like to discuss how we can help get you prepared for the way work and business is changing, then please contact us.