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The audience was a surprising mix of seasoned technologists, ambitious millennials and our very own sparky members with a huge stake in the Future of Work.
The opening videos and provocative opening was a little scary and futuristic but it was all taking place TODAY!
Our panellists set the context for a challenging and positive evening.
Each of our panellists shared how their businesses are preparing for this very different world, which for some is already here. They worked in very different environments but had strikingly similar views on the way forward.
The challenge appeared to be as much about mindset, as it was about having different structures and skill sets.
Maybe the most consistent theme and thread throughout was that the traditional hierarchy was no longer appropriate, and in fact worked against a more dynamic and more responsive way of working which is built for change and uncertainty.
This is obviously challenging how leaders and managers set their teams up for success in all sectors.
The implications of what and how businesses organise themselves went way beyond just the future, as many in our audience were concerned about today’s potential employers.
It soon became clear that The Future of Work needed thinking about and actioning today. Some businesses appeared to be way ahead of the pack, and others had not woken up to this at all!
Sally Clark, the Chief Internal Auditor of Barclays Bank, set the evening off at an electrifying pace by sharing how she had organised her people in recent years.
They have adopted an ‘Agile’ approach to all they do. This meant organising themselves into dynamic project based teams for all new initiatives.
Both Sean McGrath (VP of HR for ConvaTec) and Simon Black (founder of 1805 – specialist search firm focused on FinTech), fully agreed and joined in with what they are doing, experiencing and seeing as best practice. It was fast moving and exhilarating stuff.
Still no mentions of Artificial Intelligence or Robotics – yet! This new way of working was enthusiastically received by our attendees.
It was clear that most of them did not work in these more fluid environments and they were struggling with rather traditional hierarchies that were slow, and appeared to be predicated on length of service, are bureaucratic and most of all, status conscious.
This exciting project based work appeared to be an antidote to the traditional structures, but it demanded and needed a different type of leadership.
It was not necessary for the leader to be either the most experienced or the most senior. It was vital that they were a team player with a collaborative mindset, and the ability to create an environment to enable the team to succeed and every voice to be heard.
We talked about ‘psychological safety’; establishing environments where everyone feels safe in contributing in their own preferred style, and are not forced to behave in a manner that makes them feel uncomfortable.
This is key to attracting and retaining a workforce that is designed to thrive in a very different world that is faster, more dynamic and demanding constant change and huge customer centricity.
One of our attendees worked at Goldman Sachs, and had enjoyed her time in one of the most progressive businesses to work for, but she had other requirements for her career.
She had decided to move on, as she had applied for an exciting scholarship to study in Beijing for a year. This sparked a discussion around a new flexibility that all employers will need to embrace.
The psychological contract between employers and employees needs shifting and many have already made the move. It’s no longer appropriate or healthy to perceive it as the employer holding ‘all the cards’ in their favour.
Those days are long gone.
We looked at the role of trade unions, staff associations and other professional bodies who will also have to undergo similar mindset shifts, as they are significant players in the Future of Work.
Many are not yet fit for purpose in organising themselves, let alone supporting their stakeholders in preparing for this different world.
Some of us already work in an environment where project based teams are established for new initiatives. The team members are drawn from all over the business and from many different levels.
The environment is loose and flexible, but extremely focused on execution and implementation.
No longer having a linear and sequential plan with an unmoveable deadline date fixated on everyone’s mind, but the ability to deliver rapidly and incrementally, improving the offering many times and quickly, based on real feedback by customers or users.
It is exciting, stretching and fulfilling work.
The language of “scrums and agile” are no longer the preserve of the technology industry but a philosophy that prepares employees and employers for the Future of Work.
Our panellists remained long after we finished with queues of hungry and ambitious millennials wanting to gather as much from them as they possibly could.
“The future of work is really about people deciding to live and work in the way that they want.” – Stacy Brown-Philpot